The Senate has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to considerably adjust the withdrawal limits in response to public outcry on the policy.
The lawmakers also mandated its Committee on Banking and Finance to embark on aggressive oversight of the apex bank on its commitment to flexible adjustment of the withdrawal limit. The committee will periodically report the outcome to the Senate.
These are part of the recommendations adopted after the Senate considered the committee’s report on the implementation of cashless policy and new withdrawal limit.
The committee also asked the Senate to support the CBN in implementing the policies.
The CBN, in a memo in November, announced a limit on cash withdrawal made by individuals and organisations with effect from 9 January, 2023.
The bank directed that over-the-counter cash withdrawals by individuals and corporate entities do not exceed N100, 000 and N500,000, respectively, per week. It also directed that only N200 and lower denominations should be loaded into banks’ ATM machines.
The CBN said maximum cash withdrawal per week via ATM should be N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day.
Last week, the Senate directed the committee to interface with two newly appointed CBN deputy governors on the new policy while their counterparts at the lower chamber have summoned the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, for explanations.
After the committee chairman, Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), presented the report and made the recommendations, senators took turns to air different opinions on the report.
While some supported the bank’s policy, others vehemently opposed it.
The Senate spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, said feedback from his constituents shows that the threshold set by the apex bank is totally unrealistic, especially with regards to inflation and cost of living in the country.
“I am not oblivious of the recommendations of the committee but I am of the suggestion that they should have adjusted the indices…,” he queried. “Why not say N500,000 in place of N100,000. This is in line with the realities. This report is vague.”
Similarly, Kebbi senator, Adamu Aliero, said the report is different from the realities on ground.
He stressed the need for enlightenment since many rural dwellers do not use the banks.
“There are about 774 local governments in the country and only about 60 per cent of the 774LGs are covered by banks,” he said. “While I support e-banking and cashless policy, I think we should do it with caution. There should be room for flexibility.”
Yusuf Yusuf urged his colleagues to support the policy. The issue, he said, is beyond financial reasons, but about security, technology and the need for the naira to recover its value against the dollar.
“If I had my way, I’d recommend the highest denomination to be N100. That is the only way to ‘de-dollarise’ the money. Because we are killing ourselves by keeping all the money and keeping dollars…”
Adamu Bulkachuwa, (APC, Bauchi), however, opposed the policy, saying it would not enhance security as advocated by colleagues.
He said, if allowed to go on, the policy will not be good for the country majorly because rural workers need a lot of money and there are people who are paid with cash daily.
“In my constituency, banks closed six years ago, UBA bank. They do not want rural branches because they are only after profit. If we continue with these, my constituents will revolt,” he said.
On his part, the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu, said the CBN should reconsider its decision.
They should make it 500,000 a day for individuals and N3 million for corporate organisations, he said.
Ekiti senator, Biodun Olujimi, blamed the current controversy surrounding the policy on CBN’s failure to consult with relevant bodies like the National Assembly.
She said the time stipulated for the committee to “consult” with the CBN on relaxing the policy, is too short and also wondered why it is being introduced during an election period.
The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, however, reminded his colleagues that the CBN has every right, according to its laws, to implement such policies. He also assured that the policy is also aimed at protecting people in the rural areas “from being attacked.”
Besides calling for adjustment of the policy and consultations, the Senate also resolved to support the CBN in the continuous implementation of transformational payments and financial industry initiatives in line with its mandate.