There were large crowds and long queues at cash points and banking halls in major cities across Nigeria earlier in the week despite the extension of the deadline for the exchange of old naira notes for the new designs of the Nigerian currency.
PREMIUM TIMES reporters who visited banks and ATM points on Monday and Tuesday observed that Nigerians continue to lament the scarcity of the new notes amid poor banking operations.
While the scarcity of the new notes worsened cash transactions for many traders in local markets, poor network and other technical issues stifled online transactions in stores, restaurants, and shopping malls in major cities.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, had on Sunday announced a 10-day extension of the deadline for the acceptance of old naira notes as legal tender after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State.
The announcement came two days before the expiration of the deadline the bank issued for the phasing out of the old N200, N500, and N1, 000 denominations of the naira notes.
Last October, the CBN had announced the bank’s resolve to redesign, produce, and circulate the new notes. Mr Emefiele said the redesign of the currency was to help manage the money supply and tackle currency counterfeiting and terrorism, among other concerns, in the country.
The circulation of the new banknotes started on 15 December with the old notes scheduled to cease to be a legal tender after 31 January.
But the development has generated heated debates among the general public, as Nigerians lamented the scarcity of the new notes.
With the extension of the deadline on Sunday, many Nigerians expected that the chaos generated by the policy would be resolved and normalcy would return to the banks.
However, a survey by PREMIUM TIMES’ reporters across Nigeria revealed that the chaos persists despite the CBN’s extension of the deadline.
On Monday and Tuesday, PREMIUM TIMES reporter observed long queues at branches of Stanbic IBTC Bank, First City Monument Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), and Access Bank in Oke-Ilewo, a commercial area in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
A security man in one of the banks said majority of the customers were there to deposit old notes and get the new notes. He added that the other customers who were at the bank for regular transactions did not join the queues for new notes.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, Adeyanju Abiola, an artisan, said he had visited two banks and collected some money but he was not given new notes.
“I have been to two banks this week to collect money for our cooperative. The last one I went to, we collected one million naira but only N50,000 was in new notes. The bank staff are even very lackadaisical, it’s either they don’t have it or they are intentionally being inhumane”, Mr Abiola said.
Tobiloba Adefarasuin, a graduate, said she was at the bank to deposit some old notes for her grandmother.
“She does business with her money and in most cases doesn’t have a business with the bank. But to avoid losing money over the deadline, I came here to deposit all her money into the account but met this crowed here,” she lamented.
“Many who wanted to withdraw did not still get the new naira notes, so what is happening?”
A pharmacy in Ijaye, Best Deal Supermarket, posted on its doors a message that it would not accept old notes in exchange for goods and services.
“Best Deal Supper market will no longer accept the old notes (N200, N500, N1000) as legal tender for purchases as from 27th January, 2023. This is with respect to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy on old notes,” the note reads.
“Customers can pay with new approved notes or make us of other cashless payment options available (POS or transfer),” the message stated.
Meanwhile, when a PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter offered two old N500 notes as alms in Isale Igbehin area of the state capital earlier on Sunday, four beggars rejected the alms.
Although chaos has reduced in cash points in the capital city, crowds remain in banks as residents lament scarcity of the new naira notes
In Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre, banking halls and ATM points were crowded as frustrated Nigerians sscrambled o get cash for daily transactions.
In Opebi, long queues were observed at Keystone Bank’s ATM points at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday. In the same neighborhood, there were similarly long queues at Zenith Bank’s cash machines. A PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter at the bank observed that the ATMs ran out of cash for a while, after which the machines were reloaded and the queues grew.
ATMs at the Zenith Bank branch in Opebi were empty Tuesday morning and remained so till evening. Sterling bank ATMs in the area were seen dispensing the new N1000 notes in the morning even though there were long lines of customers waiting to take cash. Similarly, an Access Bank branch in the area had large crowds at its ATM points waiting to withdraw money just like Stanbic IBTC branch’s ATMs.
At Agege Road in Ogba, the GTB branch facing the Nigerian Institute of Journalism recorded a short queue at its ATMs in the morning of Tuesday just like the FCMB ATMs beside the branch. Around 3:45 p.m., no queues were witnessed at the ATMs of First Bank along the same road.
