Old notes palaver: Open letter to Uncle Mefie

Godwin Emefiele alias Mefie

Uncle Mefie, boys are not happy with you o, and I am sure the girls, women, men and other possible groups that exist are not as well. It is not your shiny head or grim face that is causing this beef; It is how you have messed up our already messed up naira.

I will explain. Last October, like a military ruler, you announced that N200, N500 and N1,000 notes would be redesigned and the old ones mopped up and cease to be legal tender by January 31, 2023. We complained, but you assured us that you knew what you were doing, or maybe we assumed so because of your shiny head and ever-serious demeanour. You even shifted the deadline to February 10, 2023.

Godwin Emefiele
Uncle Mefie

“From the onset of this currency redesign program, we made it clear that for over 19 years, the CBN has not been able to undertake this important currency and liquidity management function that has important ramifications for the effectiveness of the monetary policy.

‘‘Generally, currency redesign policies (sometimes called demonetisation policies) are designed by countries to strengthen the performance of key macroeconomic parameters and equally combat social improprieties. Chiefly, it is expected to reduce the amount of cash in the underground or illicit economy, truncate the activities of racketeers, and obliterate rent-seeking businesses in the black market. By reducing currency outside banks, it will shrink money stock and accordingly lower the long-run path of inflation. The ensuing deflationary pressure could elicit interest rate cuts that will, in short- to medium-term, boost economic activities, spur aggregate demand, and enhance output growth. The macroeconomic impacts of currency redesign are multidimensional and could seem uncertain, especially at this early stage when its inconvenience is widespread.

‘‘By spurring more people to use bank accounts, this policy will further increase bank account ownership and increase the use of accounts by enhancing people’s saving behaviour. It could encourage some hitherto informal business operators to formalise the pattern of transactions and adopt more formal settlement channels.

‘‘In addition, the short-term decline in cash holding and the increased formalisation of business activities as the cashless policy forces more economic agents to open bank accounts will also boost fiscal policy. With more transactions going through e-channels and bank accounts, more agents come within view of the government’s tax net. This enlarges the base of taxable activities and increases the possibility of more tax receipts by various tiers of government. In the long term, the policy improves the sophistication of tax collection and would no doubt reduce tax evasion and tax avoidance. As experiences from other jurisdictions have shown, effective currency redesign can support regulatory reform, increase legislative reach and coordinate fiscal and structural policies.’’

The quotes above should sound familiar; yes, that is what you said, but we did not know Armageddon was coming compared to what your principal, the good ol’ General, has been showing us. Together with your banks, Uncle Mefie, you made life unbearable for us. Their networks became so unstable that it was widely assumed their cables were joined with spaghetti. ‘Transfer no go, cash no dey’ became the new song.

It became so bad that eating was near impossible, and some even died from being unable to pay hospital bills. All the while, you likely imitated the General’s popular picture of picking his teeth while the country was on fire and pretended all was well while you pressed down on the gas pedal along Dooms Street. To make matters worse, while your silence was deafening and definitely not golden, the good ol’ General sympathised with us and proffered a solution. His address was akin to that he gave during the EndSARS crisis. We all begged him to speak in 2020, but when he did, we wished he hadn’t. He did similar, as unchangeable as he is. On February 16, he brought back our N200 and said the N500 and N1000 remained illegal tender. What a grand mess! Uncle Mefie, it was you who put us in this mess in the first place.

Buhari picking teeth
This is the photo I’m talking about

Even after many weeks of suffering diluted with the stinging fuel scarcity and the silent rise in electricity tariffs, you continued to be quiet.

Well, governors, whose level of I-don’t-careness is on the same street as yours, dragged you, Uncle Mefie, they didn’t even respect you, to court. While they made it seem they were interested in our well-being, murmurs said they were only bothered about the cash they had stashed in preparedness for vote-buying – no be me talk am o! Bad as e bad, common man go benefit, so we all got on the bus and supported them. Eventually, victory came, and you were asked to let us have our old notes back. Uncle Mefie, you’re a bad guy. I’m sure you know why I said so. You, dear Uncle Mefie, ignored a whole five justices of the most Supreme Court of the land on March 3 that ruled old notes remained valid until December 31, 2023, and kept mute. You even disowned your personal person and predecessor, Governor Charles Soludo, who said he had spoken to you man-to-man, and you said you would reverse the order. Anything wey dem like, make dem talk! It took your principal to disown you on national dailies before you reversed the directive on March 15. Let us give you kudos, even though it tastes like freshly-squeezed bitter leaf in our mouth.

Uncle Meffie, I know I’ve done more than 500 words already, but let us still talk. Shey you know that you have messed up plans for us. Wait, let me explain. While your poorly implemented naira redesign/cashless policy stung, there was little or no cash in circulation. You see, all those security men at the estate gate and at the supermarket could not use greeting to collect naira from us again. Smiling and saying, ‘oga no vex, I no get cash’ was enough, but now the old cash you have ordered back in circulation is nowhere to be seen, and the security men won’t stop greeting us with their goro-tainted dentition in full glare. There’s still no cash, but they won’t understand. In fact, one saw me driving in today and looked the other way; it is all your fault, Uncle Mefie. You’re just not a correct guy…not one single correctness is in you.

2023 G-Wagon
This is likely one of them test-driving one of the new machines

Only POS operators would disagree with me as they benefitted massively from your movie debut, ‘Grand Punishment of the Nigerian people.’ I heard about two in my area have moved to Banana Island, with another spotted pricing 2023 Mercedes Benz G-Wagon while their cohorts in other areas have flown to the UK to enjoy life.

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Ademola is a writer, editor and proofreader with many years of experience. He loves music, football and books.

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