For a country to grow and develop especially in terms of business; there must be efficiency in the system. This efficiency should come from all financial regulations/control agencies. One of the regulatory bodies controlling finances in Nigeria is the Central Bank of Nigeria. The federal government of Nigeria expects the economy to grow but they have no clue as to what makes it stagnant. The President had been travelling to different countries of the world all in the name of trying to look for investors to help the economy of Nigeria but it seems not working.
There is scarcity of dollars for manufacturers, travelers, importers and many others. Though the dollar is not the currency of Nigeria, it seems to have more importance right now for the country than even the Naira. Importers of fuel into Nigeria are complaining of lack of dollars whereas the Manufacturers are complaining of the same dollars to import required raw materials for manufacturing in Nigeria. There are those who want to import medical facilities and the list may go on and on if we do not forget about those who are travelling to Dubai to buy clothes, jewelries or going on vacation or those who are importing chickens, generators (whether legal or not). These are the things that put pressure on the demand for Dollars. One thing is sure that the government is just desperate about trying to stabilize this disparity without knowing how to go about it.
I am going to explain just one aspect of how the government is doing it wrong with their Policies and how the Nigeria Banking sector is also helping the government to do it the wrong way because of selfishness and how it affects everyone including the banks, the government and the people of Nigeria.
Table of Contents
Wrong Policies by Central Bank of Nigeria
Everyone is expected in Nigeria to have a means of Identity before opening a bank account in Nigeria. This is good in order to prevent fraud. I am not against this. The Central bank allows the use of temporary cards such as the Temporary National Identity card for opening of bank accounts that are in Naira such as savings account but the Central Bank do not permit the Banks to allow the same cards to be used for opening a domiciliary account in dollars, pounds or any foreign currency. In order to open a domiciliary account, you must have a permanent identity card such as the permanent voters card, an international passport or the permanent National Identity card.
To understand how this is a wrong policy, read on to see what the other Federal government agencies are doing as regards to issuing the permanent identity cards.
Delay in Issuance of Identity Cards and Missing data
After going to the bank to open a domiciliary account, you are told you need a permanent identity card. You now head over to the agencies responsible for issuing of the cards and this is what they have for you:
Issuing of the Voters card
- The voters card is only issued during elections. This means that once you miss the registration, you have to wait for four years during another election before the government will want to do another round of the voters registration. This means that even if you have someone abroad that wants to send money for you or you are doing business online that will enable you earn in foreign currencies, that money will have to wait for 4 years. This is how foolish it can be. Because the government only see the voters registration as something that only helps them get elected into offices, they will do anything during the elections and after the elections, you are left to your own fate. They think it will not affect them but it is already affecting the economy.
- For those who are able to register during the elections for the voters card, some were able to get the permanent card after about a month or within few weeks while others could not get the card, reason being that their data became erased or was not found again. What happened to it? They cannot explain what happened to the data of those who could not get the card. What then did the government do about it? Nothing! It means therefore, that if you could not get a permanent voters card during elections, then try again the next 4 years or just try getting the National Identity card. Let us see how the National Identity card plays out.
Issuance of the National Identity Card with its associated difficulties
Having tried the Voters card and your information got missing from the data center of the voters registration; you have no choice than get the National identity card. You now enter the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) or any of the approved centers for registration to get the National Identity Number (NIN). If you are able to do the registration that day, you will be given a Temporary card pending when you receive a message from the commission that your Permanent card is ready. In order not to deceive yourself, this so called Permanent card will not be ready even after 3 years. Dont waste your time waiting and hoping. Now you have a temporary card that cannot be accepted by the Banks in Nigeria and the permanent card cannot be ready even after many years and your Voters information is missing; because some people belief in superstitions, we will start blaming it to some spiritual forces or some kind of curses being laid on the person. To help you out, there is no curse or spirit behind this but purely incompetence and wrong policies of the government. They have wrong policies and surprisingly, no one is even talking about it; you know why? Because most Nigerians are Salary dependent, whether they are working for the government or not, they have someone who is working and hence they depend on that persons salary and opening a salary account or savings account does not require use of a Permanent Identity card. Therefore, no one is talking about it because the majority does not care.
