Naira Redesign — What is the Value Add?

I finally read the CBN communique on the Naira redesign.

Just like manifestoes of politicians, they look good on the surface until you start asking yourself questions out loud.

Let’s look at the reasons given:

1. Shortage of clean and fit banknotes: You do not need to redesign the Naira for this.

2. Risk of counterfeiting: If you go to the CBN website, you will see this:

“The Naira banknotes are protected by a number of security features… The higher denominations (₦100, ₦200, ₦500 and ₦1000) are printed on paper substrate…[which] have specific constituents unique to banknotes…these special features give a distinctive appearance and feel which are meant to protect the banknotes from counterfeiting.”

On another page, you will see:

“It is unlikely for counterfeiters to have full knowledge of all security features as the banknotes are constantly upgraded with state-of-the-art security features to stay ahead of counterfeiters.”

In other words, redesign is not necessary to counter fake currency.

3. Hoarding of banknotes — I assume this is referring to the cash hoarded by kidnappers and possible vote-buyers. If yes, then I don’t see how this will help.

Asides the fact that these non-state actors have not been stopped on their heels because we don’t want to — they make phone calls, accept bank transfers — it would be unwise to expect them to keep great sums of their ransom in cash. Foreign security reports show they buy weapons with them and keep a considerable percentage in foreign currencies.

For the remaining sum they have, three months is a long time for them to deposit them in the bank. Again, if they have not been caught up till now with all their footprints, how do you expect them to be caught now?

Same for vote buyers. They have not done anything illegal. It’s their funds they have stored to buy voters for elections. So, they can easily put them back into the vaults. And then get them back starting Dec 15 for the election in late February. So, how has the policy stopped them? How long does it take to take out your own money even if you will put withdrawal charges?

The real challenge is the panic it will cause for those doing legitimate businesses who use cash every day. In over 60 percent of rural communities across Nigeria, there are no bank branches, agents or ATM. How will they deposit the cash? You know! Through the agony of travel which will lead to loss of income. And high risk of extortion from middlemen. For the already poor to be exposed to this in this era of high cost of transport, food and everything needed for sustenance is unfortunate.

And then the Naira is in trouble, because I don’t understand why the ‘terrible’ people you want their funds to go to the bank would do that. Instead, they would simply buy more dollars. All the illegal money will be changed now. And that means that 850/900 naira for a dollar will come sooner than I expected. No soothsayer necessary for this prediction. No soothsayer needed for how this will drive inflation.

And yes, BDC will take the Naira. They have relationships with the banks to pull that off. The bank marketers also want to meet their targets. What a fantastic opportunity.

These take me back to the question I asked yesterday: At this point in time, why is it necessary to redesign the Naira? Experience proves there is a lot to be cynical about when interrogating policies of this regime.

For a bank that is constantly lending to the federal government in contravention of Section 38 of the CBN Act, perhaps we can start with the question:

“How much will the redesign of the Naira cost?”

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