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House of Reps threatens CBN Gov, Bank chiefs with arrest over new naira notes

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has threatened to arrest the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, and some bank directors for collectively refusing to honor the green chamber’s invitation due to a scarcity of three newly designed naira notes.

The House summoned the CBN governor and bank directors to discuss the January 31, 2023 deadline for the validity of old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes, but the bank chiefs declined.

Gbajabiamila said in a statement on Thursday that the bank executives insulted the House’s authority and prerogatives by declining the invitation.

“This is intolerable,” he declared.

Although the Speaker stated in his statement on Thursday that the warrant would be issued against the CBN and bank directors but did not specifically mention Emefiele, the House had summoned the CBN governor several times in the last two months over the naira redesign but the invitation was not honored.

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The House had asked Emefiele and the bank directors to explain why they were still failing to disburse the redesigned naira notes on time before they expired on January 31, 2023.

The House also established an ad hoc committee on the matter, led by Majority Leader Alhassan Ado Doguwa.

“The House Resolution was predicated on information showing that the rollout of the redesigned naira notes has been an unmitigated failure,” said the Speaker.

This failure has real and serious consequences for Nigerians’ ability to conduct business across the country.

“The refusal by the CBN to heed the invitation by the House of Representatives is evidence of a blatant disregard for the well-being of the Nigerian people who are their customers. It is also an insult to the authority and prerogatives of the people’s parliament.

“Therefore, I will, pursuant to the authority conferred by Section 89 (1)(d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Order 19 (2)(1) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, not hesitate to issue a warrant to the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force to compel the attendance of the CBN or Managing Directors who fail, refuse or neglect to respond to the summons by the House of Representatives.”

He noted that the House recognised the CBN authority to determine the country’s legal tender and to recall currency with reasonable notice, subject to the approval of the President.

“The House is also aware that Section 20 (3) Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act mandates the CBN to redeem the face value of the recalled currency upon demand, even after the expiration of the notice of recall.

“Notwithstanding the deadline imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), this House will see to it that this provision of the law is honoured in full.”

On October 26, 2022, the CBN announced its intention to redesign the three banknotes.

President Muhammadu Buhari then unveiled the redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 notes on November 23, 2022, with the apex bank setting a January 31 deadline for the old notes to be valid.

The CBN also set weekly cash withdrawal limits for individuals at N500,000 and corporate firms at N5m.

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