The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, has disclosed that House would have no option but to reconvene before the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) failed to address the hardship Nigerians face due to its currency swap policy.
Gbajabiamila also stated that the House would continue to closely monitor the CBN’s implementation of the policy, following the House’s meeting with the Governor of CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on the issue.
A statement made available on Sunday by the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, quoted Gbajabiamila as making the disclosure during a town hall meeting with some ethnic groups in Surulere, Lagos.
The statement, titled ‘Currency Swap: We’ll Reconvene Before Elections If… – Gbajabiamila…says Tinubu stands with Nigerians.’
The Speaker also recalled that he was on the verge of signing a warrant for Emefiele’s arrest due to the CBN governor’s initial failure to appear before an ad hoc panel of the House.
Gbajabiamila said, “The House of Representatives intervened on several occasions. We summoned the CBN governor the first time and again, but he refused to answer because we had many hard questions for him.
“It was until I issued the threat of a warrant of arrest that he came. And I would have signed that warrant; it would’ve been the first time in the history of the National Assembly that a CBN governor would be arrested. I would’ve done it.
“Many have argued on the independence of CBN – the autonomy of CBN.
“That does not make CBN above the law. The Constitution gives the House the power to issue an arrest warrant against anyone; we can summon anybody and that was exactly what the House was going to do until the CBN governor came.
“So, we are watching, and we are monitoring very closely. If need be, we will reconvene the House. Even though we have all been away for our elections. I will call the House back if need be.”
The Speaker also said in the midst of the ongoing hardships in the country, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has identified with Nigerians.
He added that the ex-governor of Lagos State had also faulted the implementation of the policy by the CBN, which he said necessitated the extension of the deadline for the collection of the old naira notes.
Gbajabiamila said, “On the currency swap, let me explain something to you: We are all very intelligent people.
“Many are suffering, we have paid your salary, and you cannot withdraw it; people cannot eat, what kind of thing is that? But I have news for you.
“There’s one man who is running for president of this country, and that man has courage and audacity.
“This man came out boldly and identified the problem, that the fifth columnists, in cooperation with the PDP, are the ones trying to sabotage this election.
“Many have said he is talking about Buhari, but he told them ‘no, I’m not talking about Buhari; I’m talking about fifth columnists.’ If you don’t know the meaning of the fifth columnists, go and check your dictionary.
“Fifth columnists infiltrate people; they even infiltrate families, otherwise, how do you explain this type of policy?
“The president, being the compassionate person that he is, has asked for a few more days to look at everything that is going on and see if anything could change. We pray that things will change.
“If nothing changes, we will intervene again. But be sure of one thing; Bola Ahmed Tinubu stands with you and stands with Nigerians in their suffering. He was the first to shout what is going on?
“He has cried, he has begged, he has screamed that people are suffering. What did the PDP candidate say?
“He said, ‘no, CBN don’t listen to them; you must not extend this thing; let people continue to suffer.’ That is what the PDP candidate said. He said it publicly.
“So, you have the tale of two presidential candidates: one who stands with the people and says this currency swap must stop; the second one says,’ no, it cannot stop, it’s a good policy.
“CBN, don’t listen to him. Let the people continue to suffer.’ I leave the rest to you to determine who is with you and who is against you.”
Emefiele had finally appeared before the House on Tuesday last week over the crisis caused by the redesign of some naira notes and the exchange of old naira notes with new ones by the populace.
The CBN governor had appeared before the House’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Cashless Policy and Extend the Timeframe of the Currency Swap, where he said the apex bank hopes that the naira would get stronger with the implementation of the policy.
Emefiele had partly said, “Subject to the content of the CBN Act, Section 20(3), which says even after the old currency has lost its legal tender status; that we are mandated to collect those monies, I stand with the House of Representatives on this.
“What does that mean? It could have lost its legal tender status, in which case we have moved on, but you have your money that you have not been able to send to the bank.
“We certainly will give you the opportunity to bring them back into the CBN; you will redeem it, either you pay into your bank account or you want to do (an) exchange, you will not lose your money.
“That is the assurance I want to give to Nigerians. I want to appeal: this is not an easy exercise but we are happy that in 19 years we are able to carry out this important aspect of our mandate.”
The Majority Leader of the House and chairman of the committee, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, had noted that the hearing was to address the “concerns of the Nigerian people through the House of Representatives.”
He also noted that it was not “an investigative committee” but “a fact-finding committee” meant to interface with the CBN, get the facts and report back to the House.
He said, “Our major concern is about the life and livelihood of the Nigerian people. Our major concern is the critical situation of the Nigerian economy.
“The concern of the House of Representatives is about the protection and guidance of the rule of law under the democratic system.
“This House, by all standards, has the constitutional right, and by the operating rules and guidelines of the House, we also have the constitutional power to invite any agency of the government to interface with their officials about the policies of the government.
Ado-Doguwa noted that though the lawmakers were not in doubt of the benefits of a cashless economy, “when policies are now turning on too many storms in the face of the people – storming the economy, shutting (down) agriculture, stopping transportation, with our constituents crying out, then we are under a moral obligation to seek clarifications from you.”
The Majority leader added that while the CBN has the power to redesign or issue new naira notes, the question was “why this time?” especially as the country is approaching a general election.
Ado -Doguwa also asked Emefiele to speak on the provision of Section 20(3) of the CBN Act.