The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced drastic restrictions on cash withdrawals for January without specifying the reasons for this decision, two and a half months before the presidential election.
From next January 9, individuals will only be able to withdraw 20,000 naira (42 euros) per day and 100,000 naira (210 euros) per week, against 2.5 million (5,350 euros) per day previously, the CBN announced on Tuesday evening.
These restrictions will also apply to legal persons who will only be able to withdraw per week the equivalent of 1,000 euros against 6,400 euros per day previously.
Withdrawals above these limits will be subject to processing fees of 5 and 10 percent respectively, the CBN said.
The bank said ATMs will only issue denominations of 200 naira or less.
According to economists, these restrictions would aim to limit the circulation of cash outside the banking system and encourage electronic payments, in particular the use of e-naira, electronic money.
But Nigerians simply don’t adopt it because they don’t see the point in it, insists Tunde Ajileye, an analyst at the Nigerian consulting firm SBM Intelligence, to AFP.
Experts also see these restrictions as a way to discourage vote buying and limit the corruption of politicians, common practices in Nigeria, ahead of the presidential election on February 25.
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If that is the reason for this decision, it comes too soon. Nigerian politicians are resourceful and will find a way by then to circumvent this measure, Ajileye continued.
In a country where cash remains king for a majority of mostly poor Nigerians, this announcement risks adding to the social uproar a few days after the launch of new 200, 500 and 1,000 naira notes.
Faced with widespread insecurity, including a jihadist insurgency in the northeast, Nigerians will elect a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari, who is not standing for re-election after two terms, as the Constitution provides.