Question: The decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to introduce currency note denominated in 5000 Naira, and new coins, has clearly created public criticism. Going by controversial course of action which CBN has been coming out with in recent time, is it that public impression does not matter to it? How do you view the public relations (PR) angle of this intension of the CBN? – S. Fynecountry.
I had cause to ‘feel the pulse’ of someone close to me, in a position to proffer tips on what would likely happen if Malam Lamido Sanusi eventually became the top man at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sometime in 2009, while rumours where rife on his appointment as CBN’s governor. As general manager in a blue chip investment bank (Icon Merchant Bank) in the 1980s, while Sanusi was deputy manager, he had cause to refer to him as “one of my boys”. I still remember these comments about Sanusi, “…Alors, he was quite a sharp young man; strong in character; never hid his feelings on issues, portrayed tendencies towards socialism, and will likely ruffle lots of feathers if he becomes the CBN governor…"
What transpired shortly after Sanusi’s appointment as CBN’s governor, as regards decision to relieve the managing directors of eight banks of their posts, and sack the related board of directors, was not completely a surprise to me in view of earlier insight. Without reeling out the justification in CBN’s decision to wield the big stick against these banks, I still endorse its position on this issue. The same holds for some other standpoints of this CBN governor, perceived as controversial in several quarters, such as that on Islamic banking, which my piece on another platform, titled “Islamic banking: Giving Sanusi some respite” underscored. This was no doubt hinged on my position, in early 1990s, as heading a group in a major bank responsible for the promotion of efforts towards introducing six products at a go. Among these was a profit sharing investment account, tagged “Mudarabah”.
In spite of my favourable disposition to some action of this CBN’s helmsman, most times what he presents as policies tend to run against the grain of public acceptance. Looking at this common definition of public relations (PR), “Deliberate, planned and sustained efforts aimed at establishing mutual understanding between and organisation and its publics”, one is inclined to believe that CBN, most time, deem public perception as secondary.
I am yet to reconcile CBN’s rationalization of its intension to introduce (into the economy in 2013) N5000 notes; convert present N5, N10, and N20 to coins. Considering the clear implications of this policy (from experience of Nigerians), it is difficult to understand the thinking that went into this. At this time when the recently introduced cashless (cash-light) system is still awaiting adequate advocacy, effective support and ample public enlightenment of Nigerians, there is really a disconnect somewhere – On one breath cashless system, on the other introducing N5000 note.
The Nigerian woman CBN is trying to placate with portraits of renowned female activists (Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Gambo Sawaba) on the intended N5000 note, will realize she has been short changed when the value of what is in her soup pot diminishes through the disappearance of present N5, N10, and N20 notes converted to coins. She knows that as the base for pricing becomes hinged on the lowest denomination of currency note, N50, the small time retailer that now provides biscuits for her kids at N5 or N10 per unit will obviously reject coins. A sachet of popular “pure water” will even sell for N50, against current N5.
As Nigerians seem to have long forgotten the use of coins, the CBN is yet to inform the Nigerian woman about what happened to the 50k, N1, N2 coins introduced earlier. When we all know that even Nigerian banks do not accept coins, why is the CBN not coming forth with programmes to reawaken its use before this unpopular move? Considering how CBN is proceeding (with its ‘no going back’ proclamation, despite public rejection), there seems to be good reasons for Nigerians to raise these issues:
– Current inflation rate of 12.87 per cent will be ‘child’s play’ compared to what will happen in 2013
– Why the apparent desperation to force this policy down people’s throat, while this is not a priority for Nigeria presently?
– Why encourage easy conveyance of bribe money, and oil the operations of street side foreign currency dealers?
– If this is a step ahead of counterfeiters (as CBN claims), why not adhere only to redesigning the existing currency notes (with new security features), and not delve into the contentious issue of producing the N5000 note and coins?
– Must there be a new shape of currency notes with every CBN’s governor?
– Pressure will mount on the informal sector to raise prices in other to avoid these coins.
– At this time of massive unemployment and hardship, it is outrageous to spend N40 billion on producing new currencies, and not create jobs.
– This means Nigerians expecting the creation of another denomination of currency note (e.g. N10, 000) in the next five or so years
President Goodluck Jonathan, in acknowledgement of his ongoing public ‘bashing’, urged Nigerians to tarry till 2013, in order to see reasons why he should be praised instead. Aside urging the people through this column, to have some patience with their president, I even have a Reputation Management Package to complement this. With the CBN Act 2007 stipulating that it is only the President that can ‘pull the leash’ on Sanusi, Mr. President should reverse this decision immediately or the claim about 2013 being the year of pleasant surprises will come to naught. Some even believe the N5000 is intended for easier movement of money, to fuel ‘handouts’ for the 2015 elections. I see this CBN’s intension provoking infuriation of Nigerians to this President’s detriment.
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