Scarcity of New Naira Notes and Cash Withdrawal Limits | By Taiwo Oyedele
Many countries embrace electronic payments and minimal use of cash not because their currencies are scarce, or they do so to avoid penalties but because their economies run on credit and e-payment is more convenient, safer and incentivised than cash.
As it turns out, Nigeria actually has one of the lowest amounts of currencies in circulation relative to GDP or per capita of N15,200 (about $34) compared to the U.S. at $6,700 per capita, the UK at £1,200 per capita and the Eurozone at €3,600 per capita.
Even if we consider the US dollar as a global currency, America has more dollars printed per person on earth ($280) than the amount of Naira per Nigerian citizen ($34).
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Therefore, the real problem with Naira in circulation is the illicit cash in the hands of corrupt persons and other criminals which is best tracked and controlled through financial intelligence than currency restriction or scarcity.
After all, significant illicit funds exist within the banking system while much more is laundered in various assets especially real estate which are not hidden in septic tanks yet not enough is being done by the government to deal with the problem.
If we haven’t done enough to fight financial crimes in plain sight, it will be difficult to convince the people to make any sacrifices and endure some pains in the hope that they are doing so to enable the government to fight crimes aided by physical cash.
So, a more effective strategy would be to make e-payments easy and attractive, supply as many Naira notes as are necessary and leverage intelligence to identify and punish criminals with illicit funds.