By Law Mefor
In politics, philosopher John Locke is best known as a proponent of limited government. He uses a theory of natural rights to argue that governments have obligations to their citizens, have only limited powers over their citizens, and can ultimately be overthrown by citizens under certain circumstances. This is not the case in Nigeria. Our governments feel no obligation to the citizens and the suffering they inflict on them through insensitive policies is proof. What the government has for the Nigerian masses is utmost contempt for their overlords.
Probably the best-known, simple, and short definition of public policy has been offered by Thomas Dye, ‘anything a government chooses to do or not to do’. There are cruel policies deliberately pursued by the federal government that tend to justify that governance in Nigeria is deployed as a policy to achieve pauperization or impoverishment. Examples of such cruel and anti-people policies are the recurring fuel crisis and the ongoing naira crisis. The two policies have no reason to turn out as they have, inflicting maximum suffering on Nigerians and reducing their existence to almost subhuman.
In other countries that do not even produce crude oil, their fuel supply is going steady and powers their economies. Nigeria on the other hand is the 10th producer of crude oil in the world and spends trillions of naira in fuel subsidies. Yet, fuel cannot easily be obtained by citizens for no clear reason. The trillions of naira spent on subsidies have not brought down the pump price of fuel or made it available to the common man.
Somebody said that governance is a heist in Nigeria. Citizens are being deliberately pauperised and made too weak to protest or do anything about their debilitating condition. The government in Nigeria is simply not worth it and Nigerians would fare better without one. Today, the citizens have taken over virtually all responsibilities of government – provisions of schools, roads, security, name it!
Most heart-wrenching should be the naira redesign policy and the horrible way it was implemented, which has induced runs on the banks. Nigerians now want their money back and can’t get it and can’t do anything about it. They would prefer to store their money in their own houses since they cannot access the same through the banks anymore. The banks don’t have physical cash to give back to all Nigerians. 70% of the bank deposits have gone into huge loans to big politicians, and big-time businessmen, purchasing highbrow buildings, and flashy cars, and funding the good life of bank board members, directors, and managerial cadres. The banks will never tell you this. This is the crisis created by the shoddy way and manner the cashless policy is being implemented.
A visit to the bank halls around the country would show that the number of bank customers seeking to withdraw compared to those willing to make deposits is now as high as 9 to 1. The CBN seems to be playing along as if the disgraceful aftermath is the intended outcome or they are just hapless and confused.
CBN says it wants to force the cashless policy. And of course, the CBN equally has introduced e-money, which the apex bank wants Nigerians to embrace. E-money operates with wallets held by customers directly with the CBN just like a cryptocurrency. The e-naira implies that commercial banks in Nigeria will witness fewer and fewer deposits and will certainly have hard times ahead as many more Nigerians would soon prefer to hold their money with the CBN. As a consequence, many of the banks will be forced to close shops and that is likely the reason they are frustrating the cashless policy despite the catastrophic and cataclysmic consequences on the ordinary Nigerians and the economy.
The goal of the CBN is unclear. But whatever the noble goal is, it does not appear well thought out; or, the implementation is being sabotaged or skewed with the masses at the short end of the stick. Nigerians have no access to their money and the intervention by the Supreme Court has also been whittled down by both the CBN and the Presidency.
Initially, the Supreme Court had ordered that the January 31st fixed by the CBN for the three denominations (N200, N500, and N1000) to cease to be legal tenders be put on hold pending the determination of the suit brought before it by the Governors of the states of Kaduna, Zamfara, and Kogi, who were later joined in the suit by about 9 other state governors.
The CBN ignored that order of the Supreme Court and unilaterally moved the legal tender cessation date by 10 days. Later, in partial obedience to the Supreme Court order, the President in a nationwide broadcast directed that the N200 note should return as legal tender and stay till April 10th, without making any reference to the Supreme Court order.
Emefiele the CBN governor had to track the President to Daura to secure the approval. Then, the Supreme Court gave the final order that the three affected naira denominations should remain legal tenders till December 31, 2023.
For over one week, the CBN refused to implement the Supreme Court order until the new leadership of the NLC led by Comrade Jude Ajero issued a one-week ultimatum, after which the Labour in Nigeria would embark on an indefinite nationwide strike. This seems to be the only thing that jolted the presidency to its senses and Garba Shehu issued a statement on its behalf, stating the President never asked CBN not to act or obey the Supreme Court order.
CBN in its usual knee-jerk response came up with its midnight directive, like a thief in the night, to the Nigerian banks to receive and dispense the old naira notes. The question is: why did it take the CBN one week to act? Emefiele had to go to Daura to secure approval for the extension by 10 days but could not go to the Presidential Villa to seek a directive from the President on how best to respond to the Supreme Court judgment.
It is difficult to comprehend. Come to think of it, what lack of access to their money has caused the generality of Nigerians is huge, recorded in irreparable losses in lives and businesses. Many Nigerians could not buy food and drugs in the absence of cash and failures of online transfers. Many died as a consequence while the President and Emefiele watched. This is a horror scene developing before our very eyes.
The essence of government is two reasons: for security and the greater happiness of the greatest number of citizens. The Buhari government has been the direct opposite. Insecurity has escalated in leaps and bounds, and poverty has grown to scandalous levels to the point that Nigerians in multi-dimensional poverty are now put at 133.3 m. This figure was before the current naira crisis, which has produced many more abject poor Nigerians.
The impact of the naira crisis has worsened the poverty and misery indexes because many small-scale firms have died and their owners will have to start all over if they manage to raise new capital. The 1.4m POS operators’ self-help dying endeavors are an example of such businesses going extinct or in jeopardy because of the kind of leadership Nigerians have had to endure.
Many keep arguing that Emefiele is only the messenger of the President and only doing his bidding. But where are honour, patriotism, and integrity if Emefiele would have to implement such a policy the way he did, which has led to the deaths of many citizens, damaged their mental health, and killed their businesses just to satisfy the President? One of the most celebrated Presidents of the United States; Theodore Roosevelt said this about patriotism: “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.” Has Emefiele read this as a public servant?
The blood of Nigerians spilled during these fuel and naira crises is irreplaceable and spiritually implacable. We saw a few men and women strip themselves naked in the banking halls and within precincts of banks. The mental statuses of many more have been impaired by the harrowing experience of the naira crisis. That is somebody’s honour and health damaged forever. These men and women who were made to run amok and naked have children, siblings, friends, and so on.
Even with the directives to banks to start receiving and dispensing old notes, there is still much naira scarcity. Banks are still not giving more than N20k over the counter. Queues have not been reduced and ATMs are not dispensing notes as before. The majority of the ATMs are still without money and very little money is received over the counters – N20k max. Banks are still rationing money and POS operators are still without cash and over 80% of them are not back to business.
In the civilised world, Emefiele ought to have resigned or been fired by the President. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was suspended by President Goodluck Jonathan as CBN governor for comparatively less serious reasons.
So, why is our President enjoying the dehumanizing suffering of Nigerians? Is it serving him some psychological needs or what?
Dr. Law Mefor is a senior fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375; e-mail: [email protected]; follow me on Twitter :@LawMefor1.