After failing to appear before it for the second time, the House of Representatives has given the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, Thursday this week as the deadline to do so.
A standing House resolution directs Emefiele to appear before the House to answer questions on the series of policies the apex bank churned out lately, especially the latest one on revised cash withdrawal limits.
He had failed to appear on Thursday, last week.
On Tuesday (today), he again wrote a letter, which the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, read to colleagues on the floor in Abuja. In the letter, Emefiele said he was unavailable because he was engaged in other assignments outside the shores of Nigeria.
Recall that the House also asked him to suspend the cash withdrawal limits pending the outcome of his appearance before lawmakers.
In reacting to the letter on Tuesday, members became agitated, accusing the apex bank’s chief of taking them for a ride.
Some have observed that Emefiele might be using excuses as his strategy for avoiding the House until the full implementation of the policy in January, 2023.
However, Gbajabiamila calmed their nerves, appealing that Thursday be set as the final date for Emefiele to appear.
He equally suggested that if an official engagement indeed kept the CBN governor out of the country beyond Thursday, Emefiele should delegate his deputy, who should be “equipped” to respond to all issues unfailingly.
Gbajabiamila’s suggestions were taken and passed as the updated resolution.
The controversial new cash policy puts total Over the Counter (OTC) withdrawal per week for individuals at N100,000 and N500,000 for corporate organisations.
However, withdrawals above the limits attract 5% processing fee for individuals and 10% for organisations.
The policy also pegs third party cheque payment over the counter at N50,000, maximum Automated Teller Machine (ATM)/Point of Sale (PoS) daily withdrawal at N20,000 and total weekly withdrawal at N100,000.
In addition, banks shall only load denominations of N200 and below into their ATMs.
The policy further provides that it’s only in “compelling circumstances” for “legitimate purposes” that individuals can withdraw up to N5million and N10m for corporate organisations “once a month.”
On December 8, 2022, following a motion on urgent national importance moved by Rep. Aliyu Magaji, most lawmakers kicked against the policy on the grounds that it was too harsh and sudden on Nigerians, especially the poor majority residing in the rural areas.
They argued that the majority of small businesses would go under, while inflation might worsen in the long run, altogether defeating any gains expected from the policy.
However, House Minority Leader, Rep. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, vehemently opposed the motion, describing the CBN’s policy as the best step taken so far to tackle banditry, kidnapping and other crimes that involved the payment of ransoms in cash.
A majority voice vote eventually passed the resolution, asking the CBN to suspend the policy and inviting Emefiele to appear before members on the floor to answer questions.