The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is reportedly planning to release all N200, N500 and N1,000 notes in its vaults to commercial banks, in a move to avert proposed industrial action by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
The NLC had earlier issued a one-week ultimatum to the CBN to make cash available for Nigerians or face nationwide strike.
“CWC (central working committee) said poor implementation of the Naira re-design policy has caused considerable pain and hardship to the people.
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“Accordingly, CWC resolved to give government seven working days, beginning from Tuesday, March 14, to make Naira notes available or Congress would be compelled to direct its members to withdraw services,” the NLC had said.
Following the expiration of the ultimatum, the NLC has directed public sector workers to embark on a nationwide strike beginning from next Wednesday.
The directive was given by the president, Joe Ajaero, during a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja. He also directed the affiliates to get set for picketing of CBN branches across the federation.
The central bank has failed to push enough cash into circulation; weeks after the Supreme Court annulled the implementation of the naira redesign policy which created cash scarcity nationwide.
Total cash in circulation in the country has declined from N3.1 trillion in December 2022 to N982 billion in February 2023, according to Money and Credit Statistics. But the CBN said that N843 billion (85.8%) out of the sum in circulation was out of the banking system as at February 2023. This justifies the struggle Nigerians still face to access cash from commercial banks.
Former director-general of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Yemi Kale, estimated that Nigeria lost between N10-15 trillion of national productivity in the first quarter of 2023 to the crippling impact of the naira redesign policy.
Against this backdrop, the proposed nationwide strike needs to be averted, lest, the economy grinds to a halt.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, is said to be working to beat the time by immediately emptying old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes in the apex bank vaults to commercial banks for disbursement to members of the public.
The decision was made following a meeting between Emefiele and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of banks on Wednesday evening.
“The CBN governor met with bank CEOs this evening virtually. It was a short meeting that lasted for just about 15 minutes,” one of the bank CEOs who attended the meeting was quoted as saying.
“The governor said all old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes will be released to commercial banks beginning from Thursday. The CBN will start with crisp old notes after which the ones deposited by DMBs will be returned.
“The plan is to flood the economy with cash and ameliorate the challenges Nigerians have been passing through.”