The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has found a flaw in the Central Bank of Nigeria’s imposition of cash withdrawal limitations (CBN).
The central bank recently issued a policy limiting cash withdrawals from commercial banks by individuals to N20,000 per day, N100,000 per week, or N500,000 in the case of corporations.
However, in response to the development, the organization’s Secretary General, Murtala Aliyu, ACF, cautioned that the CBN’s determination on adopting the utterly unachievable policy would result in the catastrophic collapse of the informal sector of the economy.
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Considering the fact that transactions on commodity markets, particularly in rural areas, are purely cash-based, he stated this on Friday.
Over 38 million persons in Nigeria do not have access to banking services, with women, rural residents, Micro-Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, and Northern Nigeria among the most disproportionately excluded.
It did, however, request that the CBN level the playing field for a variety of financial service providers and foster cooperation between them. In addition, ACF requested that CBN enforce tight restrictions that safeguard people’s money and effectively inform, promote, and prepare the public for the shift.
The group emphasized that a preemptive move or a “frog-jump” into a cashless payments system, regardless of how well-intentioned, will only land the country in a bottomless hole unless the CBN adequately solves the difficulties.
ACF PRESS STATEMENT
CBN’s Risky Plan Let’s be clear;
The decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to kickstart the long-anticipated cashless payments regime in Nigeria with effect from January 2023, is well justified, perhaps even well intentioned. Cash-based economies are notoriously costly, inefficient, and prone to attacks by evil people.
A huge amount of time and money is needed to print the currency and a lot more still to steer it through the system. The currency notes themselves have a shelf life after which they have to be replaced. Cash is the lifeblood of the underworld: difficult to trace and quite convenient for terrorists, money launderers, smugglers, vote buyers, etc.
So, yes, the less cash available for all these criminals as the CBN is trying to achieve, the better for law abiding citizens. That said, we do need to remember that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. CBN officials may have the best of intentions while contemplating this policy but evidently failed to consider the unintended consequences of implementing it in the way they have planned; consequences that may be extremely grave.
If the CBN insists on implementing this wholly unrealistic policy of restricting individual’s cash withdrawal from the banks to N20,000 per day and N100,000 for a week or N500,000 in the case of corporate bodies, it won’t be long before we suffer a catastrophic collapse of the informal sector of the economy. More than anyone, CBN knows that transactions in commodity markets especially in the rural areas are entirely cash-based.
The villager that brings to the market his chickens, beans, onions, goat, or cows does not typically have a bank account or internet skills. Cash remains the overwhelming medium of exchange for much of the country, particularly in the North. This should surprise no one as bank offices are largely unavailable even for people who are keen and have the skills to use them.
Even by the CBN’s reports, over 38 million adults in Nigeria do not currently have access to banking services with “women, rural dwellers, Micro-Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Northern Nigeria” being among the most disproportionately excluded.
And despite its pious pretensions, it is on record that the CBN under the present management, apparently out of desire to safeguard the interests of the commercial banks, has done much to undermine and stifle the progress of financial inclusion in Nigeria.
Thanks to the decisions taken by the CBN, Nigeria, today, despite its size, has the dubious record of having the lowest financial penetration in all of Africa, perhaps in the world. Under the circumstances, the CBN will do itself and the country a world of good if it invests more efforts at addressing these challenges. It should start by ensuring that various financial institutions are created in sufficient numbers and in all parts of the country.
It should allow a level playing field for a wide range of financial providers and encourage partnerships between them. Furthermore, the CBN must enforce strict regulations that protects people’s money. It must inform, encourage and prepare the public adequately for the transition.
Until the CBN is able to address these challenges substantially, a preemptive move or a”frog-jump” into a cashless payments system, however well-intentioned, will only land us into a bottomless pit.
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