THE House of Representatives on Thursday mandated authorities of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to halt forthwith the revised cash withdrawal limits policy expected to commence on January 9, 2023 in response to public outcry.
The resolution was passed following the adoption of a motion on the ‘Need for the Central Bank of Nigeria to rescind its decision on the revised cash withdrawal limits’, sponsored by Honourable Aliyu Magaji.
In his lead debate, Honourable Magaji who solicited the House intervention, observed that on December 6, 2022 via a letter marked BSD/DIR/PUB/LAB/015/069, signed by one Haruna B. Mustafa (the director of banking operations) issued the following releases to the public, among which are: the maximum cash withdrawal over the counter (OTC) by individuals and corporate organisations per week shall henceforth be N100,000 and N500,000 respectively.
Withdrawals above these limits shall attract processing fees of five percent and 10 percent respectively.
“Third party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for payment over the counter, while extant limits of N10,000,000 on clearing cheques still subsist.
“The maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machine (ATM) shall be N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day.
“Only denominations of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs. The maximum cash withdrawal via point of sale (PoS) terminal shall be N20,000 daily.
“In compelling circumstances, not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals shall not exceed N5,000,000 and N10,000,000 for individuals and corporate organisations, respectively, and shall be subject to the referenced processing fees in (1) above, in addition to enhanced due diligence and further information requirements.
“The House is aware that majority of the small business owners in Nigeria are the major drivers of the Nigeria’s economy, and who are majorly residents of rural areas and carry on their business, trade and activities in the said rural business areas.
“The House is further aware that the majority of these small business owners transact their businesses, trade and transactions in physical cash and are in most cases not inclined to the use of electronic banking system as most of them are illiterate, half educated or not learned at all.
“The House is disturbed that these set of Nigerians who are the drivers of Nigerian economy will be negatively affected and their business and source of livelihood may be impaired with these new directives of CBN.
“The House is also disturbed that this directive of CBN has been generating serious uproar and given low income business owners serious concern since the said release as a result of the impact it may have given the short notice given by the CBN.
“The House acknowledged that the CBN has the right to issue monetary policies on the Nigeria economy to be able to guide and direct the economy to the right path of recovery and growth. “The House is concerned, however, that the new policies rolled out by the CBN will definitely have a negative impact on the already dwindling economy, and further weaken the value of the naira as Nigerians may resolve to using dollars and other currencies as a means of trading and thus further devalue naira and weaken the economy,” he noted.
Honourable Magaji said: “My heart bleeds for the people who voted us into power. We seem to come to Abuja and forget about them and this is my opinion.
“Only a month ago, we woke up to hear that there would be new currency notes, change of the currency notes and there is no bank in my constituency.
“I do not know how my people will go and change this money. I do not know where my people will go and get it; the best we have is the POS, our people still deal with physical cash.
“It is good to have cashless policy but we seem to be borrowing ideas and policies from other countries that are far ahead of us; we are comparing ourselves with the United States and the United Kingdom. These people are far ahead of us; we will get there one day but this type of policy disturbs the people that voted for us.
“People have forgotten that 80 to 90 per cent of our people are in the rural areas. We must do something to save the situation. If there were enough banks and facilities, why not? It would work. I urge colleagues to support this motion so that this policy will be rescinded.”
On his part, Honourable Aminu Suleiman who frowned on the effects of the policy pronouncement maintained that: “There are several government chief executives in this country that have outlived the essence of their positions because I cannot simply understand how we can wake up one day and introduce this draconian approach to businesses, giving Nigerians one month to adjust their belts.
“I think that beyond rhetoric, we should search our books and impose necessary legislation to ensure we arrest the situation; we have more powers and we can look into the powers so that CBN and remove the excess powers for us that we can act on behalf of Nigerians.”
While reacting to the policy, Minority Leader, Honourable Ndudi Elumelu, who described the development as unfortunate, argued that: “On the issue of cashless policy, I think that is the best thing that can happen to this country even though the timing may be difficult; we may ask for an extension of time for it to be well implemented.
“The policy will help; stories are going round Abuja, even when people go to use the POS to withdraw money, there are people waiting to cut off their hands to collect the money.
“If there is cashless policy and people use their phones to transfer money, some of such things will not happen.”
To this end, the lawmakers urged the apex bank to rescind the said policy because of the disadvantages earlier enumerated, and given the short notice.
The lawmakers also tasked CBN to do more advocacy, enlightenment, and sensitisation on small business holders across the country before issuing out policies and directives that may affect their business concerns.
The House further urged CBN to give not less than one year notice in case of any plan to issue such similar notices that may touch directly on small business owners in Nigeria, just as they mandated the joint Committee on Banking and Currency and Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance with this resolution.