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‘Decision To Redesign Naira Positive For Economy’ …As EFCC Swoops On BDC Operators

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Some financial experts have commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its decision to redesign the Naira, saying that it would have positive effect on the economy.
The experts spoke in separate interviews with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday.
They spoke against the backdrop of announcement by the CBN that new designs of the N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations would be produced and circulated on December 15.
According to a financial economist and professor of capital market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof. Umhe Uwaleke, the decision would be positive for the economy in the medium to long term.
Uwaleke said the measure would go a long way to ensure that the Naira in circulation outside the banking system were brought into the banking system.
He said the measure would also provide enough liquidity for banks, and more money for the banks to lend.
“The measure does not amount to demonetisation of big currency notes often carried out by central banks to curb black money and corruption.
“But it will go a long way in ensuring that a lot of naira notes circulating outside the banks are crowded in.
“If it leads to large deposits in banks, it means the banks will have more money to lend which may reduce interest rates.
“Perhaps, more importantly, with increased currency in circulation now in the vault of banks, I expect to see improvement in monetary policy transmission,” he said.
Uwaleke said it might also have the effect of reducing speculative attacks on the Naira in the parallel market in the medium term.
“I expect that the Financial Intelligence Unit will be on the lookout for huge deposits as a way of monitoring illegitimate transactions.
“Despite the huge cost involved in changing currency notes, I think it’s time to sanitise the system, especially now that electioneering activities have kicked off,” he said.
He, however, said the deadline of January 31, 2023 was too short, considering the number of Naira denominations involved, urging the CBN to consider extending it.
An economist, Dr Tope Fasua, also said the measure would have significant effect on the economy, adding that it was essentially about “black money.”
He suggested that the CBN should take such measures more frequently.
“When central banks do this, they try to pull in monies people are hiding; illegal money, corruption money, kidnapping money. Nigeria has managed to become a hub for these kinds of illegalities.
“I will even suggest that the CBN does this more often, maybe every 10 years. You will see a scenario where the banks are awash with liquidity.
“There are many people sitting on billions in naira, and even in dollars. The CBN should also see how it can pull in the dollars,” he said.
Fasua advised that the idea of individuals operating personal domiciliary bank accounts should be banned, adding that nobody needed it.
“People are speculating against their own currency in their own country. That is not allowed in any economy.
“They should pull in illegal, black naira and then see how they can pull in illegal dollars. The CBN can control these things through the Deposit Money Banks,” he said.
However, a financial expert, and past President of the Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Mr Okechukwu Unegbu, said redesigning the Naira was not the most important problem facing the economy.
Unegbu, said the apex bank should have simply ensured that the scarce lower naira denominations, like N100 and N200 were readily available by printing more.
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said it would monitor the redesign of Naira notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure that currency hoarders do not undermine the exercise.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had announced that the apex bank obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to redesign and issue new N200, N500, and N1000 notes that would come into circulation on December 15, 2022.
Speaking on the development, the Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, in a statement issued, yesterday by the spokesperson of the anti-graft agency, Wilson Uwujaren, described the move by the apex bank as “a well-considered and timely response” to the challenges of currency management which has negatively impacted the country’s monetary policy and security imperatives.
Bawa, however, warned that the EFCC would monitor the process to ensure that unscrupulous players and currency speculators and their cohorts among the bureau de change operators do not undermine the exercise.
He also charged banks to be alive to their reporting obligations and not assist unscrupulous customers in laundering suspected proceeds of crimes through their system.
The EFCC boss added that the objectives which the CBN seeks to achieve with the redesign and reissue of the higher denomination naira notes, were in tandem with the objectives of the Money Laundering Prevention Prohibition Act 2022, which criminalises the conduct of cash transactions above a certain threshold.
“According to Section 2 (1) of the Money Laundering Act 2022: No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding— (a) N5,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual; or (b) N10,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of a body corporate,” he noted.
Bawa expressed hope that the new currency measure would further boost Nigerians’ embrace of banking culture and encourage the acceptance of cashless transactions, adding that the anti-graft agency had recently taken operational action against currency hoarders in major commercial cities of Nigeria.
