Some Senators seem not to be comfortable with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cash withdrawal policy.
The apex bank had last week introduced cash withdrawal limits of N100,000 for individuals and N500,000 for organisations per week.
On Thursday last week, the two reappointed CBN Deputy governors, Mrs Aisha Ahmad and Edward Lametek appeared before the Senator Uba Sani-led Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions for screening.
The business for that day was supposed to be screening, but a curious question on ‘cash withdrawal policy’ popped up.
DAILY POST correspondent, who monitored the panel’s proceedings, observed that the Committee Chairman, Senator Uba Sani was tacitly shielding the nominees from answering questions on the policy.
Notwithstanding, Mrs Ahmad told the Committee that the policy was not targeted at anyone, recalling that the policy was introduced in 2012 to be implemented in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and other major cities before it encountered challenges.
She insisted that cash withdrawal limitation was in the interest of the nation, assuring that there was nothing to fear about the policy.
Dissatisfied with the manner the screening was conducted, Senator Seriake Dickson representing Bayelsa West Senatorial district, while addressing the press after the meeting, insisted that the Central Bank of Nigeria should come out clean.
He accused the Committee Chairman of shielding nominees from being interrogated on issues of national interest, particularly, the cashless policy which he said has elicited public outcry.
The former governor described the current situation in Nigeria as terrible, adding that the cashless policy of the CBN was most insensitive and injurious to the nationhood as it would clearly lead the unbanked into further calamity.
Reacting to questions, he said: “This is clearly in national interest. We are not here playing. These are people who have been managing our economy and they have introduced policies that seem injurious to our economy.
“This is a very terrible situation and circumstance. If at this time of public outcry in our country they have introduced this and we are here and are not allowed to ask questions, but nominees were asked to take a bow and go, that was not fair enough.
“This President has been in office for close to eight years and he cannot be introducing this policy at the twilight of an administration.”
Continuing, Seriake said: “You cannot rush this country into a cashless policy when there is a public outcry all over the place.
“The Senate Committee which I am a part of, would have deliberately questioned the CBN nominees on the policy and the readiness of our institutions, readiness of our economy, the readiness of our local and small entrepreneurs who are unbanked.
“It’s calamitous to introduce this when the nation is preparing for national election. At a time that we have very serious security challenges, I think that this policy needed more interrogation by this Committee.
“Unfortunately, the Chairman ruled that they should take a bow and go.
“I have a conscience and a duty to this country to make my position known, hence, more caution should be exercised by the regulators of our economy. They shouldn’t rush into implementation of this. They need more consultation”, he said.
Referring to last week’s screening exercise, the deputy Chairman of the Committee and Senator representing Ekiti North Senatorial district, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi revealed that Senator Uba Sani was unavoidably absent, but recalled that the Committee was mandated to screen CBN nominees and interrogate cash withdrawal policy.
The lawmaker said: “Exactly a week ago, the Senate resolved that the Committee on Banking and Financial institutions should come forth today to report on the enquiries that it was mandated to make of the new policy of the Central Bank on the withdrawal limit.
“The committee was specifically mandated to interrogate these issues based on the concern that was expressed in the chamber, with the two deputy Governors that were coming for clearance. This took place on Thursday last week.
“Two candidates came for clearance and the issues were thoroughly looked into, especially in the opening remarks of the chairman. He specifically reported that the Senate made the two deputy governors to elaborate on the issue and the rationale behind this policy in view of the massive public reaction to that policy.
“The deputy governors gave elaborate explanations and the committee also requested for further evidence in terms of documented reports that will enable the Committee to fully understand the issues behind this policy during the plenary appropriately.
“Unfortunately, the report is not ready today because the Chairman of the Committee is busy on a political assignment where he will receive very special politicians in the presidential race. He is coming tomorrow to present the formal report of the Committee.”
Disappointed by the submission, Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa representing Bauchi North Senatorial district urged the Chamber to thoroughly interrogate the cashless policy as the Committee may have not carried out a thorough assignment on that.
He pleaded with the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan to allow thorough discussion and not allow it to be swept under the carpet.
Bulkachuwa said: “We should not allow this thing to be swept under the carpet. It is a very serious issue and Nigerians are waiting to see what the Senate will do as the House or Representatives have asked the governor of the Central bank to stay action on this, but as usual in his typical character, he is being stubborn.”
The lawmaker insisted on deliberation, noting that leaving the debate till Wednesday might result in another excuse.
In his remark, the Senate President said, the Committee Chairman should be allowed to personally lay the report, stressing that there was nothing to hide.
Lawan called for patience, saying that information offered by the Committee Chairman might help in a robust legislative debate on the cash withdrawal limit.
He said: “Secondly, I don’t think it is fair to say we are sweeping the matter under the carpet. To sweep something under the carpet in my understanding means to avoid it. Nobody here suggests by action or inaction that we are avoiding discussion on this matter.
“I think it is appropriate to give the Chairman of the Committee an opportunity to come and present his report himself as Senator Adetumbi is a member of the Committee.
“The Vice Chairman of the Committee who is the Chief Whip is here and they are all in attendance. They have something to tell us.
“The Chairman wants to present the report himself and when he does that, we will be better informed and we can take appropriate action.
“Tomorrow is less than 24 hours by the grace of God. Please distinguished Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa, I want you to be present so that if there is anything that you want all of us to know, even as all of us here feel strongly about this, we are going to debate it.
“Let’s do that on the basis of information because that is when we can argue it and say no, stop it because of superior argument. So, let’s not doubt our sincerity here.”