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Op-ed: Monetary policy, macabre dance and the rest of us

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By Abdullateef ‘Lanre Ahmed

In the past few weeks, it has been a telltale of agony, pain and horror for helpless citizens who jumped from one Automated Teller Machine (ATM) of deposit money bank to the other in the quest to withdraw their own money. Painfully, the cash is not readily available, and if at all one is fortunate to have found one, you have been disarmed with the limit placed on the amount of money allowed for withdrawal daily.

The situation can then be likened to searching for a needle in the haystack.

This intervention is not intended at buck passing on the timing of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)-inspired new monetary policy. Therefore, the arguments of whether it is timely or ill-timed does not arise. Thus, let there be no outpouring of emotion, sentiment and blame game as this treatise might prod some to.

Across the world, governments initiate policies on monetary issues to serve as checks, especially in times that their currencies are becoming worthless (pieces of papers) not only in the face value but also in the global economy. The vigour, vitality and excitement that should ordinarily come for holding the currency are atrophied. What a shame!

It is not in contention that privileged individuals in the corridors of power have milked Nigeria dry. At every given opportunity, they amass wealth in quantum while the hapless citizens are abandoned to their fate. It is therefore little wonder that poverty rate is at an alarming proportion among the populace.

To the privileged few, poverty is a potent tool of oppression. This has been so weaponised to the extent the poverty-stricken masses have been at the mercy of those who are at the vantage position in the seat of power. It is a case of pauperise them (monetarily) and seize their thinking cap and naturally, they will dance to your rhythmic tune.

Were it not for pent-up frustrations and anger that accompanied the implementation of the new cashless policy and currency swap, particularly for those at the rung of the ladder, who queue for several hours at ATM points disappointedly, who is afraid of the policy if truly its intent is to rid the country of ill-gotten wealth, make what has been disingenuously acquired useless and discourage the fast thriving enterprise of banditry and terrorism?

For political gladiators, electioneering period like this is often the time to unleash what had long been illicitly appropriated in a bid to sway voting pattern, which is usually referred to as vote buying. In time past, Nigerians, with utter disgust, watched helplessly how members of the politcal class succeeded in grabbing the conscience of the voting populace.

If a policy that directly affects the masses is to scale the hurdles, as it is now, some measures that would mitigate the attendant traumatic experience are to be factored in. Whether this was done or it is a clash of ego among the titans in the political arena or a mere macabre dance designed to punish the “suffering and smiling” Nigerian people as Music Maestro, Fela Kuti, would recurringly call it, time will tell.

President Muhammadu Buhari addressed Nigerians on the nationwide outrage that greeted the policy but has it helped in dousing the tension or has it created more confusion? Nigerians are in better position to pick either the former or the latter. The President’s address came not oblivious of the Supreme Court ruling on the matter (maintain status quo) but expectedly chose to cherry-picking.

And for those who viewed the latest monetary policy as a reminiscence of April 1984 Buhari’s military regime, it is safe to posit that the wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely.

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