Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nigerian National Assembly says no to N5,000 bank note

The Senate and the House of Representatives joined forces, yesterday, as they resumed from their two-month recess and asked President Goodluck Jonathan to stop the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from going ahead with the restructuring of the Naira and the introduction of N5000 note, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional.

This came as the House of Representatives gave President Jonathan 14 days to implement the report of the investigative public hearing on the near collapse of the Capital market, which recommended the removal of Ms Aruma Oteh, as the Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC.

The plan by Mallam Sanusi to restructure the naira, as well as introduce N5,000 note received condemnations from both chambers of the National Assembly as the lawmakers described the proposal as anti-people.

The senators upon considering a motion moved by Senator Ita Enang, accused Sanusi of pursing International Monetary Fund, IMF, agenda which was set to impoverish Nigeria.

They also accused Sanusi of being arrogant, and a misleading public officer who claims to have monopoly of knowledge.

The Economic Team of President Jonathan was also lambasted for endorsing a policy the lawmakers described as unpopular and anti people.

Enang while leading debate on the motion observed that the CBN policy would lead to widespread corruption and untold economic problems for the nation.

He said: "The policy will create multiple economic problems like inflation, corruption and security challenges, and would erode the value of the nation's currency and ruin the economy.

Senate President, David Mark, while condemning the policy, accused Sanusi of using hypothetical facts and figures to mislead Nigerians.

He said that the actions of the CBN governor and the argument that the policy would reduce inflation in the country were mere theory that is unacceptable to Nigerians, adding that government should be bold to reverse any unpopular policy.

He said: "The important thing is that if Nigerians say they do not want a particular policy at any given moment, there is no harm in government retracing its stand on the issue and I think that is the situation that we find ourselves.

"I have listened to the arguments from those who support it but those arguments are simply not convincing. They appear to me to be highly theoretical and technical in nature and they do not address any practical issue on ground.

"Any policy that does not address issues directly but just talking about indices we cannot verify for now, should wait. We have not reached that level where we are just talking of hypothetical cases all the time.

"I think the disadvantages of the N5,000 note at the moment far outweigh not introducing it and on balance, we should not go for it. And also, from the contributions on the floor, we are all in support of the fact that the timing is wrong and the policy is unnecessary at the moment and the arguments being advanced are not convincing and there is no urgent need for it to take place now.

"There is no ambiguity on our stand on the issue. I am not sure that Sanusi is aware of the Constitution; if he was, he would make reference to us before addressing the issue."

Senators oppose CBN plan

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who also opposed the policy urged the CBN governor to listen to the people, warning that his failure to do so may lead to disaster for the country.

"Section 4 (2) is clear that sovereignty belongs to the people. Any government that fails to listen to the people is heading for disaster. Let Sanusi listen to the people today", he warned.

Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba who also contributed to the debate urged the CBN governor to allow the will of the people to prevail, stressing that introducing N5000 note would increase the rate of corruption.

According to him, "in a democracy, no matter how strongly a policy is, you cannot claim monopoly of wisdom. Even if the policy is good for the people and they say they do not want it, it is their right to refuse what is good for them. This is one moment that our policy makers must listen to Nigerians."

Also kicking against the proposal, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who addressed journalists at the end of plenary, accused the CBN of contravening section 4 (2) of the 1999 Constitution,

He said: "The proposed action is illegal because it directly contravenes section 4 (2) of the constitution. The section empowers the National Assembly to legislate on issues of currency, coinage, and legal tenders. The CBN acted ultra vires by even contravening its own law too because section 8 states that they must consult with National Assembly."

Senators Smart Adeyemi, and Nurudeen Abatemi, both of PDP, Kogi, East and Central Senatorial districts respectively maintained that Sanusi was acting out IMF plans to ruin Nigeria's economy, by sticking to the policy despite strong disapproval from the people.

According to Adeyemi, "the agenda of introducing N5,000 is part of IMF plans to impoverish Nigeria. Jonathan should be wary of some policies that are tailored to suit IMF's plans to impoverish our people."

Opposing the currency restructuring, Atai Aidoko, ANPP, Kogi stated: "This policy displayed how principal officers mislead Mr. President. This is an agenda of the West to re-colonize this country. This also bothers on the issue of arrogance of the CBN governor. He has displayed so much arrogance, insulted a former President and he has to be called to order."

Members of the House of Reps who spoke against the plan to introduce N5,000 note stressed the need for the intervention of the House to ensure that the apex bank responds to public reasoning.

After the debate on the motion tagged: "Planned restructuring of the Nigerian currency by the CBN - a cash policy somersault", the lawmakers directed the House Committee on Banking and Currency to conduct an investigative public hearing on the subject matter, and report back to the House within four weeks.

Hon Sam Tsokwa, chairman House Committee on Rules and Business argued the planned introduction of the note was part of the restructuring of the Nigerian currency and contradicts the recently introduced cashless economy policy aimed at reducing the volume of cash transactions in the country.

According to him: "The House is concerned by the views expressed by some economists and other professionals that the policy will cause hyper inflation, reduce purchasing power, currency devaluation and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. We are further concerned that the policy is also inconsistent with international best practice as leading economies like the USA, Britain and China do not have such high currency notes in circulation. We are also aware that the largest denomination of the British Pound currently in circulation is the £50 note while that of US is the $100 bill."

Hon Patrick Ikhariale argued that the policy is tantamount to economic genocide as it will further impoverish majority of Nigerians who live below poverty level, adding that coins are no longer in use.

Sack Oteh now, Reps tell Jonathan

Meanwhile, the House resolution calling on President Jonathan to sack Oteh within 14 days was passed at yesterday's plenary session of the House where the Reps including Femi Gbajabiamila, Minority Leader; Patrick Ikhariale, chairman House Committee on Power; Jones Onyeleri, chairman House Committee on Banking and Currency expressed displeasure over unsavoury relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.

The sponsor of the motion titled: "Need for Mr President to enforce the resolution of the House of Representatives on the investigation into the near collapse of the capital market", reiterated the need for the House to challenge the decision of the Executive.

He explained that "the House has been known for courage, focus and that's whom we are. We need to urge Mr President to protect the sanctity of the Constitution" noting that no one should be treated as sacred cow.

Osai also expressed concern over the state of the capital market, arguing that non-implementation of the report will further create panic and loss of investors' confidence.

"It was the resolution of the National Assembly that enabled the President to assume office as acting President in 2010 (using the Doctrine of Necessity). "The House should therefore request the President to implement the resolution of the House of Representatives on the investigation into the near collapse of the Nigerian capital market particularly aspects of the resolution requesting the removal of Ms Arumah Oteh as the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission for being unqualified by law as director general of SEC, as contained in sections 3(2a) and section 38(Ib), 2 and 3 and section 315 of the Investment and Securities Act (ISA), 2007." The motion was thereafter put to vote which enjoyed overwhelming support of the house.

Following the adoption of the motion, the House then directed the Committee on Legislative Compliance to within 14 days brief the House on the level of compliance with the resolution.

No comment -- Sanusi

Meanwhile, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mal Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, yesterday, declined comment on the resolution of the House of Representatives that actions on the proposed N5,000 note be stopped, forthwith.

Journalists had sought the position of the CBN on the issue in view of the resolution of the legislators and opposition to the proposed currency note from various segments of the Nigerian public, but the CBN boss insisted he was not ready to speak on it.

He simply said, "I have heard but I have no reaction."


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