ACF backs CBN’s new cashless policy, faults implementation

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The pan-Northern socio-political organization, Arewa Consultative Forum, has thrown its weight on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s anticipated new policy of cashless banking effective from January 2023 in the country.

According to the body, a cash-based economy remained notoriously costly, inefficient and prone to attacks by evil people.

This was contained in a statement by the ACF’s Secretary General, Malam Murtala Aliyu, released to journalists in Kaduna on Friday.

“A huge amount of time and money is needed to print the currency and a lot more still to steer it through the system. The currency notes themselves have a shelf life after which they have to be replaced. Cash is the lifeblood of the underworld: difficult to trace and quite convenient for terrorists, money launderers, smugglers, vote buyers,” the ACF said.

The ACF in the statement titled, ‘CBN’s Risky Plan Let’s be clear’, said the decision of the apex bank to kick-start the long-anticipated cashless payment regime effective from January 2023, was well-intentioned.

However, the ACF faulted the CBN over its implementations as the group made case for the villagers, especially in the North which the policy would gravely impact.

The forum noted that CBN officials might have the best of intentions while contemplating the policy but evidently “failed to consider the unintended consequences of implementing it in the way they have planned; consequences that may be extremely grave.”

According to the ACF, until the CBN is able to address some challenges substantially, a preemptive move or a”frog-jump” into a cashless payments system, however well-intentioned, will only land the country into a bottomless pit.

The forum also knocked the CBN on its insisted on it “unrealistic policy” of restricting individual cash withdrawals from the banks to N20,000 per day and N100,000 for a week or N500,000 in the case of corporate bodies as the case may be.

The forum said, “So, yes, the less cash available for all these criminals as the CBN is trying to achieve, the better for law-abiding citizens. That said, we do need to remember that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. CBN officials may have the best of intentions while contemplating this policy but evidently failed to consider the unintended consequences of implementing it in the way they have planned; consequences that may be extremely grave.

“If the CBN insists on implementing this wholly unrealistic policy of restricting individual’s cash withdrawal from the banks to N20,000 per day and N100,000 for a week or N500,000 in the case of corporate bodies, it won’t be long before we suffer a catastrophic collapse of the informal sector of the economy. More than anyone, CBN knows that transactions in commodity markets especially in rural areas are entirely cash-based.

“The villager that brings to the market his chickens, beans, onions, goat or cows does not typically have a bank account or internet skills. Cash remains the overwhelming medium of exchange for much of the country, particularly in the North. This should surprise no one as bank offices are largely unavailable even for people who are keen and have the skills to use them.

“Even by the CBN’s reports, over 38 million adults in Nigeria do not currently have access to banking services with “women, rural dwellers, Micro-Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Northern Nigeria” being among the most disproportionately excluded.”

“And despite its pious pretensions, it is on record that the CBN under the present management, apparently out of desire to safeguard the interests of the commercial banks, has done much to undermine and stifle the progress of financial inclusion in Nigeria.

“Thanks to the decisions taken by the CBN, Nigeria, today, despite its size, has the dubious record of having the lowest financial penetration in all of Africa, perhaps in the world.

“Under the circumstances, the CBN will do itself and the country a world of good if it invests more efforts at addressing these challenges. It should start by ensuring that various financial institutions are created in sufficient numbers and in all parts of the country.”

The ACF added, “It should allow a level playing field for a wide range of finance providers and encourage partnerships between them. Furthermore, the CBN must enforce strict regulations that protect people’s money. It must inform, encourage and prepare the public adequately for the transition.

“Until the CBN is able to address these challenges substantially, a preemptive move or a”frog-jump” into a cashless payments system, however well-intentioned, will only land us into a bottomless pit.”

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