“It is, therefore, pertinent to issue this stern warning to Bureau de Change operators to be wary of currency hoarders who would attempt to seize this opportunity to offload the currencies they had illegally stashed away,” he said.
Noting that currency hoarders readily made their hoard available to criminal enterprise, the EFCC boss further stated that the commission will spare no effort to bring to book any financial services operator who runs afoul of extant laws and regulations.
Earlier, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had said that the apex bank would redesign the country’s currency.
Emefiele, who announced this at a press briefing in Abuja, said that the exercise would affect the highest denominations: 200, 500, 1000 notes.
He said that the action was taken in order to take control of the currency in circulation.
According to him, the bulk of the nation’s currency notes were outside bank vaults and that the CBN would not allow the situation to continue.
Emefiele said that the new notes would be released for public use on December 15, 2022.
He also said that the old notes and the new notes would circulate together until January 31, 2023 when the old notes would cease to be legal tender.
Emefiele said that there have been persisting concerns with the management of current series of banknotes, and currency in circulation, particularly those outside the banking system in the country.
He said, “As you all may be aware, currency management is a key function of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as enshrined in Section 2 (b) of the CBN Act 2007. Indeed, the integrity of a local legal tender, the efficiency of its supply, as well as its efficacy in the conduct of monetary policy are some of the hallmarks of a great Central Bank.
“In recent times, however, currency management has faced several daunting challenges that have continued to grow in scale and sophistication with attendant and unintended consequences for the integrity of both the CBN and the country.”
The challenges he said included hoarding of banknotes by members of the public, with statistics showing that over 80percent of currency in circulation was outside the vaults of commercial banks.
He added that the worsening shortage of clean and fit banknotes with attendant negative perception of the CBN and increased risk to financial stability as well as, increasing ease and risk of counterfeiting evidenced by several security reports were reasons for redesigning the notes.
He said that recent development in photographic technology and advancements in printing devices have made counterfeiting relatively easier and that in recent years, the CBN has recorded significantly higher rates of counterfeiting especially at the higher denominations of N500 and N1,000 banknotes.
The CBN boss noted that although global best practice was for central banks to redesign, produce and circulate new local legal tender every 5–8 years, the Naira has not been redesigned in the last 20 years.
He said, “On the basis of these trends, problems, and facts, and in line with Sections 19, Subsections a and b of the CBN Act 2007, the Management of the CBN sought and obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to redesign, produce, and circulate new series of banknotes at N200, N500, and N1,000 levels.
“In line with this approval, we have finalized arrangements for the new currency to begin circulation from December 15, 2022. The new and existing currencies shall remain legal tender and circulate together until January 31, 2023 when the existing currencies shall seize to be legal tender.
“Accordingly, all Deposit Money Banks currently holding the existing denominations of the currency may begin returning these notes back to the CBN effective immediately. The newly designed currency will be released to the banks in the order of First-come-First-serve basis.
“Customers of banks are enjoined to begin paying into their bank accounts the existing currency to enable them withdraw the new banknotes once circulation begins in mid-December 2022. All banks are therefore expected to keep open, their currency processing centres from Monday to Saturday so as to accommodate all cash that will be returned by their customers.
“For the purpose of this transition from existing to new notes, bank charges for cash deposits are hereby suspended with immediate effect. Therefore, DMBs are to note that no bank customer shall bear any charges for cash returned/paid into their accounts.
“Members of the public are to please note that the present notes remain legal tender and should not be rejected as a means of exchange for purchase of goods and services.”
The governor said that his team was mindful of those in rural areas and that facilities would be provided for them where bank accounts could be opened for them or their old notes exchanged for the new ones.
He added that the action would also raise its stake in addressing the challenge of inflation.
Reminded that the current regulation allows only N150, 000 free cash deposit, he said that even if a customer wanted to deposit N1billion, the person would be allowed to do so.
Emefiele assured that the CBN would continue to monitor both the financial system in particular, and the economy in general, and always act in good faith for the achievement of the Bank’s objectives and the betterment of the country.
There had been claims even by top government officials that some unscrupulous members of the society were hoarding large volumes of currency notes in warehouse, farms, septic tanks.
Very dirty and smelly Naira notes have been in circulation, especially since political activities heightened across the country.

