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OBSERVATION: Foresight Over Astonishment

OBSERVATION: Foresight Over Astonishment
  • PublishedMarch 24, 2023



WITH very infinitesimal exceptions, if there is one thing Nigeria ruling elite are renowned for, it is lack of foresight over astonishment. More often than not, they do not mean well for the mass majority of the people vis-a-vis their neo-liberal socio-economic policies that make life miserable for the poor. In some but very rare cases where they have good intention in their policy formulation, it is badly implemented for lack of thinking outside the box from the very conception of the policy. At all levels, they lack deep analytical processes of various variables that could constitute stumbling block to a hitch free implementation of policy and proffering faultless solution. Two examples of their abysmal failure will suffice. 

For over a year ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had contemplated a new Naira redesign. On 26th October, 2022, it officially stated that the introduction of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes into the financial system would kick off by 15 December, 2022 and asked Nigerians to deposit old notes to commercial banks latest by 31st January, 2023 and access the new ones from same. For its inability to successfully actualise its target, CBN extended its deadline to 10th February, 2023.

Yes, the CBN had good intentions on the new note redesign. For instance, the policy was aimed at strengthening the economy, reducing expenditure on cash management, tackling insecurity challenges, enhancing CBN visibility of the money supply in the system amongst others. CBN knows the totality of money in the system and is aware that very huge sum of money could not be traced in the system because they are being warehoused in some people homes. Therefore, it intends to force these particular people to release the money into the system and failure to do so would render these monies invalid by the expiration of the deadline.  

Suddenly, like an African magic, the new Naira notes disbursed for circulation by the CBN via commercial banks literarily became elusive. Every commercial bank was besieged by anguished and angry customers who need cash desperately to pay for domestic daily essential needs as POS operators also could not access cash. Few that could now charge between 15 and 25 percent interest on every N1,000 to customers. The worst aspect is that electronic money transfer which is supposed to be succour has become either epileptic or not working at all. Most often, transaction applications are not responding but continue to roll like barber’s chair. It had never been so bad! If one is lucky enough to be successful on the applications, it takes between two, three, four days and sometimes, a week for money transferred to get to the recipient, having debited the originator. In some cases, one has to go to the originating bank physically to fill a complaint form and wait for days for the problem to be rectified. You can imagine what it means to buy an item in a shop and have to wait for hours for confirmation of receipt alert! That is what life has become for majority of the people. As I write, someone to whom I transferred money just called, saying he was yet to receive it exactly seven days today (Thursday). Assuming the money is meant for health or medical emergency, what would have happened?  Before the new naira introduction palaver, electronic money transfer was relatively averagely okay. With new money introduction and accessibility brouhaha, a primary school pupil would have known that the new naira policy would encourage more electronic money transfer and will geometrically increase the number of users; hence, an expansion of facilities capacity nationwide to accommodate new users before commencement of the policy should have been done by all commercial banks.

CBN shouldn’t have solely relied on commercial banks for the new Naira notes circulation; it should have envisaged possibility of sabotage and designed a ‘plan B’. While monitoring commercial banks adherence to its directives on old notes collection and circulation of the new ones and make a scapegoat of any that violates its directives, it could have also set up its own independent facilities for receiving old notes and circulating new ones at the head offices of all commercial banks in every state, including its own very state headquarters throughout the timeline duration. This is not a rocket science; it is a matter of logistic deep thinking and organisation long before the start of the policy implementation. It should have known that the moneybags who warehouse money in different locations (for votes buying or whatever illegitimate purpose) and whom CBN targets are major stakeholders in commercial banks; it should have thought deeply that banks administrators would circumvent anything that will threaten these moneybags’ interest especially when it is within their purview except there is a dangling prohibitive sanction for erring banks and Chief Executive Officers. This explains why new notes first got to the moneybags while the little remaining could hardly get to ordinary Nigerians who are the majority, with little money deposits but with daily cash expenses on petty needs and transportations especially that when summed up for millions of people amount to billions of naira, which could hardly be paid except through petty cash, and on a daily basis.

For the hardship brought to their people, Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara state governments dragged Federal Government and CBN before Supreme Court and prayed that the old and new notes should continue to circulate pending the resolution of the case. Consequently, on Friday, 3rd March, 2023, Supreme Court ruled in favour of the applicants by stating that enough notice was not given to Nigerians on the new naira timeline. Hence, its extension to the end of the year which implies that old and new naira notes continue to be legal tender till December. Although the CBN has given directives to commercial banks to dispense and receive the old naira notes in agreement with Supreme Court ruling, as I write, the chaotic problem of accessing both old and new naira still lingers. The perception some people had that after the general elections, things would normalise, has become an illusion in delusion. For lack of foresight over astonishment, all that the CBN intended to achieve have basically been thrashed into waste bin and the Bank Governor is at the end, tendering apologies to Nigerians.

Another one is Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). Apart from few staggered gubernatorial elections in about six states, its main job of conducting election is once in every four year. At all times, it has always raised an alarm of hackers’ invasion of its server. Server is a computer program or device that provides a service to another computer programme. Depending on the particulars, its main job is content storing, processing and delivery; it is data and resources sharing and work distribution. INEC should have had a foresight that most politicians will attempt to disorganise its system just as fraudsters, yahoo boys and all criminals would want to hack commercial and central banks servers. Despite having to provide 24/7 online banking services, how many times have banks cried foul of hackers attacking their servers, and thereby shutting down online banking services? If there should be any server that unscrupulous Nigerians desperately need to attack without let, it is bank server. Why can’t INEC borrow ideas of impregnable firewalls around sensitive servers from the banks, especially with billions upon billions of naira dedicated to the whole range of electronic aspects of the voting – BVAS and Servers?

Aside, Huawei, just to mention one capable tech giant, could solidly protect INEC server and provide solution to any of its technology issues to enhance performance. Huawei is a leading Chinese global service provider on information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices with a base station in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja – it is the leading global runner on the 5G revolution, for instance. Being a major initiator and influencer of the 2023 new electoral laws that have made votes count via enhanced electronic voting processes, INEC should have avoided a situation where it needed giving apologies for inefficiency simply by avoiding astonishment through foresight. It shouldn’t have arrived at a situation where it gives excuses on any matter concerning its server. It should be more responsible in its electoral duties and make Nigerians proud in future elections. The solution is simple -“be prepared”- as the Boy Scout says.

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