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All you need to know as Buhari unveils CBN’s eNaira

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The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on Monday, unveiled the Central Bank of Nigeria’s digital currency, also known eNaira, in a keynote event attended by top government functionaries at the State House, Abuja.

He said Nigeria’s Central Bank Digital Currency and its underlying blockchain technology could increase the nation’s Gross Domestic Product by $29bn over the next 10 years.

In his address, the President said the e-currency would help increase remittances, foster cross-border trade, improve financial inclusion, make monetary policy more effective, and enable the government to send direct payments to citizens eligible for specific welfare programmes.

According to him, the digital currency will help move many more people and businesses from the informal into the formal sector, thereby increasing the country’s tax base.

Buhari said, “In recent times, the use of physical cash in conducting business and making payments has been on the decline. This trend has been exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resurgence of a new digital economy.

“Alongside these developments, businesses, households, and other economic agents have sought for new means of making payments in the new circumstances.”

Buhari lauded the CBN for coming up with the eNaira.

Central bank mints 500m eNaira, issues 200m to banks

On his part, the Governor, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, said since the eNaira platform went live, there had been overwhelming interest and encouraging response from Nigerians and other parties across the world with over 2.5 million daily visits to the website.

He said, “Thirty-three banks are fully integrated and live on the platform, N500m has been successfully minted by the bank, N200m has been issued to financial institutions, over 2,000 customers have been onboarded and over 120 merchants have successfully registered on the eNaira platform.”

The CBN governor also used the occasion to commend the President for “making history, yet again,” with the launch of the eNaira – the first in Africa and one of the earliest around the world.

Emefiele announced a new financial instrument titled, “The 100 for 100 PPP – Policy on Production and Productivity”, which he said would be domiciled in the Development Finance Department of the CBN under his direct supervision.

He explained that under this policy, the CBN would advertise, screen, scrutinise and financially support 100 targeted private sector companies in 100 days, beginning from November 1, 2021.

The event was attended by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; members of the Federal Executive Council; top officials of the CBN and heads of relevant government agencies.

Transactions on eNaira platform free for 90 days – CBN

Meanwhile, the CBN disclosed that all transactions conducted on the newly-launched digital currency platform would be free for 90 days.

The regulator, however, stated that it would revert to its guide on applicable charges by banks and other financial and non-financial institutions at the end of the stated period.

The apex bank also said that Ministries, Departments and Agencies could make payments and collect revenues using the eNaira wallet.

The CBN disclosed this in the framework titled, ‘eNaira Circular and Guidelines’, which was later released on Monday.

The central bank  guide read in part, “The charges for transactions that originate from the eNaira platform shall be free for the first 90 days commencing from October 25, 2021 and then revert to applicable charges as outlined in the Guide to Charges by Banks, Other Financial and Non-bank Financial Institutions. MDAs may collect revenues or make payments in eNaira.”

eNaira won’t change naira-dollar exchange rate – Experts

Meanwhile, economic and financial experts have said that the eNaira will not change or affect the value of the naira in the foreign exchange market.

They also expressed concern over the risk of cyber attacks on the eNaira accounts of Nigerians.

They spoke against the backdrop of the unveiling of the eNaira by the CBN.

The immediate past Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Muda Yusuf, said there was no relationship between foreign exchange market and the eNaira.

He said, “There is no connection between the eNaira and the exchange rate. No relationship at all.  Exchange rate is determined by the demand and supply fundamentals in the foreign exchange market.

“These are driven largely by imports, exports and the flow of capital across borders. The naira, whether digital or physical, is just a means of exchange and to some extent, a store of value.”

He, however, noted that the eNaira was consistent with current digitalisation trend across all sectors globally.

Yusuf, who is the chief executive officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises, explained that digital applications typically came with efficiency, cost effectiveness, smartness in usage and convenience.

“But it is still not clear what the value proposition of the eNaira is, beyond the psychological satisfaction of joining the league of countries with digital currencies,” Yusuf stated.

