Naira scarcity: CBN supplies banknotes, directs banks to open weekends for withdrawals
Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor


A cross section of Nigerians expressed relief over the extension of the deadline for the swap of old notes for the redesigned notes. With pressure from different quarter including Governors’ Forum and traditional rulers mounted on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to extend the deadline for the new redesigned notes to take effect, the apex bank finally yesterday buckled.

A statement signed the governor, Mr. Godwin Emeffiele offered a 10 day reprieve to Nigerians to douse the public outcry against the deadline.

“Based on the foregoing, we have sought and obtained Mr President’s approval for the following: a 10-day extension of the deadline from January 31, 2023, to February 10, 2023; to allow for collection of more old notes legitimately held by  Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swap in our rural communities after which all old notes outside the CBN loses their Legal Tender Status. Our CBN staff currently on mass mobilization and monitoring together with officials of the EFCC and ICPC will work together to achieve these objectives.

“A 7-day grace period, beginning on February 10 to February 17, 2023, in compliance with Sections 20(3) and 22 of the CBN Act, allowing Nigerians to deposit their old notes at the CBN after the February deadline when the old currency would have lost its Legal Tender status.” grace period, beginning on February 10 to February 17, 2023, in compliance with Sections 20(3) and 22 of the CBN Act, allowing Nigerians to deposit their old notes”.

There had been panic across the country as the deadline approached with transporters and traders rejecting the old notes even before the deadline.

Banks in the country, in a last-minute effort to help customers meet the Tuesday, January 31 deadline set for the collection of old naira notes by  commercial banks across the country, had extended their workdays to Saturday and Sunday.

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The CBN had on October 26, 2022 announced its plan to redesign three banknotes. President Muhammadu Buhari subsequently unveiled the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes on November 23, 2022, while January 31 was fixed as deadline for the validity of the old notes
The unwillingness of the apex bank to extend the deadline is raising fears that over 50 percent of Nigeria’s unbanked population may lose their cash savings due to the requirement that old notes could only be exchanged through an existing bank account.

Among other financial institutions, First Bank of Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank had notified customers to visit their branches on Saturday and Sunday to deposit old Naira notes.

In a notice similar to what other financial institutions also sent to their customers and seen by Business Hallmark, First Bank stated, “This is to notify the general public that our branches will be open Saturday and Sunday just to receive cash.

“All old notes of series 200, 500 and 1000 will cease to be in use from the 31st of January.”

The CBN in its efforts to ensure that everyone is carried along had embarked on a cash swap programme nationwide to enable those in the unbanked areas to exchange their old notes before the January 31 deadline.

It, however, excluded Lagos and Abuja mobile money/Point of Sales operators from the programme.

The apex bank also ordered commercial banks to immediately stop over-the-counter withdrawal of the new notes and load their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs with the redesigned naira notes to boost its circulation.
However, despite the efforts of the apex bank, bank customers have continued to lament the scarcity of the new notes

Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) and a host of other stakeholders have expressed concerns, making appeals for CBN to extend the period for the currency swap as well as review the cashless policy.

The House of Representatives and the Senate in separate resolutions, on Thursday, asked CBN to extend the deadline by six months till July 31. However, CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele insists that Nigerians had enough time to deposit the old notes to collect the new ones despite a shortage in supply for new notes by the banks.

“The reason is because we feel 100 days should be enough for those who have the old currency to deposit the money in the banks. And we took every measure to ensure that all the banks were open to receive all old currencies. 100 days, we believe, is more than adequate.”

Tight security at banks

Our checks revealed that Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), have taken extra security measures to prevent angry customers from attacking their branches and destroying facilities.

It was observed that customers besieged bank branches in different parts of the country on Friday in attempts to withdraw new notes for use during the weekend and deposit old notes so that they would not be caught napping as Tuesday’s deadline approaches.

However, most of the customers were disappointed as they could not make withdrawals through the ATMs as most of the machines had been shut due to non-availability of new notes, while the few ATMs that were dispensing cash had long queues of desperate customers.

