By Fr Pat. Amobi Chukwuma
Three months ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria headed by Mr. Godwin Emefiele announced the redesigning of N200, N500 and N1000 denominations of the Nigeria currency called Naira. The Central Bank Governor gave 31st January 2023 as the deadline for the exchange.
In other words, the above mentioned old denominations cease to be legal tender from 1st February 2023. Many Nigerians welcomed the announcement with mixed feelings. Some were asking why? Many thought that three months were still far. Thus life went on without worries about the redesign. The month of November passed. The month of December came.
The Yuletide activities absolved the attention of all and sundry. The insecurity situation in the country also preoccupied many minds. Human life is more valuable than money. Fuel scarcity and its hike in price added its obstacle. The New Year dawned. Everybody was filled with joy that we survived the precarious year of 2022. Life went on with the old 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes. So far only few individuals and groups went to banks to deposit the outgoing currency denominations.
As we entered the last week of January 2023, millions of Nigerians woke from intentional and unintentional slumber. The Apex Bank authority announced that she was not going back on her decision of withdrawing the affected Naira denominations from circulation from 1st February. This caused a mad rush to the banks for deposition of the old affected currency.
The queues became unimaginable here and there. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Opportunity, they say, comes but once. Many food and drinks vendors clustered at the outskirts of the banks and made profitable sales. Some pick pocket thieves also were around to pick and deposit as well.
An Igbo proverb says, “O na-adi mma ka ikuku kuo ka a hu ike okuko.” This means that nothing happens without a lesson to be learnt from it. The thought of the Apex Bank to redesign the three big denominations brought out hidden things. No wonder the Bible underlines that everything hidden must be revealed. Wonders shall never end.
Could you believe that a popular street beggar came to a bags with two big Ghana-must-go banks to deposit his money? When counted it was almost ten million naira. Is he not a millionaire beggar? This shows that some of the street beggars are richer than those they beg from. Some have made begging a profession. A certain beggar has built a storey building for his family and tenants. He collects house rents every month and begs daily. Is he not a dupe?
Listen to this breaking News which was released few days ago: “Dear husbands, please remind your wives that it is 8 days left for the old currency to expire. All the money they have been hiding from us inside garri, back of TV, under the bed, inside pillow, under the big pot, etc. they should kindly bring them out and allow us to deposit and change them to new, so that they can have new notes to hide again.” For some, it was a laughing matter while it was annoying for some husbands. Last week there was great wailing in a poor family of nine.
The husband has been bedridden for some years and there was no money for going to hospital. Also the children were driven out of school for none payment of school fees. The mother of the house was a hidden prosperous petty trader. This money redesign exposed her. She buried in a sack all the money she earned at the backyard while the family was in financial agony.
As the expiration of the affected denominations was coming close, she had no choice than to dig out the money sack. On digging, it was discovered that moth and moisture have eaten and destroyed all the bundles of money in N200, N500 and N1000 notes, except the few on top. She cried and fainted instantly. The children heard the distressful cry and rushed to the scene. They saw and fainted as well. There was a loud wailing from the mother and her seven out of school children.
Neighbours thought that someone died. They rushed to the scene to sympathize with the bereaved family. What they saw amazed them. They started pouring curses on the stingy wicked woman. Eventually the sick husband was told of the destroyed hidden huge sum of money, which was about five million naira. He sighed and died instantly out of grief. The stingy wicked woman couldn’t bear the loss of money and loss of husband. She is now suffering from acute madness to the extent that she is walking naked in the market places. People call her wicked mad woman. The seven wretched children were taken to an orphanage home last week.
The Naira redesign policy makes further revelations. Some who couldn’t go to bank to deposit theirs began to be charitable. Some became ‘Father January’ like Father Christmas. Sellers saw increase in their daily sales. Debtors liquidated their debts with immediate effect. A certain bad debtor called me on phone to inform me that he was on his way to my house to pay me the money he borrowed from me ten years ago.
He really came and paid me in the old denominations. I unwillingly accepted them. As evidence of my displeasure, I did not offer him anything at all. I saw hunger and anger on his face. He left my house yawning. Immediately he left, I rushed to the bank to deposit them because the deadline was very close. In the churches the offertory increased tremendously, all in a bid to dispose the old currency. The lower denominations became valuable and were hoarded. Inflation decreased gradually.
Some politicians were badly hit by the Naira redesign policy. A certain billionaire politician without tangible means of livelihood was reported to have kept aside in different homes over 200 Billion Naira for vote buying during the forthcoming Presidential Election. He planned to spend N5billion in each state for vote buying. The CBN Naira redesigned has rendered him useless.
Therefore he is crying of being sabotaged by the powers that be. It is a herculean task for the mysterious billionaire in question to take his bullion vans packed with higher Naira denominations to the bank to exchange for new notes. He is gradually dying in silence. He is not alone. Many politicians are affected. Almost all the money in circulation has been stored in bags in their warehouses for vote buying. They are all wailing politically.
I hereby mandate the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to make a house to house search of all the politicians contesting for power in the forthcoming general elections. Strange revelations will be made. Many heads will go in for it. Vote buying has disabled our electoral process. It is a crime and a person who commits a crime is called a criminal.
How can criminals be in power? A snake must give birth to something as long as itself. No wonder the Holy Scripture says, “The love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). Vote buying and vote selling are the same. Anyone who sells his or her vote sells his or her freedom and conscience. Therefore, let us say ‘No’ to vote buying and selling.
Four days to the expiration of the affected old Naira notes, people began to reject them. Marketers and transporters witnessed low patronage. Many passengers were stranded due to scarcity of the new Naira notes. A petty trader who eats from hand to mouth did not sell anything for days. Since he deals on perishable food items and to avoid hunger in his family, he unwillingly accepted the old Naira notes even at the late hour.
At the closure of business on that day, he knelt down and prayed, “God, for you nothing is impossible. Therefore I implore you to turn these old Naira notes into new ones, so that I and my family can eat this night.” Before he could obtain divine response, my write-up went to press. Indirectly his prayers were answered through the Central Bank Governor in consultation with President Buhari who extended the use and exchange of the old Naira notes till 10th February 2023. As the new 200, 500 and 1000 Naira notes arrive, we must shine our eyes well to distinguish between genuine and fakes ones. The devil and his agents can never rest.