The CPPE boss noted that transactions on these platforms were already in trillions of naira, and still counting, adding that it remained to be seen what additional value the eNaira would bring.

He said, “A great deal of sensitisation and awareness need to be undertaken to generate trust and confidence in this new payment system initiative.

“International investors typically would prefer a currency that is acceptable globally and convertible such as the dollar.”

He observed that many Nigerians were still trying to understand what the eNaira really entailed. A financial analyst and Senior Lecturer at the Pan Atlantic University and a financial analyst, Dr Olalekan Aworinde, said there was a need to do more sensitise the public more on the risks.

He said, “I think that the CBN should be aware of the fact that there is the risk of cyber attacks with the introduction of the eNaira.

“As a result, the CBN needs to properly educate the masses on how to use the eNaira in a way that would not put their safety and the safety of their funds at risk.

Another expert and the Chief Executive Officer of SD&D Capital Management Limited, Mr Idakolo Gbolade, also said there was the need to sensitive the public the more.

How to use the eNaira:

What Is ENaira?

The eNaira will be a digital representative of the paper Naira currency issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria. It will also  be a complementary legal tender in Nigeria, having the same exchange value as the Naira and maintaining a parity of value as the Naira. One interesting feature of the eNaira is that it will not earn any interest to the holder, and it is built on a blockchain open ledger technology. This simply implies that  you cannot have a duplicate of eNaira or a fake version of it because each note will be unique.

How Safe Is The ENaira?

If it involves money, then safety is of paramount importance. The eNaira  is designed to solve any verification risk by assuring all holders that each eNaira is a valid token. This authenticity is achieved by building the eNaira block chain that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system. Thus, every retailer is likely to accept the eNaira because it cannot be forged or duplicated.

How Do I Access The ENaira?

The CBN has planned a rollout in a tiered manner. First, it will issue the eNaira to financial institutions like banks. Your bank will then retail the eNaira to you. If your transaction value is  less than N50,000 a day, you don’t need a bank account to get the eNaira; you can use a NIN verified phone number to buy eNaira. If you want to withdraw more than N50,000 but up to the daily limit of N1 million, you will need a BVN in addition to a verified phone number.

The CBN  has very strict “Know Your Customers” protocols for this process. The aim is to assure all retailers of the safety and utility of the eNaira.

Why Should I Use ENaira?

The eNaira has a low-cost advantage. The daily transfers between accounts are at no cost to the holder of the account and lower transaction cost is a massive incentive, as traders will pay no fees for withdrawals and deposits to any bank account. Thus, there will be no transaction fees but improved financial safety.

How Will Dollar Remittance To ENaira Work?

The eNaira will be integrated into the CBN’s forex process, and this is to make it easier to receive remittances to Nigeria. These transfers could be from the CBN crediting eNaira directly to the international Money Transfer Organisation (IMTO). So  a Nigerian abroad sending $100 to his uncle can debit his US bank account and credit $100 to an IMTO, who will buy eNaira from the corresponding bank in Nigeria. Then the  $100 is converted to eNaira instantly,  at a far lower transfer fee.  This is a real benefit and a significant advantage the eNaira will provide to customers.

The Potential Of The ENaira

Any two parties who can credit a Nigerian banking institution with corresponding currency can use the eNaira. This means a trader banking with UBA in Burkina Faso can settle  his import bills from the Gambia using eNaira. This will be the next level of the rollout for  financial institutions to build out an ecosystem with eNaira as the base product.

Furthermore, the CBN outlines that eNaira will bring the vast majority of Nigerians who have no bank account but have a phone into the formal financial economy. The eNaira can also be used for salary payments and payments for goods and services. So an electrician can accept payment on his phone, store them in his wallet, and make transactions with any vendor.

What Are The Risks?

The eNaira is online, the BVN and NIN information is also online, so the risk of malicious actors attempting to hack or gain access to the data is very low. Even more, CBN has assured a more secured process with eNaira tokens. Overall,  it appears to be a positive progression towards a cashless  society, with lower costs and higher productivity for Nigerians.

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