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Naira notes

By Tumininu Ojelabi Hassan

The directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commercial banks to disburse and accept old N500 and N1000 notes has failed to ease pressure on cash scarcity as bank customers are still struggling to receive cash. On Saturday, March 18, even with “no movement” order from the police, many Nigerians abandoned their polling units in search of cash, which no bank ATM dispensed.

Our correspondent visited different branches of commercial banks at Allen Avenue Ikeja, Oregun, Yaba, Ilupeju and Obanikoro areas of Lagos. All the banks visited except a few ones in Obanikoro were crowded and had long queues of people waiting to withdraw at the ATM. It was observed that the banks with no queue had no cash and their ATMs weren’t dispensing cash.

A bad situation was made worse last week as the CBN directive came with a ban on cash merchants or PoS operators from depositing or paying cash. Although people had complained of the high price charged by them, they were the most convenient option for getting cash.

Ayotunde Hakeem, a 34 year old, Ikeja resident shared the tussle he has been experiencing to get cash.

“I have been here since 9am, this is 11:30am and I haven’t withdrawn yet. As you can see the queue is very long. Initially, the ATMs weren’t dispensing cash, it started dispensing not quite long. I hope the ATM doesn’t stop dispensing before I withdraw because I will be so angry. I haven’t opened my store today because of the cash I need, not getting cash will be a waste of my time after waiting for almost three hours,” he said.

Chinonye Onyekachi, a 23 year old student narrated her experience while trying to get cash.

“Honestly, the stress I’m passing through to get cash is too much. I have been under the sun for over two hours just because I need N5,000. PoS attendants are charging N1500 to withdraw N5000, which is exorbitant. I can’t afford it. CBN should please make cash available to ease this crisis because banks are claiming they don’t have enough cash,” she complained bitterly.

A staff of Access bank PLC, who spoke with our correspondent but pleaded for anonymity as he is not the official spokesperson for the bank, revealed that the bank doesn’t have cash and this situation is beyond the control of the bank.

“This isn’t the first time CBN is redesigning currency but this particular one has caused issues due to the short time frame. For example, let’s say there’s N100 billion in the system, 60% of the money is in the banking system, 40% of the money in the system is with people, who hoarded the money in their homes for reasons best known to them.

“The purpose of the naira redesign was to force people, who hoarded money in their homes to release the money to the banks, which would enable accurate reports of the money in the system,” he said.

He mentioned the reason for shortage of cash despite CBN’s directive to banks to disburse and accept the old notes.

“Initially, a deadline was given regarding the validity of the old currency. As people were depositing the old notes before the deadline, we were taking them to CBN. We are at the receiving end because the bank doesn’t have enough cash to meet the demands of its customers but the public isn’t aware of this.

“Also, the new naira notes printed by CBN were insufficient and  this contributed to the shortage of cash as the demand for cash is higher than the supply of cash.” he clarified.

He addressed the speculation that customers have to register on the CBN portal before depositing money in the bank.

“This was before the most recent CBN’s directive. If you can recall, after the deadline banks stopped receiving the old naira notes, customers deposited their old currency at CBN offices after registering on the portal. We refused to accept the old notes after the Supreme Court ruling due to CBN’s silence concerning the ruling. Currently, we have started accepting the old currency after CBN’s official directive to disburse and accept the old notes”.

In addition, our correspondent, who visited the Yaba market observed that traders were accepting the old naira notes from customers. A lot of customers were seen paying traders with the N500 and N1000 notes, which they accepted.

Kenneth Ibe, a business owner at Yaba market, expressed his views concerning the cash scarcity.

“We have started accepting the old N500 and N1000 naira notes after the CBN’s instruction but the old notes is still scare. About six customers have given me cash since I opened my store, before cash scarcity, about 95% of my customers used to make payment with cash,” he mentioned.

Ada Anisiobi, a 39 year old trader at Yaba market said, she was optimistic that the CBN’s directive will reduce the effect of the cash crisis.

“The CBN’s directive is a good move, at least I’m optimistic that the cash crisis will die down in the next few weeks. Although there are still queues at banks but I’m hopeful the new directive will help in reducing cash shortage,” she said hopefully.

A discussion with a PoS attendant, Kabir Sanni, revealed that the old naira notes wasn’t in circulation yet; hence, the reason for the outrageous withdrawal charge.

“The reason we are still charging ridiculously to withdraw is because we get this cash for a ridiculous fee. I charge N600 for N2000, which is not my fault. I pay to get this cash too. I haven’t withdrawn from the bank after the CBN’s directive, because of the crowd at the bank,” he lamented.

Adrain Ola, a 27 year old businesswoman, who resides at Obanikoro area of Lagos state disclosed that some of the business owners in her area were refusing the old naira notes.

“Some business owners here are rejecting the old notes, only a few of them are accepting it. As at yesterday when I went out, some bus drivers didn’t accept it, they claimed they haven’t heard the news about receiving the old naira notes,” she stated.

According to the General Manager of Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency, Mr. Afolabi Solebo, the Lagos State Government has urged residents to report cases of rejection of old N500 and N1000 notes. Also, the agency has been involved in resolving cases revolving around acceptance and rejection of the old currency.

“Since few days ago when Governor Sanwo-Olu made the position of the state government known regarding the old currency, we have received quite a number of complaints in this regard and we swiftly addressed them. In some cases, we put calls through to some business owners, who immediately complied and accepted the old currency notes.

“I can tell you that people are aware of LASCOPA and because they don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law, they have started complying with the use of the old naira notes. I plead with those, who are still rejecting these old notes to desist from doing that,” he said.

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