Similarly, security guards at bank branches had a hectic time controlling the surging crowds making attempts to enter the banking halls to see if they could withdraw new notes over the counter. The situation almost degenerated into a free-for-all in some of the branches visited as customers complained of waiting in queue for hours without being allowed inside the banking halls.

The branch manager of a Tier-1 bank in Ojodu area of Lagos told our correspondent that the lender had taken extra security measures to forestall attacks on its facilities by angry customers, who were unable to get the new notes.

He explained that despite assurances by the apex bank that it was supplying enough new notes to the banks for circulation to their customers, the truth was that the lenders were not getting enough.

The manager said, “The truth of the matter is that the cash available is not enough. Last Saturday, my branch received N9m in new notes to be loaded into four ATM terminals. Each terminal normally takes N8m in N1,000 notes, but we had to load only three terminals with N3m each, and by Monday morning, the money had been exhausted.

“We didn’t get another supply until Wednesday when we got only N4m, which was loaded in two ATM terminals. Of course, it didn’t take long for customers to withdraw everything.
“Even this night (Thursday), there is a long queue of desperate customers, but only one terminal is working as the other one has a problem and we can’t fix it this night because if anything negative happens, we are not covered by insurance at this time of the day.

“We anticipate that some angry customers may want to vandalise our facilities and forwarded our observation to the head office, which has proactively deployed more security personnel to this branch and others with similar scenarios.”

Sources say the state police command had also deployed additional personnel and equipment, including armoured personnel carriers, in strategic locations where banks were concentrated in order to quickly quell any uprising by angry customers.

Another dependable source at a new generation bank at YKC area of Port Harcourt told our correspondents that officials had to take extra measures in anticipation of security breaches as hoodlums could capitalise on the slightest protest by angry customers to vandalise and loot banks in the area.

The source said more armed policemen were now manning the branch and were visible unlike in the past when customers would not know that they were on the premises, while the company supplying non-armed guards had increased the number of its personnel.
Windfall for PoS operators

Some Point of Sale (PoS) operators at different parts of Port Harcourt City are making brisk business with the new naira notes. Some of the PoS outlets visited in Woji, Elelenwo, Akpajo and Elemo Junction were either not dispensing the new notes or charging extra cash for them.

Miss Glory Chukwu, an operator at Eleme Junction was charging N200 for each N2000 new notes dispensed. She decried that banks were not also dispensing enough new naira notes to them.

”For every N2000 you withdraw, the customer will pay me N200. It is very difficult for us to get the new notes even in banks.

”I went to the bank yesterday and they gave me new notes for only N5000. It is not our fault,” she said.

Another operator, Favour Igwe, who operates in Woji, said she charged N150 for every N1500 withdrawn.

She appealed to CBN to institute a monitoring mechanism for banks to ensure that they were not using the new naira notes for other businesses to the detriment of the masses.
According report, PoS operators in Lugbe, a satellite town of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja were charging N500 for every N5,000 withdrawn.

”Throughout yesterday (Thursday in Lugbe, if you want to collect N5000, the operators will pay you N4500 and collect their N500 charge as against N100 which they usually charge”, Anthony Ali, a resident of the town reportedly said.

”This is very frustrating. CBN needs to step up their actions. They should make these new naira notes available for people to use,” he said.
Meanwhile, some residents of the FCT have expressed worry as traders and PoS operators have started rejecting old Naira notes since Friday, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

NAN Correspondent, who went round some motor parks within the FCT discovered that while some drivers were still accepting old notes, others were rejecting them.

The NAN correspondent also inquired why people had started rejecting old notes when the deadline was still four days away.Some  respondents said they heard of long queues in banks and would not want to go through the rigours. Mr Peter Akpan, a taxi driver, said although he was losing customers, he did not mind.

However, in Port Harcourt, Business Hallmark’s checks revealed that while traders and transporters were still accepting the old notes on Saturday, they were warning that they were not going to accept same from Sunday and Monday.

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