Cash squeeze: Ngige meets with CBN, NLC to avoid protest

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Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, met yesterday with Joe Ajaero, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and top CBN officials, including Governor Godwin Emefiele, to discuss how to avoid a strike and picketing of CBN offices across the country by NLC members.

Ngige, who met with the groups at the Ministry of Labour in Abuja, urged the NLC to communicate effectively with the CBN rather than cause further harm to the already unstable economy.

Ngige said social dialogue would enable the CBN to make adjustments sooner rather than when Labour pushes the economy to a crisis point, according to a reliable source who attended the meeting.

He claimed that the CBN had made a significant effort, but that they still needed to keep injecting more money into the economy to make sure it reached all parts of the nation.

According to the source, the CBN pledged to guarantee that there would be enough money available for the economy.

“He promised that they will ensure cash flow in the economy and promised to extend and deepen what they are already doing, to ensure it circulates; and that by tomorrow there will be a greater improvement in the availability of cash,” the source said.

Ajaero stated during the meeting that the National Executive Council (NEC) of Congress needed to be informed of the observations in order to issue a new directive.

“Since the NEC members we have come from various states, they will each give their own reports on what is happening in their state. They will decide whether to go on strike or not based on their experiences in their respective states, according to Ajaero.

The NLC also instructed employees to inform the state councils when banks are not dispensing cash.

According to reports, the NLC has scheduled a meeting of its NEC for today in order to make a final decision regarding Wednesday’s proposed nationwide strike.

The NLC issued the order following its NEC meeting on the penultimate Friday, at which it had instructed affiliate unions and state councils to keep an eye on the cash situation and the progress banks were making with regard to cash disbursement.

Recall that CBN representatives met with NLC leaders last week to inform them of the efforts being made by the top bank to stabilize the country’s cash situation.

The CBN officials also disclosed to the NLC that approximately N20 billion was disbursed over the weekend, with Lagos receiving N4 billion and Abuja receiving N2 billion, respectively, in an effort to alleviate the shortage.

To help stabilize the situation, the apex bank also ordered banks to extend their business hours and open on Saturday and Sunday.

In light of rumors that the planned industrial action may be postponed, Ajaero is scheduled to address the media in Abuja today to reveal the next move by the organized labor movement.

Despite the NLC activating its affiliates and state councils at its National Executive Council (NEC), held via Zoom last Friday, a source in Abuja said last night that there is still no decision on the precise date the protest will take place.

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The source said: “What we decided to do at the Friday meeting is not based on a measurable degree of improvement. A team from the CBN communicated with the Center regarding the problem. The team described the steps taken by the CBN to guarantee cash availability.

“They described some of the difficulties they are running into while doing that. As a result of hearing all of this, NLC is no longer able to declare the protest. I must say that the NLC has no interest in staging protests merely for the sake of doing so. We didn’t specify at the meeting how much work needs to be done to improve things before we move forward or stop. Therefore, we will assess the availability between today (yesterday) and tomorrow (Tuesday) before making a choice.

This is in light of the fact that the majority of banks have confirmed receiving cash and that there were sizable lines at the ATMs. Most banks in the heart of Abuja City dispensed cash over the counter.

According to a banker who spoke on the record under the condition of anonymity, consumers can now withdraw up to N200,000 in cash from a cash register, while businesses can get up to N500,000.

The CBN has ordered that the withdrawal limits that were suspended be lifted, he continued. Individuals can now get up to N200,000 on the counter, while corporate bodies can get up to N500,000. We also have a sizable sum of cash to use at the ATMs. You can see for yourself that the pressure we were under a few weeks ago has subsided.


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