House of Representatives on Tuesday insisted that the Central Bank of Nigeria must not proceed with its cash withdrawal policy.
Although the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, for the second time, failed to appear before the House, the lawmakers said their December 8 directive to the apex bank to put the policy on hold had not changed.
Amid protests and condemnation, the lawmakers rescheduled the CBN governor’s appearance for Thursday (tomorrow).
Checks by The PUNCH, however, indicated that the apex bank had not circulated any counter directive to banks and other financial institutions stopping the policy despite the resolution of the lawmakers.
The House at its plenary on December 8 summoned Emefiele to appear before it on Thursday last week to explain the latest policy by the CBN which, among others, sets limits to cash withdrawals at the Deposit Money Banks and other financial institutions.
Among others, the CBN, in a statement on December 6, indicated that starting from January 9, 2023, the amounts individuals and corporate organizations could withdraw per week would not exceed N100,000 and N500,000, respectively.
The lawmakers wanted to grill Emefiele on the policy on Thursday last week but he failed to appear at the green chamber.
The Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, CBN, Edward Adamu, in a communication to the House told the lawmakers that Emefiele was part of the entourage of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on an official trip to the United States.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, who read out the letter at the opening of plenary said Gbajabiamila had rescheduled Emefiele’s appearance to Tuesday (yesterday).
At the opening of plenary on Tuesday, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, notified members that Emefiele would not be appearing before them.
Gbajabiamila said, “First, I think it is important that I communicate back to the House because a couple of weeks ago, the House resolved to, and in compliance with the Central Bank Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; we invited the Central Bank governor to brief us last Thursday on policies and what was going on; to brief the House on both the redesigning of the naira and, more importantly, the new cash policy.
“The Central Bank governor was supposed to come last Thursday but he wrote to the House stating that he was unavoidably absent as he was in the United States on an official visit with Mr. President. The House did write back to give him another date since he was officially out with Mr. President, and that other date was for today, Tuesday, 10 am.
“Just yesterday, I received a letter from the Central Bank…rather, the Clerk (to the House) received a letter which I have with me. It was not addressed to me, but to the Clerk, since he was the one who wrote the invitation letter in the first place.”
The Speaker went on to read out the latest letter from the Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, CBN, Edward Adamu, titled ‘Re-Invitation for Briefing.’
It read in part, “We refer to your letter of December 15, 2022, inviting the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to appear before the House of Representatives on a rescheduled date of Tuesday, December 20, 2022.
“Regrettably, the governor is unavailable to brief the House of Representatives at this time because he has other pre-scheduled official engagements he is currently addressing abroad.
“Accordingly, he has requested that we respectfully convey his inability to honor the invitation on the rescheduled date. The governor regrets this and will contact the House of Representatives as soon as he returns to the country from his official assignment.”
Gbajabiamila then sought the opinion of members on the next line of action.
A member of the House, Yusuf Gagdi, said he was not going to comment on the policy “but about your powers and our powers, and the need to respect the Nigerian people.”
He stated that the crafters of the Constitution did not err by creating the House to call public office holders to account for their activities on behalf of Nigerians.
Gagdi said, “I think at this point in time, it is quite important for us to let such public office holders know that it is not Right Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila that is summoning the CBN governor or Honorable Yusuf Gagdi or the Deputy Speaker or any member ; it is the collective whims of the Nigerian people that are inviting the CBN governor to come and explain some of the policies that Nigerian people need explanation for.
“I am not against any policy but I am against disrespect to you and to the Nigerian people. The Speaker is a symbol of this House and Nigerian people. So, if you disrespect Mr Speaker, you are disrespecting Nigerian people; you are disrespecting the House.”
The Speaker interjected to say that he wanted to put the matter in the proper context.
Gbajabiamila said, “The invitation was not from the Speaker, the invitation was from the House; that is one. Two, in fairness, at the time the invitation went out, he was already out of the country officially. So, I don’t want to see it as disrespect, as such.
