• CBN and imperative of brand damage control

    Cbn and imperative of brand damage control - nigeria newspapers online
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    In his executive summary of what constitutes strong brands, a global business consultant, Nick Cober, says such brands focus on their niche, remain consistent, reflect the communities they serve, create excellent products and services and have strong and authentic personalities. It is debatable to ascribe these attributes to the Central Bank of Nigeria in recent times.

    When the incumbent governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced the plan and justification by the apex bank to redesign some of the naira notes on October 26, 2022, he never envisaged that he had unwittingly set up a booby trap that will later plunge innocent Nigerians into unprecedented fit of rage to withdraw their money from deposit banks. Communication strategy is critical to the success of any initiative at individual or corporate level. In the public relations parlance, it is said that brand communication, brand image and brand trust are antecedents of brand loyalty. The world  is watching with shock and disbelief why redesigning of a country’s currencies has led to loss of lives, protests in states of the federation, wanton destruction of property and recourse to the use of CFA franc-currency used in the Francophone countries  by Nigerians in the land borders following scarcity of new naira notes.

    In some places, trade by barter was adopted. The CBN’s poor stakeholder engagement became public knowledge when the announcement of the new currency redesign was faulted by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed that her ministry was not consulted. The failure of the apex bank to consult the key stakeholders including the legislators to work out the impact analysis of the project ahead of implementation was in itself a  public relations blunder.  In the early hours of Thursday, February 16, expectation was high that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd) nationwide broadcast would douse tension as he would announce the CBN’s compliance with the ruling of the Supreme Court that the old naira notes should remain legal tender alongside the new ones until the determination of the substantive suit filed by some state governors. But the broadcast was a misplaced optimism as the President said only N200 notes would remain legal tender for 60 days. The brazen disregard to the Supreme Court ruling elicited protests in many states of the federation as people could not withdraw their money and they desperately needed cash. As of today, the Nigerian economy is predominantly cash based. The Federal Government’s disregard to the Supreme Court order is a mockery of the Nigerian legal system. What does it cost the CBN to comply with the court directive which would have calmed the frayed nerves? Hopefully, Emefiele shall one day tell his story and unveil the cabals that have messed him up as the brand personality of the CBN.

    Unfortunately, due to bad planning and poor timing, the objectives of the new naira notes are far from being achieved. Against market expectation of further reduction in inflation rate, the Nigerian inflation rate in January inched up to 21; eighty-two per cent from 21.34 per cent in prior month. Similarly, the country’s foreign reserve has dipped further to $37. 1bn on January 30, 2023 from $ 37.8bn in December, 2022. Other objectives of the new naira notes are more of wrong permutations by the apex bank. Nigerians have lost confidence in the financial system. There is a trust deficit already. The apex bank’s brand value has lost steam. Many investors would rather prefer to be on the sidelines until after the general elections. This is understandable in view of uncertainty in the country.

    For the apex bank to remain relevant, it is now a game of brand recovery. The CBN shall be more effective and trusted if Nigerians perceive it as transparent.  One of the lessons from the global financial crisis of 2008 is the obligation of every central bank to deploy effective communication with all its stakeholders to reduce uncertainty and enhance better policy choices.

     The Nigeria Economic Summit Group has offered some tips as brand recovery strategies for the apex bank to address its reputational damage. It should take advantage of the gradual phase out of the old naira notes to commence massive production of the new ones. The bank should embark on renewed public enlightenment of Nigerians on the substance and essence of redesigning some naira notes. This assignment should be undertaken immediately by the bank’s media team. The apex bank should lead the campaign for the Federal Government’s investment in critical infrastructure for seamless transition to a cashless economy, especially in the rural areas.

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