By Our Reporter
LAGOS— Fresh controversy, yesterday, trailed the proposed introduction of N5,000 note as there were speculations that the controversial note had already been printed abroad and shipped into the country preparatory to distribution.
This came as the National Assembly and the National Economic Council insisted that they were yet to give the policy their blessing. The Central Bank, however, declared that what had been printed was just the design and not the original naira note which will come into effect in March 2013.
Those who saw the design said it was the yet to be introduced notes, which they claimed had been printed and imported waiting for authorization of its release and distribution. CBN officials who want their names out of print, however, said the notes had not been printed. One of them said: “What ever any body saw is the design of the proposed currency not the real currency”. According to him, “before introducing any currency, you have to print a design copy for the monetary authorities to vet and look at the features to ensure they meet security specifications and every other feature in it” He said that the new N5,000 note may not be introduced this year but sometimes next year although there were speculations that the N5, 000 may come into circulation in January 2013.
But a source close to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc (NSPM) said some officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were working out the modalities for the release and distribution of the soon to be introduced currency.
It was gathered that the design of the proposed N5, 000 note was being discussed in preparation for today’s meeting of the 17th Conference of the Association of African Banknotes and Security Documents Printers in Lagos.
Vanguard gathered that part of the modalities being considered for distribution of the new N5, 000 notes is the withdrawal of the N1, 000 notes currently in circulation so as to pave way for distribution of the N5, 000 notes.
The public outcry against the introduction of the note will not stop the CBN from introducing the currency having gotten approval from President Goodluck Jonathan to print the N5, 000 notes. “The entire N5, 000 printing project is a fait accompli”the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting source said.
The Chief Executive Officer, NSPM, Okoyomon said: “Following the Federal Government’s endorsement of the N5, 000 which has provoked a lot of controversy, the 17th Conference of the Association of African Banknotes and Security Documents Printers that will start in Lagos today will be an opportunity for awareness creation.”
It will be recalled that the National Economic Management Team (NEMT) – made up of some senior government officials and prominent businessmen has given its blessing to the introduction of N5, 000 following a briefing by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
The President had in 2011 approved the proposal but Nigerians from all walks of life have vehemently opposed the idea of the introduction of N5, 000.00 into circulation in the Nigerian economy, stating that currency restructuring was not the nation’s priority.
The new higher denomination will be introduced alongside the new coins of N5, N10 and N20. The policy is expected to take effect early 2013.
But NEMT argued that it was the primary responsibility of the CBN to effect changes in the nation’s currency with the approval of the President. The economic management team also allayed the fear that the note will heighten inflation, saying that there is no link between inflation and currency denomination. Besides, the group argued that the introduction of the higher currency will help shore up the Naira value as most people who store money in hard currency will now embrace the high denomination.
The NEMT, which is headed by the President, comprises the Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman; Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), one representative each of governors of the South and the North as well as key private sector players.
Usman who spoke at the end of NEMT meeting presided over by President Jonathan explained that contrary to criticisms that the introduction of the N5,000 note would bring about inflation in the economy, the new denomination according to him, will rather assist in big business transaction. The note, he said, would not be high in circulation but will be used mostly by the banks. Usman said the higher denomination was not at variance with the cashless economy proposed by the CBN.
His words: “Clearly, the N5,000 note will not lead to inflation. There is absolutely no link. I am an economist; I have been deputy governor (Operations) of the Central Bank.
“During the last review of the introduction of N1000 note and the various coins, I was deeply involved; it was my responsibility at the Central Bank. There is absolutely no link between inflation and the currency denomination. So, obviously, the discussion today was basically to endorse. “Mr. President had already approved; that is the only requirement by law. The CBN is to propose and Mr. President is to approve. And since Mr. President has approved, really, what is important is to just explain”.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has argued that the new currency restructuring initiative of the CBN should be given a chance, noting that “the policy should be seen as a response to current economic dynamics”.
In a statement by its president, Goodie Ibru, the chamber said, however, that “the introduction of higher denomination should maintain an incremental sequence of N2000 and N5000 in line with historical trend and international best practice. The CBN should constantly ensure a proper alignment between the cash-less policy and its currency management strategy.”