 

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Tallen Solicits Men’s Support Against GBV, Other Practices Against Women, Girls

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The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, has solicited the support of men in the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and other atrocities committed against women and girls, stressing they cannot continue to speak alone.
She made the appeal while receiving the delegation of Boys Champion, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), supported by the Nigeria’s Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) officials which came visiting her to present the 1st Place Winner of AFS Award for JNG Global Citizens awarded to the founder of Boys’ Champion, Noel Ifeanyi Alumona, a Diasporean.
According to a statement by Director, Press and Public Relations, Olujimi Oyetomi, the minister, who commended the Director-General and CEO of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, for her concern on Diaspora matters, pointed out that the country’s gender-based violence rate is worrying and emphasized the need for more males to speak out in support of women in order to reduce or eradicate GBV.
She said: “Women cannot continue speaking alone. With voices like yours (Boys Champion), we need more boys and more men to lend their voices to speak out and to condemn all forms of violence against women and girls.”
Tallen described her ministry, as a “Diaspora-inclined organization”, pledging that the ministry would partner with the Boys Champion to spotlight violence against vulnerable persons in whatever form it may take.
She further pledged collaborations with the organization to ensure a success of its aims and objectives.
The minister also described the Boys Champion’s contributions at home as excellent, noting that their support for women and girls is a way for them to give their fair share to the country’s growth and noting that they will be unhappy if things are not going well in Nigeria.
She applauded the NGO for taking on the challenging task of educating young men about gender equality and rights, as well as for its awareness-raising event in Enugu State, which focused on getting boys and young men to respect women and put an end to gender-based violence.
Tallen pledged to collaborate with the group on their admirable activities and stated that the ministry was prepared to assist the project.
The minister emphasised that while discussing gender equality, it is not about men fighting women but rather about both of gender cooperating to produce better results on gender-related issues.
She described women as “God’s last born,” intended to provide a support system for men.
In his remarks, the Boys Champion Founder, Noel Ifeanyi Alumona, expressed appreciation to the minister for the warm welcome accorded his team, and explained the purpose of their visit, included presenting the “AFS Award for Young Global Citizen” to her which he won as a “1st Place Winner”.
The visitors were led by officials of Nigerians the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), which include Senior Information Officer, Oloye Olufunke, and Senior Diaspora Officer, Idio Elyon.

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Buhari Approves N80bn For Reconstruction Of Sapele-Benin, Amukpe-Agbor Roads

