Big Brother’s Creeping Fascism as CBN Eyes Dollar Accounts
By Young Radikum
The latest is that Big Brother wants to know how you spend your dollar.
A new directive quietly issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria to commercial banks that came into effect this week requires that you explain what you want to do with the dollar in your domiciliary account before you’re allowed to make an international transfer.
“This is to inform you that instant completion for international transfers on our digital platforms will cease from March 20, 2021,” one of the banks said in a note to customers last week. “All international third-party transfers initiated on any of our digital channels will be completed at the back office after receipt of relevant supporting documents.”
The requirements for any “invisible payments” such as medical bills, insurance, school fees and subscriptions include bills, invoices, demand notes or other relevant documentation. Customers are required to send in the documentations after initiating the transfers, failing which the transfers would be rejected.
This is not about applying for foreign exchange with your naira through the central bank to pay school fees or import goods. It’s about your own money in your domicilliary account. In other words, the CBN, through the banks, will be vetting your dollar expenses, and if they don’t approve, you can’t spend.
We are really going back to 1984; not just George Orwell’s 1984 of “Big Brother is watching you,” but also Buhari’s 1984 as a military ruler when commonplace goods were suddenly turned into essential commodities ( essencos, for those old enough to remember).
It’s definitely a journey backwards in time. After years of slow progress, it had become possible in recent times to make real-time international transfers, using bank apps. A few banks had even gone ahead to make it one of their selling points to customers by flaunting that capability. All that is being rolled back by panic-driven central banking.
What are Nigeria’s problems if not serial misrule and corruption by successive governments now crowned with wooden-faced incompetence and nepotism?
Nigeria’s primary ailment is that it’s an oil-dependent economy that relies on petroleum exports for most its revenue and for 95 percent of foreign-exchange income. If the country produced most of its manufactured and finished goods, there would be little need for imports, and a country with Nigeria’s oil exports could build up decent reserves.
Like it’s predecessors, Buhari’s regime came to power only with plans about how to share rather than create wealth. The miserable performance of oil since then, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic proved not only a near-fatal blow but has also exposed the utter lack of preparedness and knowledge of how to govern a society to make it productive.
The regime’s response has been to try and borrow itself out of the problem. Yet, there’s been no attempt to rein in the lavish lifestyle of public officials. Nigerian legislators still earn more money than American presidents, our president keeps an aircraft fleet enough to start an airline and bureaucrats remain unaccountable in their looting of the treasury.
To satisfy the spending urge, the government hasn’t spared pension funds and has passed a law to enable it grab dormant bank accounts and unclaimed dividends. Now, domiciliary accounts, estimated to hold more than 20 billion dollars, are within this government’s sights.
This latest policy directive clearly verges on the abuse of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and is a policy whose validity ought to be tested in the courts. Does the government have the right to tell an individual how to spend or not spend his or her money? What is even the purpose of government?
These are questions that need urgent answers as Emefiele, and Buhari – who has the bent of an emperor – ride roughshod over citizens rights in aid of incompetence.
Young Radikum is a Lagos-based public affairs commentator.