Old and new naira notes to co-exist until further notice, Supreme Court rules
New naira notes

By Tumininu Ojelabi Hassan

Despite the warning by the Central bank of Nigeria, CBN, to banks to stop putting old naira notes in their Automated Teller Machines (ATM) or face a penalty, some banks have continued to load ATMs with old naira notes.

The CBN had set January 31st, 2023 as the deadline for issuance and circulation of the old N200, N500 and N1000 naira notes. This deadline is a few weeks away and the ATMs of several banks still dispensed old naira notes as at the weekend. The banks claimed the new naira notes are not enough to meet customers’ demands.

However, CBN has dismissed this claim, stating that banks have enough new notes to circulate across the country ahead of the deadline. A bank customer who wanted to withdraw N5000 from the ATM of another was shocked to be paid only N3000. When he complained, the security told him that only holders of the bank’s debit were entitled to full payment.

Our correspondent visited some banks On Wednesday, January 11th, 2023. It was observed that the ATMs at most of the banks visited were dispensing old naira notes.

At Stanbic IBTC, Ketu branch, there were three ATMs, two out of these were inoperative leaving customers with just one working ATM and a long queue built up, while waiting under the sun. Customers could not withdraw the new notes because only the old notes were available.

A similar situation was experienced at Eco bank, Ketu branch. Three ATMs were available but just one was working. Customers could only withdraw old notes.

When our correspondent approached a staff member of the bank to know why new naira notes were not available, he said “The ATMs will start dispensing new naira notes towards the end of the month”.

This may be quite disturbing because the deadline is the end of the month.

In addition, Polaris bank, Ketu branch did not seem different from others; it had three operative ATMs out of four ATMs in the branch. The ATMs dispensed old notes. A male customer, who came to withdraw hoping the ATM would dispense new naira notes was disappointed as he got old naira notes.

During his discussion with another customer who came to withdraw, he expressed his disappointment.

“I came to this bank with the hope of getting new naira notes. Why is their ATM still dispensing old naira notes? I thought they said the deadline is January 31st, 2023. The other customer told him the ATMs at Sterling bank, which was not far from Polaris bank were dispensing new naira notes.

Sterling bank, Ketu branch seemed different from other banks which failed to comply with CBN’s directive. The ATMs at Sterling bank were dispensing new naira notes to customers. Although, only two out of four ATMs were working.

Like other banks, The ATMs in Access bank, Ketu branch were dispensing old naira notes. The outstanding thing our correspondent noticed about this branch is that all the four ATMs were operative, which was impressive.

Our correspondent approached a staff member of the bank, who said the ATMs will start dispensing new naira notes very soon, definitely before January 31st, 2023 but he did nott state a particular date.

Also, the ATMs at Zenith Bank, Ketu branch were dispensing old notes but the new naira notes were given to customers, who came to withdraw over the counter. Amazingly, the four ATMs at the branch were working perfectly, which made withdrawing and transferring via ATMs seamless for customers. There was no queue at the branch because the ATMs were working fine and customers did nott have any reason to wait.

Unlike other banks, which did not heed to CBN’s warning, the ATMs at FCMB, Ketu branch were dispensing new notes to customers. Out of the three ATMs in the branch, one was inoperative. Customers had to use the other two.

Furthermore, the ATMs at UBA, Ketu branch were dispensing old notes. Unfortunately, just two out of the four ATMs were working. One of these two ATMs working was for “Cash deposit only”, leaving customers with just one ATM. Of course, they were a lot of angry customers and the queue was long. Some of these customers had to leave because they could not withdraw.

All of them complained bitterly. An old woman was seen standing and complaining, she was told to come back to the bank the next day because it was 3:04pm, they usually close at 3pm. According to this old woman, she had been in the bank since after 2pm, but she could not get her transaction done successfully.

Another customer, Rofiat, a businesswoman, said “I’m stranded, I need to get to Ibafo and I don’t have one naira on me. I came here to withdraw N1000 naira cash but the ATM is rejecting my card due to BVN issues, which has already been rectified. I used this card to withdraw 5000 naira two days ago. I really don’t know what to do right now because I have no dime on me”

Other customers, who wanted to withdraw also lamented because at a point, the only ATM working did not dispense cash anymore. Some left to withdraw via POS while others said that they didn’t have a choice but to wait for a while.

The last bank our correspondent visited was Union bank, Ketu branch, which had three ATMs that were all working but they dispensed old notes. Our correspondent approached a worker of the bank to know when new notes will be available for withdrawal at the ATM. According to him, the ATMs will start dispensing new naira notes from next week.

During the course of this investigation, our correspondent had a chat with a staff of UBA who pleaded for anonymity. He revealed that the new naira notes are currently in circulation but it’s not enough to meet customers’ demands.

“The new naira notes is in circulation are few, we don’t get enough to meet customers’ needs. Yesterday, my branch was supplied N1,850,000 new naira notes. We loaded everything into the three ATMs we had immediately. Within a twinkle of an eye, the customers had exhausted the new naira notes.

“The only alternative was to load the ATMs with old naira notes to meet their demands. Since CBN’s directive, we stopped giving the new naira notes across the counter, based on speculations that some bankers are hoarding the new naira notes for their own personal use. You can only get new naira notes when you withdraw using the ATM.”

Speaking on the new CBN withdrawal limits policy, he said “We have started implementing it since January 9th, 2023. Individuals can withdraw N5000,000 only weekly. We charge 3% on the excess.

“For example, if a customer withdraws N1million in a week, since the withdrawal limit is N500,000, the customer will be charged 3% of the extra N500,000 withdrawn. The same thing applies to a corporate account, the only difference is that, the withdrawal limit for a corporate account is N5 million”.

According to the investigation carried out, banks are complaining that they are not getting sufficient supply of the new naira notes. On the contrary, CBN dismissed speculations over the insufficiency of the new naira notes in the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), saying they have enough new notes to circulate and meet the demands of the public.

Amidst the rising demand of the new naira notes, CBN has maintained its stance on the January 31st deadline. Mr. Ahmed Umar, CBN director of currency operations, while speaking at a training session for State directors of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) on the redesign of currency notes policy, said “As far as I am concerned, nothing suggests that it cannot be met. For us, January 31st, 2023 remains the date when old naira notes would cease to be legal tender in Nigeria”.

Repeated attempts to speak with the affected banks officially failed as the media spokespersons did respond to our telephone calls and text messages.

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