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of a sum of N80billion for the reconstruction of the Sapele-Benin road and Amukpe-Agbor-Uromi roads.
The Deputy President of the Senate and APC governorship candidate in Delta, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, made this disclosure during a meeting with members of the Christian Council of Nigeria, held in Sapele.
According to Omo-Agege, he had requested Delta State Governor, Dr.Ifeanyi Okowa, to know the status of the road all the way from Petroleum Training Institute to Agbor, when he became deputy president of the Senate.
He said this was because he knew the contract had been awarded previously and requested a review so he could put it in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) budget.
Omo-Agege, however, explained that “because Okowa felt he would not get the political credit, the issue died.”
He noted that recently, with the reconstitution of the NDDC board, Buhari ordered that N500billion of the commission that was frozen be released for development projects, and the sum of N80billion was approved when he pleaded with the President to consider the Sapele-Benin road and the Amukpe-Agbor road.
Omo-Agege also said it would be insanity to repeat the same thing over again and expect different results adding that Okowa has failed to develop Delta State.
He assured that if elected governor he would create an enabling environment for companies that have left Delta State as a result of insecurity and other factors to return.
He said, “When I become governor on May 29, 2023, I will not wait for the Federal Government before constructing strategic roads in Delta and ensuring the implementation of the local content law so as to provide job opportunities for our youths.”
Omo-Agege used the forum to clarify the issue of the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC presidential and vice presidential candidates saying, “we want power for development and progress. That’s what we use power for.”
He spoke further, “Tinubu has a wife who is a Pastor and if he could not Islamise his wife, how would he be able to Islamise other Nigerians?
“I believe that after eight years of Buhari it is only fair and equitable for power to move to the South. I put all my strength into it. Governors of the APC supported it. All governors of Southern Nigeria supported it and met and signed a communique in Asaba. Okowa read the communique.
“But no sooner had that been done, than, during the PDP national congress, Okowa asked delegates of Delta to vote for a northerner. Yet, he is the one crying about a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The same Okowa that said take the presidency back to the North, just give me vice president?
“The focus should be who can bring development to our people. Okowa who is a Christian has he changed anything, are Deltans not crying?”
Omo-Agege also dismissed the views in some quarters that because his father, the late Justice James Omo-Agege was an adherent of African Traditional Religion, specifically the Urhobo “Igbe” movement, he was also one.
He said while the Constitution of Nigeria guarantees freedom of religion and to that extent, he could not dictate the religious choices of his father, so too, his father could not dictate his own personal choice of religion.
“As a result of this, all my siblings and I are devout Christians of the Catholic faith. Christianity is a conscious choice for us,” he explained.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Christian Council of Nigeria, Delta State chapter, Rev Dr. Jonathan Iwhiwhu, highlighted the contribution of the Church to development and called for assistance in terms of the construction of a secretariat and official bus.
He had drawn Omo-Agege’s attention to the deplorable Sapele-Benin road and the Amukpe-Agbor-Uromi road. He pleaded that policies that negatively impact the economic ventures of the church such as schools should be moderated if he becomes governor.
Iwhiwhu also called for the provision of job opportunities for the youths of the church as a reward for the church’s support for his election as governor.

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Allegiance To Nigerians Sacrosanct, Yakubu Warns INEC Staff …Says INEC’ll Reprint Burnt PVCs In Two Days

