Protesters estimated to be about 1,000 yesterday stormed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) headquarters in Abuja to kick against the government’s plan to introduce the N5,000 currency.
This is even as the Federal Government through its National Economic Management Team (NEMT) also yesterday gave its nod for the currency’s take-off.
Defying the downpour and presence of armed police and soldiers, the protesters blocked the entrance to the CBN building, causing serious traffic snarl for several minutes.
Bearing placards, the protesters danced inside the rain with passers-by staring through their vehicle windows.
Leader of the protesters and former member of the House of Representatives, Otunba Dino Melaye, vowed that similar protests would be replicated across the country and in some strategic places until the CBN bows to the demands of Nigerians.
“If they go ahead with the introduction of this N5,000, we will give them the Egyptian treatment. In the interest of the masses, please, engage us. Policies are meant to promote humanity. They are not meant to create difficulties for the people,” Melaye warned.
He added: “Instead of the government fighting and prosecuting those indicted in the fuel subsidy scam, government wants to further inflict pains and injuries on Nigerians that are already suffering.
“What I am saying is that Nigerians are saying no to this new N5,000 note. While we are still praying to God to conquer Boko Haram, the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is introducing this new note.
“We will reject and renounce it.”
While the protesters were still dancing in the rain, the Deputy Governor, Operations of the CBN, Mr. Tunde Lemo, attended to them amid tight security.
Lemo denied plans by the apex bank to expend N40 billion on the printing of the note.
“Let me debunk something I just saw in the paper. We are not spending N40 billion to print the N5,000 note,” Lemo affirmed.
Though his voice was drowned by boos from the crowd, Lemo promised that the leadership of the CBN will study the contents of the petition and respond accordingly.
“First and foremost, let me thank you for coming to express your views about the policy of the CBN,” Lemo stated, adding: “Let me assure you that we have a lot of respect for the masses of this country because without the masses, there can’t be CBN.
“CBN is doing a lot to help the masses.
“The most important responsibility of the CBN is to fight inflation. It hurts the masses more than anything else. We will go through your petition.
“Let me assure you that the leadership of the CBN under Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is interested in ensuring that the masses of this country are well taken care of.
“Whether we introduce N5,000 note or not, every year we print money. Whatever we are trying to do is to ensure we reduce the cost of printing.
“I can assure you that we are sensitive to the masses. We will look at all the issues and respond.”
Endorsing the note, the EMT, chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan, also allayed the fear that its introduction would lead to high rate of inflation.
The NEMT said that there was no link between inflation and currency denomination.
It said rather, the introduction of the higher currency will help shore up the value of the naira as most people who store money in hard currency would now embrace the high denomination.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents after the meeting, which lasted about five hours, the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, who disclosed the NEMT’s endorsement, said that the higher denomination is not in variance with the cashless economy proposed by the CBN.
Usman said that the new higher bill will be introduced along with the production of new coins of N5, N10 and N20.
The policy is expected to take off next year.
“Clearly, the N5,000 note, unlike the misrepresentation by some people, is not going to lead to higher inflation.
“There is absolutely no link.
“I am an economist, I have been Deputy Governor, Operations of the Central Bank.”
On the issue that its introduction was at variance with the cashless policy, Usman said: “It is not in variance.
“In most of the economies you look at, the Euro has the €500 note. If you go to the countries where Euro is in use, you will not get the €500 note in normal circulation.
“But it is used by the banks and a few other heavy cash users to store higher value. I have been to parts of the United States where you draw the $100 bill and give it to somebody and they start looking at it as if it is something strange.
“They probably have not seen it.”
Also commenting, a member of NEMT, Atedo Peterside, said that besides the fact that it does not add to increase in cost of printing of currency, that money being a store of value, the higher the denomination, the better it is for the economy as those who made money legally and illegally will want to keep it in naira rather than the hard currency.
Peterside said, “If I were the CBN Governor, I will prefer to print N10,000 notes.
“Last year, Nigeria spent N47 billion to print these small, small notes.
“If we were printing bigger denominations, we will print fewer number and you make phenomenal savings.
“Secondly, money is a store of value.
“All these thieves and vagabonds running around all over the country, when they steal money, they will want to keep it outside the banking system.”
Also speaking, another NEMT member, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhede, described the reactions trailing the planned introduction of the N5,000 note as rather unfortunate.
Aig-Imoukhede said: “It is very rare for you to have a Central Bank that does not look at the issue of currency management and issue new notes from time to time based on the reality of the economy.
“In the case of Nigeria, a N5,000 note, which is in effect a $30 note, is not strange.”
The President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, also a member of NEMT, said: “The introduction of the N5,000 note has nothing to do with inflation. I think it is even to protect the economy.
“The cost of printing is not anything different from the amount they are using in printing any other note. It is the same cost.”
The Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako, and his Anambra State counterpart, Peter Obi, spoke in favour of the N5,000 note, assuring Nigerians it will not cause inflation.
The NEMT, which was also attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo, is headed by the President.
It is made up of the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy; the Governor of the CBN; the Minister of National Planning; Directors-General of the Security and Exchange Commission; and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) among others.