The situation becomes worst when out of desperation you were not given the temporary National Identity card that day or even after some months, which will make you to do it again somewhere leading to duplicate data; you might be told there is no electricity now, so they cannot print the temporary slip for you, go and come back tomorrow. On getting there the next day, you will be told there is a problem with their computer and that you should wait, they will call you when it is ready. That is how you will wait for months. Come back after 2 months and they will tell you that it seems your thumb print matches with that of another person; hence you have to wait for the system to differentiate it. They will even go further to tell you sometimes it may take 6 months. It shows someone can do double registration without the NIMC systems detecting and stopping it. They will make people desperate and would be tempted to do the registration more than once. Please tell me how serious is this type of government with development and growth of the economy? With the wrong Policies and the nonchalant attitude towards efficiency, why wont businesses crumble and why should investors come into such a country? You think someone is able to raise billions but you think they have no brains or eyes to know or see what is happening within the country? Convincing such a person to invest in your country is a waste of time. Make everything right and efficient and you do not need to convince anyone.
It might surprise you that most Nigerians only hear of Domiciliary account but do not know or have not heard of the use of a domiciliary account; hence the government is also not concerned whether you have a permanent card or not.
It might seem as if it does not matter because only a few are affected; but the very few are the ones who would have helped reduce the demand for dollars. Imagine you are earning 1000 dollars every month from online business and you cannot get paid simply because the Policies are not in your favor. Your money will be left hanging in a virtual account pending when the government decides to make new registration.
The Selfishness of Nigeria Banks and their Downfall
Seeing all of this, the banks know and are seeing all that is happening but continue to keep quiet because of selfishness. They know that temporary cards are given and permanent cards take years to be ready but they are not even complaining to the government about it or to push the Central bank so as to allow for the use of temporary cards. Imagine if the same instruction was given to the banks that only permanent cards should be used for savings account; the banks will do everything possible until the policy is reversed; but, because the banks do not want customers to even withdraw the foreign currencies and because they only want any money sent with foreign currencies to be credited into your savings account at the exchange rate that the bank will determine so that they can make the maximum profit out of your own money. When you want to buy products online in dollars, the banks initially charge at an exchange rate that is higher than the stated amount allowed by the Central bank (interbank rate) but when you want to convert a foreign currency to Naira, the bank will exchange again at a lower exchange rate so that they will gain. For this single reason, they will prefer you keep using a savings account than using a domiciliary account and they are not willingly to talk to the CBN about what is happening.
The banks were enjoying their deceptive means of cheating their customers by making the exchange rates to be in their favor and overlooking those who have potentials to bring dollars into the country. Lo and behold the banks had their own share of the bad policies: the CBN gave a directive that the banks must exchange at the interbank rates for all transactions. This means that the banks will allow you pay for online transactions at the amount given by CBN and they cannot go above that. Because of this directive, the Nigeria banks stopped the use of Naira master cards for online payment because it will not be to their favor again. You see how selfish these banks are? Banks that will allow you use the naira Mastercard only allow you use not more than 100 dollars per month such as GTbank.
Failing Economy of Nigeria
Because of these Policies starting from Central bank that just give out directive without knowing what is happening in the country to the government that only care about themselves and not the masses to the Banks that want to cheat on their customers, the economy of Nigeria continues to wallow in shambles and there will be no progress unless these things are checked and corrected.
Remember, this is just one aspect of the many bottlenecks in the economy. I do not know how those under agriculture, transport, housing, health and many more are doing, but I know they may be having similar issues where a Policy is passed without making it easy for people to be able to follow the policy. This is how these problems aggregate together and form a large part that the whole economic system of the country becomes stagnant.
Questions that need answers
- Why should permanent voters card be done only during elections? Why cant it be done any time like other forms of registration?
- Why should printing of Permanent National Identity cards take years? Why?
- Why should the CBN give a directive that they know will make it difficult for people. The CBN knows that permanent cards take years and still want you to use the permanent cards. Why?
- Why is there no efficiency within government agencies, and the agencies do not work hand in hand with each other?
- Why should the agencies favor some people and neglect others? I did my own National Identity card registration in 2014 but have not gotten the permanent card till today; Atiku Abubakar did his own after my own registration and got it within a week. For him to have gotten it, it means the agency is just not serious about processing the Permanent cards for the masses.