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reassured Nigerians that its allegiance and loyalists are to Nigerians.
The Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave this assurance at the opening of a two-day Induction Retreat for the commission’s Administrative Secretaries organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Lagos.
Yakubu, who was represented by National Commissioner, Election and Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC), Mr. Sam Olumekun, said the retreat was part of preparation of INEC for the 2023 general election.
According to him, over the last 23 years since the return of democratic rule, the commission has recorded a steady progress with the nation’s elections getting better and citizens’ confidence in the process increasing.
“Let me repeat once again that the commission’s allegiance is to Nigeria. Our loyalty is to Nigerians who want free, fair, credible and verifiable elections.It is in this respect that I want to warn all members of staff of the commission to be neutral and professional in their conduct during the forthcoming election.”
He said since 2011 general election, the reliance on new knowledge and experience gathered from the conduct of previous elections, enhancing electoral integrity and improving voter experience through innovations, planning and technology had guided INEC through several elections.
“Consequently, our elections have become better, electoral outcomes less contentious and less stressful.”
He said with the first poll in 2023 general election remaining 88 days, there was the need, more than ever, for the commission to remain focused and deliver a successful election.
“This retreat is, therefore, an opportunity to not only bring our Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) up to date about preparations, procedures and requirements for a successful election but also get the commitment of our Administrative Secretaries towards attaining the highest level of efficiency in implementing the strategies outlined for a successful 2023 general election.
In this regard administrative secretaries are expected to be effective coordinators and provide timely progress reports and highlight challenges to proactively addressed without affecting relevant timelines.”
Yakubu said the administrative secretaries were also expected to fully support their respective RECs to ensure the effective coordination and deployment of men and materials focused mainly on delivering expected outcomes.
He urged state offices of INEC to have regular reassessment of preparedness to identify and address possible bottlenecks and update the relevant authorities of the commission.
“Over the last two years, the commission has increased the deployment of technology in elections in Nigeria.”
Yakubu said INEC had designed systems, portals and developed them to cater for different electoral activities ranging from voter registration and accreditation, result transmission from the polling units.
He said such portal was also to cater for the nomination of candidates by political parties, accreditation of polling agents, observers among other activities for elections.
“Of these innovations, most Nigerians are now familiar with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) which doubles as a device for accreditation as well as upload of the Polling Unit level result sheets to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal on Election Day.
“The combination of the BVAS and the IReV portal have come to stay as a means of voter accreditation and transmission of election results. I urge you to thoroughly familiarise yourselves with the election technologies of INEC,” he said.
In his address of welcome, Residents Electoral Commissioner, Lagos State, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, said it was imperative for the electoral umpire to step up its preparation for the conduct of 2023 elections, hence the retreat.
He noted that INEC must not rest on its oars but re-double efforts to achieve a seamless conduct of the polls.
In his goodwill message, Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP, Mr. Deryck Fritz, said the peaceful transfer of power was inextricably linked to processes and outcomes that were accepted by the political actors, civil society and the population at large.
Fritz said the retreat would provide an important opportunity for information-sharing and discussion on the preparations and key aspects of the electoral process, to ensure uniform understanding and consistency of implementation of electoral procedures.
The retreat has in attendance all the INEC Administrative Secretaries nationwide and top management staff of the commission.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said the 2023 elections will be the best.
Yakubu also said the burnt permanent voter cards in Ogun and four other states would be reprinted in two days, saying efforts were in top gear towards replacing the materials lost to the inferno.
The INEC boss said this, yesterday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, during the on-the-spot assessment of the burnt office in Abeokuta South by suspected arsonists.
Suspected Arsonists had on November 10 attacked the Abeokuta South Local Government Area and destroyed over 65,000 uncollected PVCs among others.
Yakubu who arrived in Abeokuta around 9am and paid a visit to the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, also visited the new Oke-Ilewo office where the staff members were relocated to and later visited the burnt office.
Apart from Ogun State, the hoodlums had recently attacked INEC offices in Osun and Ebonyi states.
The INEC boss while speaking with newsmen after he assessed the extent of damage, described the arsonists as “undemocratic and retrogressive elements.”
Yakubu said the commission would not be cowed from conducting next year’s elections by arsonists attacking the commission’s facilities nationwide.
He vowed that the commission would not be intimidated by an act of arson despite that five facilities were attacked nationwide in the last four months.
He said, “The purpose of our visit to this office is to further access the extent of damage, to meet our staff, particularly in the place where they have relocated to in Oke-Ilewo, to boost their morale and to assure the people of Abeokuta South that despite this unfortunate incident, elections will hold in Abeokuta South in 2023.
“Whatever material we have lost, the commission is making efforts to replace the materials. We lost 65,699 PVCs, we want to assure all those that have not collected their PVCs, who may have been affected, that we are making plans to reprint the PVCs quickly and to bring them back to Abeokuta South for people to collect and vote.
“We want to assure the people of Abeokuta South that this incident, as terrible as it is, will not deter and will not discourage us, will not discourage our staff from conducting the 2023 general election and we want to once again assure the people of Abeokuta South, the people of Ogun State and the people of Nigeria that the commission is determined to make the 2023 elections our best, we will not be deterred nor cowed by an act of arson by undemocratic and retrogressive elements.
“As soon we get the voter identification numbers to be harvested by the state office, we will reprint, it doesn’t take longer than two days to print 65,000 PVCs, but we have to get the VINs for the cards that were lost so that we can quickly reprint. It doesn’t take longer than two days to reprint those numbers of the PVCs.
“It is very disappointing, particularly because in the last four months, five of our offices were attacked nationwide, but this will never deter us. We will make sure we replace burnt and destroyed equipment and also reprint the PVCs and conduct elections.”
Yakubu said INEC “is determined to make 2023 elections the best.”

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