A viral video on different social media platforms showed a male character in a controversial manner mispronounced the name of the Centra Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele. Watching this viral video made me realise that the CBN Governor has always been a centerpiece of controversies.
Since Godwin Emefiele assumed office on the 3rd of June, 2014 after Governor Lamido Sanusi resigned, his repeated goal has been to enforce a cashless policy on Nigerians in Nigeria.
However, the recent happenings days before Nigerians determine who receive the baton of leadership from President Mohammud Buhari can be described as a faulty decision making by the apex bank governor; albeit earned him the moniker “king of controversy.”
It is worthy to note that the CBN Governor is a graduate of Banking and Finance as well as a Master Degree in Finance from the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), 1984 and 1986 respectively. The Agbor-born governor is an alumnus of Executive Education at Stanford University, Harvard University both in 2004 and Wharton School of Business in 2005. He was then conferred with an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by UNN.
Also, he gained over eight years of banking experience, where he held and managed key roles in Zenith Bank before he become the Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director in the same bank.
With all these acquired knowledge and experiences, everyone should be excited we have a knowledgeable and experienced professional at the helms of affairs at CBN. We should leverage our hopes on his expertise. That would not be the case for Emefiele; all his policies have always been accompanied by controversies.
In August 2014, Emefiele declared the reintroduction of charges on withdrawal made from Automated Teller Machine (ATMs) of banks other than the customer’s bank after the third transaction in a month. In his defense, he said the charges has been reduced from the usual N100 to N65 and Nigerians should be grateful to the banks that have decided to share the remaining N35 difference.
Recall ATM charges were first canceled by the former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi.
His other ‘defense’ was banks’ customers have been abusing the free opportunity by making withdrawals beyond what they ordinary made. Also, he said Banks have over the past bore the cost of N65 on every withdrawal made on other ATMs as payment to the paying bank. And he said if ATM transactions continued to be free, it would contravene his cashless policy.
This policy created a wide range of controversies. This showed he care-less about how Nigerians feel despite holding a public office. This also showed a lack of patriotism and love for Nigerians, because it gave banks leverage to tamper with withdrawal limits on their ATMs. This was the beginning of Emefiele being a King of Controversy.
Also, as the CBN Governor, banks enjoyed excess, unapproved and arbitrary charges on customers bank accounts, electronic transfers and ATM maintenance. But this was said to have been addressed by the CBN Governor in 2019, whereby he reduced charges applicable to bank accounts, electronic transfers, and ATMs by Banks, other financial and non-financial institutions in the country.
Ask an average bank customer, you will discover that banks, still indulge in this excess, unapproved and arbitrary charges. Despite all formal and informal cries; on conventional and social media, the CBN have done nothing to checkmate this. Does this attitude portray Emefiele as a public servant?
In an unprecedented move which questions whether the CBN Governor is actually a public servant was his venturing into partisan politics against the dictates of the Central Bank Act which provides the occupant of the governor’s position must remain apolitical and independent at all times to preserve the nonpartisan posture of the Bank. He drew outrage in May, 2022 when it emerged that he was seeking to replace President Mohammadu Buhari in the 2023 presidential election. What started as a rumour became a reality when campaign posters of the apex bank chief flooded the country. Although, in series of tweets via his verified social media accounts, he rejected the presidential form and declared he has no intention to contest. This portrayed Emefiele as a man who strives on controversies.
Furthermore, on October 26, 2022, he announced CBN’s plan to redesign three Naira notes which were N200, N500 and N1000. The banknotes redesign was later unveiled on November 23, 2022 by President Buhari and January 31st was declared the deadline for the validity of the old notes.
Within this period, all old notes were expected to have turned into the CBN through deposit banks and by then enough of the new notes would have saturated. But this would not be.
Emefiele neither put in place measures to checkmate banks that refused to load their ATMs with the new, redesigned notes nor unscrupulous persons who decided to make merchandise out of the situation by selling the new notes.
It is evident that most Nigerians are in support of Naira design. Even critics of the policy say they are not against it but against the timing. This argument about time is that it is close to general elections and also its implementation should be improved operationally so that everyone who needs cash can get it because even with cashless policy, because cash is king.
This redesign has created a lot of crises and pandemonium ranging from protests in major states, Banks destruction and disruption in market transactions. It is obvious that an average Nigerian needs cash for their daily transaction. Or, survival.
It is quite displeasing that in all his media appearances and CBN press releases, Emefiele has not mentioned an effective sanction in place for banks which refused load the new naira notes in their ATMs nor the New Naira merchants; but was fast to announce the implications of not depositing old naira notes by Nigerians who he is meant to serve.
Prior to this, the Governor bowed to pressure to revise bank’s cash withdrawal limits policy because his initial policy raised a lot of controversies and hullabaloo. The CBN eventually said the maximum weekly limit for cash withdrawal across all channels by individuals and corporate organisations to N500,000 and N5 million respectively. All these policies by Emefiele were to encourage a cashless economy.
The recent tone of events before the general elections gives reasons why Emefiele’s experience and education qualification should be questioned. Every policy and move were hit by a controversy: whereby critics begin to judge his capacity as the CBN Governor. With these series of events, is Emefiele actually a public servant?
It is obvious that Emefiele does not consider Nigerians in his biddings, hence prefers to remain controversial.
The questions that disturb me are: since 2014 Governor Godwin Emefiele has been the head of the apex bank, what has been the CBN role in sensitizing market men and women on the purpose of going cashless and encourage them to embrace it by using bank transactions? Also, I want to ask the CBN Governor what happened to E-Naira sensitization, why didn’t he create a lot of buzz around it to encourage Nigerians to embrace?
I feel E-Naira would have reduced the so much attention given to the new naira notes. Controversy continues to linger around Governor Godwin Emefiele, for he strives in controversial controversies.