In 2015 when the ‘Change’ mantra swept across the country like harmattan wildfire, Nigerians were high with hopes that the new government of president Muhammadu Buhari, a spartan-life retired general, would restore discipline in governance and stamp out insecurity. By then, the Federal Capital Territory had been attacked severally by terrorists who boldly claimed responsibilities with scores of casualties in the wake of the attacks.
Then General Muhammadu Buhari was seen as the saviour sent by God to restore the populace’ confidence in governance as the economy was nose-diving while the world sailed uncontrollably towards global economic recession occasioned by the fall in the price of crude oil in the global market.
The economy struggled all through the year 2015 and Nigeria eventually slid into recession in 2016. Before then, Nigeria’s inflation rate was at single digit. The highest Nigeria’s inflation rate peaked, was 8.5%.
In 2015, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment in the third quarter of that year rose to 9.9 percent from the 8.2 percent it was in the second quarter. Since then, the rate has maintained upward bound. By the last quarter of 2020, the rate had peaked on 33.3 percent.
The country had its share of the global economic backlash as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
However, while other countries ensured that realistic economic measures are put in place to boost their economy, Nigeria’s economy on the other hand continue to struggle years after the global lockdown.
Businesses and services that survived COVID-19 onslaught were still grappling with the realities on ground when the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, announced in October 2022, the introduction of redesigned currencies – N200, N500 and the N1000 notes to replace the old ones in circulation.
Emefiele said the redesigning of the notes was targeted at controlling currency in circulation and also curb counterfeit currency and ransom payment to kidnappers and terrorists. In his words, “Indeed, the integrity of a local legal tender, the efficiency of its supply and its efficacy in the conduct of monetary policy are some of the hallmarks of a great central bank. More specifically, as at the end of September 2022, available data at the CBN indicate that N2.73tn out of the N3.23tn currency in circulation was outside the vaults of commercial banks across the country, and supposedly held by members of the public. Evidently, currency in circulation has more than doubled since 2015, rising from N1.46tn in December 2015 to N3.23tn as at September 2022. I must say that this is a very worrisome trend that cannot continue to be allowed,” he said.
Due to pressure from Nigerians over the scarcity of the new notes, the implementation of the phasing out of the old currency was postponed till 31st January 2023, yet local economy suffered and continues to suffer due to the implementation.
The decision which imposes much hardship, confusion, apprehension, rancour and despondency, like none the country has ever witnessed and experienced, validated former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s assessment of President Buhari, when he described him as a bad economist.
There were indications that the deliberate withholding of naira from circulation by the apex bank was part of the plan of the government to check electoral malpractices, especially vote buying during the just concluded general elections. Be that as it may, the untold hardship Nigerians are subjected to does not justify whatever rationale behind the decision of President Buhari and the CBN governor, Emefiele.
With the inauguration of the President-elect just weeks ahead, Nigerians are hopeful that the government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu would alleviate the suffering of Nigeria and repair the fractured economy.