In a televised address on Thursday, February 16, 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari said the old 200 naira ($0.43; £0.36) notes would remain legal tender for another 60 days.
The announcement was made in a bid to calm tensions over a lack of cash in Nigeria. President Buhari disclosed that the 200 naira note, which is one of the three banknotes being phased out, will be reintroduced into circulation.
“To further ease the supply pressures particularly to our citizens, I have given approval to the CBN that the old N200 bank notes be released back into circulation and that it should also be allowed to circulate as legal tender with the new N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes for 60 days from February 10, 2023 to April 10 2023 when the old N200 notes ceases to be legal tender.”President Muhammadu Buhari
In recent days, there have been violent protests as people struggled to get hold of newly designed banknotes.
The deadline to hand in old cash was supposed to have been last Friday, February 10, 2023.
However, new notes that have been released are insufficient, leaving many without cash to pay for vital items. With elections due on February 25, 2023, Buhari has been facing calls to take action to avoid losing votes for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Nigerians have faced long queues at cash machines, with some sleeping outside banks to try and be first in line to get some money.
People say they have been forced to skip meals and have been unable to pay for basic services like bus or taxi fares in a country where cash is still widely used. An estimated 40% of the population do not have access to bank accounts.
In his speech, The Nigerian President also said that the old 500 and 1,000 naira notes could be exchanged at the central bank and other designated places until April 10, 2023.
Buhari blamed “unscrupulous officials in the banking industry” for the difficulties in implementing the new policy.
“I am deeply pained and sincerely sympathize with you all over these unintended outcomes,” Buhari said.
“I have directed the CBN to deploy all legitimate resources and legal means to ensure that our citizens are adequately educated on the policy; enjoy easy access to cash withdrawal through availability of appropriate amount of currency; and ability to make deposits.
“I have similarly directed that the CBN should intensify collaboration with anti-corruption agencies, so as to ensure that any institution or person(s) found to have impeded or sabotaged the implementation should be made to bear the full weight of the law.”President Muhammadu Buhari
The currency redesign has also coincided with problems while making digital payments.
Buhari remarked that redesigning the currency was intended to tackle inflation and illicit financial flow, as well as curb insecurity, especially the financing of “terrorism” and kidnapping for ransom.
Currency Redesign Has Hindered Money Influence On Elections
In his address, the President also alluded to concerns that some politicians had amassed large sums of money ahead of the elections in order to buy votes, and said the currency redesign has put a stop to that plan.
“I am aware that this new monetary policy has also contributed immensely to the minimization of the influence of money in politics. This is a positive departure from the past and represents a bold legacy step by this administration, towards laying a strong foundation for free and fair elections.”President Muhammadu Buhari
Buhari urged voters to go out and vote in the general election for the candidates of their choice.
“I urge every citizen therefore, to go out to vote for their candidates of choice without fear, because security shall be provided and your vote shall count,” he said.
Additionally, President Buhari admonished Nigerians “to eschew violence and avoid actions capable of disrupting the electoral processes.”
President Buhari is stepping down at the end of his two terms. The main contenders for the presidency are the All Progressives Congress’ Bola Tinubu and the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) Atiku Abubakar, while Labour’s Peter Obi is seen as the wild card in the race.