Onyedi Ojiabor, and Sanni Onogu/The Nation
Senators were angry with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s insistence on introducing the N5000 banknote.
They unanimously vowed to stop the CBN from re-denominating and issuing N5000 note.
It was their first sitting after a long break.
The lawmakers resolved “to urge President Goodluck Jonathan and the CBN to stop issuance of N5000 note and all issues connected therewith”.
This followed the unanimous adoption of a motion entitled “Introduction of N5000 notes by the CBN”.
The motion, sponsored by Rules and Business Committee chair Senator Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom North East) saw Senators express anger over what they described as exhibition of “arrogance, high handedness and claim of monopoly of knowledge” by Sanusi
Senate President David Mark noted that it was obvious that the argument for the introduction of N5000 “is not convincing”. “The disadvantages of the N5000 note, at the moment, far outweigh not introducing it and, on balance, we should not go for it,” he said.
Mark said: “I also heard it from the news the way you heard it. I was not briefed. The only briefing I had about this issue was in the national dailies.
“The important thing is that if Nigerians say they don’t want a particular policy at any given moment, there is no harm in government retracing their stand on the issue and I think that is the situation that we find ourselves.
“I have listened to the arguments from those who support it, but those arguments are simply not convincing.
“They appear to me to be highly theoretical and technical in nature and they do not address any practical issue on ground.
“Any policy that does not address issues directly but just talking about indices we cannot verify for now should wait.
“We have not reached that level where we are just talking of hypothetical cases all the time.
“I think the disadvantages of the N5000 notes at the moment far outweigh not introducing it and on balance, we should not go for it.
“And also, from the contributions on the floor, we are all in support of the fact that the timing is wrong and the policy is unnecessary at the moment and the arguments being advanced is not convincing and there is no urgent need for it to take place now.
“There is no ambiguity on our stand on the issue. I am not sure that Sanusi is aware of the Constitution. If he was, he would make reference to us before addressing the issue.”
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu noted that though he may not be an economist, he understood the implications of the controversial fiscal policy.
Ekweremadu said on the basis of sovereignty, Nigerians have spoken through their representatives, “it is in the interest of the government to listen and withdraw from this course they are pursuing”.
Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (Cross River Central), who seconded the motion described it as timely.
Ndoma-Egba noted that in a democracy, nobody should claim a monopoly of knowledge or wisdom.
According to him, monopoly of knowledge and wisdom is strange to democracy and “even if the policy were to be for the good of the people and they say they don’t want it, it is their right to reject something that is even good for them”.
“This is one moment that our policy makers must listen to every Nigerian, even those in the street, Ndoma-Egba said, adding:
“In this case, I am not an economist and I don’t pretend to be one, but former heads of state of this nation has spoken.
“Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has spoken against this policy and, recently, the very respected Yakubu Gowon spoke against it.
“They may not be economists, as has been alluded, but with their knowledge or lack of knowledge to manage the economy of this country for very many years, we must listen to them.”
Ndoma-Egba said that Nigerians must reaffirm their commitment to the fight against corruption.
He said, “We cannot in one breadth be saying we are committed to the fight and in the same breadth we make it convenient for people to move around with millions of Naira in their pockets. So, on those two points, because I believe that there are several other points against but with just these two, I support this motion and urge our other colleagues to support it.”
Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Ekiti North) said that the debate of the planned redenomination of the naira is important because it has a lot of technical contents as well as emotional aspects.
He added that the parliament must be able to distinguish between both and be seen to inform the public appropriately.
He said, “There are about four platforms upon which this policy is predicated and over the period of the holiday, I had the privilege of doing extensive study to find out what really is the motive behind this policy, which has generated a lot of debate. The very first one is the issue of dollarization.
“A respected member of the Economic Management Team of Mr President had said and I quote, Mr. Atedo Peterside:
“Money is a store of value and all these thieves and vagabonds running around the various states and all over the country, when they steal money, they will want to keep it outside the banking system.
“So, they need higher denominational notes. Right now, they are using the $100 notes all over Nigeria because they are the best store of values for them.
“If you give them a better store of value, they will move away from dollar and reduce the demands for American notes and move into our currency as opposed to the use of dollars to hide their loot.”
“This was Atedo Peterside speaking to Nigerian media on the reason why Nigerians should support this policy of government and here we are as a legislature, part of the ruling class that is being referred to, that this note is meant for us to hide loot.
“This is a serious issue. It is true that the US dollar and British Pounds is a store of value outside the United States and the United Kingdom.
“You want to store your value in a currency that is stable and hard, not in naira.
“We need to work naira to the level of reputation that other international currencies are enjoying now before we can position naira to store value locally.
“We are also told that the equivalent of this N5000 naira is just about 30 dollars.”
Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West) described the planned fiscal policy as “ungodly, satanic, unconstitutional and uncalled for and does not make reasonable economic sense”.
Adeyemi cautioned President Jonathan to be wary of some of his aides.
He said Sanusi has turned out to be one of those misleading Jonathan.
He said it is ungodly for Sanusi to attempt to divide Nigerians through the introduction of a currency that would be used by only a section of Nigerians.
Finance Committee chair, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said the statement by Sanusi that the N5000 is not for every Nigerian is a slight on Nigerians.
He said that the CBN boss woke up and announced a major fiscal policy, thereby taking Nigerians for granted.
Enang, in his lead debate, urged the Senate to note that on Thursday, the 23rd of August, 2012, the CBN announced the introduction of the 5000 Naira note as legal tender in Nigeria and the redenomination of the Naira.
He said the Senate should consider the proposal as a direct negation of the cashless policy of the Jonathan administration, which discourages cash transaction in preference for electronic cashless transactions now in operation.
He noted that the Senate should be aware that in cashless economies, such as Nigeria, high bills or currency notes, such as the proposed N5000, are not required as transactions are conducted from the payer to the payee’s accounts without any need for physical exchange or handling of cash by either of the parties.
The Senate, he said, should be worried that the policy will create multiple economic problems, such as inflation, corruption and security challenges, and would erode the value of the nation’s currency and ruin the economy.
Other Senators who supported the motion included Senators Abdul Ningi, Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, Isa Galadu, Atai Idoko, Bello Tukur, Mohammed Ali Ndume and Bassey Otu.