”He was already out of the country. I get your point…once, twice and there cannot be a third time. And I don’t think he can be out of the country for so long. I am just thinking that we can give another date on Thursday.”
Dissatisfied, Gagdi stated, “Mr Speaker, we have names to protect. As much as I agree with you 100 percent and I am guided, I wish to equally say that we should be mindful of the impression the House is giving out there.
“I have to commend the House for even inviting him in the first instance. But Mr. Speaker, you are coming together for a policy that is starting in the next few weeks. I believe coming back to address some of these daunting challenges is quite imperative than anything else they are doing.
“It is important for the CBN governor to know that we will not tolerate further excuses in terms of non-appearance before the House to explain to Nigerian people some of these policies.”
In his submission, Femi Bamisile said he agreed with Gbajabiamila, urging other lawmakers to be patient with the CBN governor.
Also, Abdulganiyu Olododo-Cook asked if the House was sure that Emefiele would appear on Thursday, being the last plenary for the year.
Gbajabiamila noted that the most important thing was for the House to get “a proper, full briefing and it needs the CBN governor, in accordance with the law, to brief this House.”
He said Olododo-Cook raised a valid point as to Emefiele staying outside the country beyond Thursday.
The speaker said, “At this point, we will be requesting to find out what that official assignment is that will keep the CBN governor away for almost two weeks. I would like to know that official assignment at this critical point in Nigeria that will keep him away for two weeks.”
“In my humble opinion, because this House will also more than likely close on Thursday for the Christmas break, I think we should resolve to invite the CBN governor to brief this House on Thursday morning. And if for any reason it is verified that he is unavoidably out of the country on Thursday and he has a deputy governor or anyone who is well equipped to fully brief this House, so that we do not carry this until next year. So, the CBN governor for Thursday or his deputy who is fully equipped with all the facts.” he said.
However, the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, however, reminded members that the resolution suspending the policy was still in force, whether Emefiele appeared or not.
Elumelu argued, “Mr Speaker, I think we are missing something here. The House, in the interim, has taken a position. The issue of him coming was just to fulfill all righteousness, in compliance with the law. We have already passed a resolution asking him to suspend the implementation of that policy. And the Senate has equally concurred with the resolution we passed.
“So, whether he comes or he doesn’t come, we have passed a resolution asking him to suspend, and the Senate has concurred. So, what we should be looking at is whether he will disregard the concurrent resolution of both chambers. I think we should work towards and reinforce that, pending when he appears before us to brief the House.”
Gbajabiamila agreed with the minority leader that both resolutions still stand.
In his contribution, the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, urged the lawmakers to give Emefiele another opportunity on Thursday.
Asked if banks would continue with their preparations for the commencement of the new cash withdrawal limits on January 9, 2023, the President, Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks, the umbrella body for banks’ spokespersons, Mr Rasheed Bolarinwa, said, “Yes , Deposit Money Banks have prepared for the implementation of the policy effective Jan 9, 2023 up till this moment, except otherwise advised by the CBN.”
Efforts to get comments from the Director of Corporate Communications of the CBN, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, were futile as he did not respond to a text message sent to him on the directive from the House of Representatives, and calls did not go through.
Meanwhile, northern youths under the umbrella of Arewa Youth Assembly on Tuesday stated that criminally-minded politicians against the cash withdrawal limits policy masterminded the alleged failed arrest of the CBN governor by the Department of State Services.
The youths said the World Bank, Internal Monetary Funds, African Development and other development partners should “intervene to save Nigeria and pay special attention to what is happening in CBN and its governor, to ensure that his tenure is not truncated on false charges.”
The Publicity Secretary of the AYA, Alhaji Ali Muhammad, during a press conference in Abuja, described those against the new policies by the CBN as enemies of the country.
He, therefore, called on the President to sack the Director-General of the DSS, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, without further delay.
The Arewa youths maintained that politicians who had stockpiled funds to rig the 2023 poll were behind the move to remove the CBN governor.