What is your opinion about the N5000 note?
I have not read through but I used to be on the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Nigeria. I know that the research department of the CBN is one of the best research department in the world, but I hope, it is still the same department that I used to know. And they generally used to do their studies well before they come in the open and if that is what they have done, I hold my breath.
But, if you look at the cashless policy under our brother Sanusi, and you mixed it with this N5000 currency, I don’t know how it comes in. I remember that I was on the board when the issue of N500 came up and the truth is that, the cost of manufacturing those currencies is not a joke. And the mutilative attitude of our citizenry on the currencies is questionable.
For instance, the American dollar can be on the market for months. So, the cost of managing Nigerian currency is very high. And the temptation for somebody to make the higher denomination so that the quantity of the coins and papers are not as much as it should be might be considered. And I hope, that temptation is not what drove the policy.
When we were there, I used to be on the currency committee and I was on the board of the mint. But, the value we place on our currencies is nothing to talk about compared to what is obtainable in other parts of the country. With all the corruption and stealing.
When we wanted to change to higher denominations, there were lots of talks by politicians, hoping that an average individual can move around with N10,000 while policy makers and politicians would move around with higher monies which the lower denominations will not be able to accommodate.
And they were clamouring for higher notes and we had to stop at N500. But the temptation in Nigeria is very high. Policy makers would want to carry N10m in a brief case. But, we have to be very careful.
What do you think is the social and economic implication of this?
I was in the board of Central Bank when Joseph Sanusi was Governor. He left the First Bank where he was Managing Director while I left the Stock Exchange where I was Director General.
And Obasanjo came in, the first appointment he made was Joseph Sanusi and I spent three years with him and Soludo came up and I spent three years with Soludo. Both of them love this country, most CBN governors love this country and they are people of high integrity but I pray that they can give a second look at this thing.
Do you think, it is the priority right now?
I don’t think it is still priority. Americans value their currencies and place it in high esteem. But, here it is the opposite. The fact that people do not value Nigerian currencies anymore, they will not stop at N5000 note. They will be aiming at N10,000 note.
America has currencies of 100,1000 but you hardly see these in the pockets of people. The maximum you will see is $100. We define currency as a store of people’s sweat. The value of our naira has come down seriously and we need to boost it up.
Does the CBN Act allow for the CBN governor to do anything without approval from the lawmakers?
I have not really read that portion but I advocate for autonomy of the CBN. The more power you have, the more responsibilities and one has to be careful in managing it. I was on the board of the CBN for six years as Chief Executive of the Stock Exchange, I used to interface with them very well. It is a very serious institution in this country.
But, we pray that they are more sensible in handling issues like this. I pray that if the autonomy exists, the man who is called to manage that institution should also know he has a serious responsibility to maintain some very disciplined and patriotic posture. He should love this country more than himself.