The Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday asked President Goodluck Jonathan and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop all actions on the issuance of the proposed N5, 000 currency note and restructuring of lower denominations.
Resuming after a two-month recess the lawmakers said the CBN governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was leading President Goodluck Jonathan astray on the matter, because the views expressed by many economists indicate that the policy will cause inflation, reduce purchasing power, lead to currency devaluation and widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
When sed for comment yesterday on the position of the National Assembly Sanusi said he heard about the resolution but would not comment. Sanusi has consistently said there is no going back on the policy.
Adopting a motion of urgent national importance moved by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Solomon Enang (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-East), the Senate said CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was leading Jonathan astray by proposing such a policy.
The upper chamber, which had earlier gone for a two-hour closed door session, also resolved not to conduct any public hearing on the issue.
Describing the introduction of the proposed N5,000 note as unnecessary, Senate President David Mark said the Federal Government should be humble enough to reverse its decision since Nigerians are against it.
Mark said: "The wishes of the people should be considered before any policy is put in place. The important thing is that if Nigerians say they don't want a particular policy at any given moment, there is no harm in the government retracting its stand on it."
"I have listened to the arguments of those supporting it but those arguments are simply not convincing as they appear to be highly theoretical and technical in nature and do not address any practical issue on ground. Any policy that does not address issues directly but just talks about indices we cannot verify for now should wait," the Senate President stressed.
He observed that from the contributions on the floor of the Senate, it was clear that the timing is wrong and the policy is unnecessary at the moment.
"There is no ambiguity on our stand on the issue," Mark concluded, pointing out that if Sanusi is aware of the provision of the constitution, he would have made reference to the National Assembly before addressing the public on the matter.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said the government would be heading for a disaster if it fails to listen to Nigerians "whose representatives have spoken here today."
Earlier in his lead debate, Senator Enang said apart from creating multiple economic problems such as inflation, corruption and security challenges, the policy would devalue the nation's currency and ruin the economy.
Senator Smart Adeyemi (PDP, Kogi West) said many of the fiscal policies of Jonathan administrations were tailored towards the ideology of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying Sanusi was one of those misleading the administration.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Mohammed Makarfi (PDP, Kaduna North) said the CBN had insulted Nigerians for saying that the proposed N5,000 note is meant for a class of people; while Senator Atai Aidoko (ANPP, Kogi East) said Sanusi was arrogant for insulting former President Olusegun Obasanjo over the policy.
At the House of Representatives yesterday members unanimously voted against the planned introduction of N5, 000 note and restructuring of the currency in a motion sponsored by Rep. Albert Sam-Tsokwa (PDP, Taraba) and 20 others.
The House further directed its committee on Banking and Currency to investigate the planned restructuring and report back in four weeks.
In the same vein, the Committee on Banking was further asked to commence urgent process of amending the CBN Act with a view to making it mandatory for the National Assembly to have input into the introduction and or restructuring of the nation's currency in the future.
Leading debate on the motion, Rep Tsokwa argued that the apex bank's governor Sanusi's statement that there was no going back on the planned restructuring was tantamount to the use of absolute power, and a policy somersault against its planned cashless economy.
He said even developed economies had maintained moderate value currency denominations for a long time, citing the example of the US's withdrawal of 500, 1,000 and 5,000 dollar bills from circulation based on their negative impact on the nation's economy, after they were experimented.
"Views expressed by some economists and other professionals that the policy will cause hyper inflation, reduce purchasing power, currency devaluation and widen the gap between the rich and the poor," he said.
Minority Leader Rep Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN, Lagos) said the CBN had been given unlimited powers, unlike in America where the Currency Act clearly stated that the denominations to be in circulation and also faulted the approval of the policy by the Economic Management Team (EMT) which was not recognized by any law, as against the Constitutionally recognized National Economic Council (NEC).