There were long queues at Zenith Bank’s ATMs on Acme Road, Ogba, in the morning as well as the ATMs of the Union Bank branch on Metalbox Road, Ogba.
In Ojodu, long queues were recorded at major banks and ATM points Monday morning.
In Abuja, the nation’s capital city, crowds beseiged both the banking halls and the ATM galleries of the major banks.
On Monday, the UBA branch in Garki offered to pay over the counter customers in lower denominations (N100, N500 and N20) and not more than N5,000 could be withdrawn.
A customer told this newspaper that the decision suggested low money supply at the banks.
“I was there wondering how long it would take before it got to my turn, until I was told that the limit was N20,000. I just left the queue,” said Jennifer Nnadozie, a business woman.
POS agents who claim they buy the money from bankers now charge more on withdrawals to make up for the extra cost in the capital city, this newspaper observed Tuesday.
POS agents who charged N200 on every N10,000 withdrawal raised their charges by requesting N100 for every N1,000 withdrawn.
“I had to make use of the POS guy beside my shop to withdraw N5,000 so I could have cash with me even though I was not so happy parting with my N500 like that,” Mrs Nndozie said.
In Katsina State, a PREMIUM TIMES reporter who went round the city on Tuesday gathered that most of the Automated Teller Machines in the banks did not dispense cash. In the banks where there was money, only few machines were dispensing.
On Kano Road, from the newly constructed Kofar Kaura underpass to Steel Rolling Roundabout, only one ATM dispensed cash. While all four machines were dispensing money at the GT Bank, only two were dispensing at Fidelity Bank while the gate to the second branch of the Access Bank was shut.
A resident, who simply gave his name as Isa, while waiting for his turn at an ATM in Fidelity Bank, said he had spent five hours on the queue.
“I joined the queue here to get money, when it reached my turn, I put my card but they said (it was) unable to dispense cash. I wanted to withdraw from the other machine since I had been standing there but these people, Wallahi, they said I would not withdraw. Look at the queue. In fact, this is not even a queue, how I wished you came here around 12p.m.,” he said.
An ATM attendant at First Bank around Kofar Kaura Phone Sellers market said ATM points dispense only N20,000 to an individual daily. Two other residents interviewed corroborated the statement.
“Look at this long queue, just for you to reach and get N20,000 that can’t even take me a day,” Anas Abubakar said while on a long queue at a First Bank branch.
At about 5:28 p.m. at the GT Bank in the area, a PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter was asked to document his name in a long list and was awarded a tally that read ‘Number 48’.
“When you write your name, just go and wait when it’s your turn, the ATM attendant will call you,” a security staffer of the bank told this reporter.
Most of the POS operators in the metropolis have also increased withdrawal charges.
Abdul Jani, a journalist in Katsina, told PREMIUM TIMES he was charged N1000 to withdraw N10,000 and N2000 for N20,000.
Another POS operator beside Hamada Carpet on GTA expressway, Hamza Sani, said they increased the withdrawal to make up for what they go through before getting the money.
“When you go to an ATM, you can only withdraw N20,000. If you’ve different accounts, then you can withdraw a lot but it means more charges and sometimes we settle some banks staff too. So, it’s not deliberate,” he said.
Another resident, Bishir Biro, lamented the unavailability of the new naira notes.
“I swear to God I’m yet to see the N200 note. I’ve spent all my old Naira notes and now I’ve nothing with me. How do you expect me to tell an Okada man to give me his account number for me to send him N200? They didn’t do this policy very well and the added ten days are not enough,” he said.
A poultry farm attendant, Bello Dan Alhaji, said he has been unable to withdraw and spend his salary because of scarcity of new naira notes.
“They paid us on Friday but I’m yet to get my money. It’s in my account but for what use? I went to three different POS but they all don’t have the new Naira notes. Everyone keep saying he would give me the old notes and nobody will accept it now,” he lamented.
In many parts of the North-west, residents are lamenting the biting effect of the naira redesign policy, especially in rural areas.
In Talata Mafara, a commercial city in Zamfara state, a POS operator, Fahad Aminu, said he has since abandoned the business till further notice.
“I now open the kiosk and sit or gist with my friends because where would I see the money,” he told this newspaper in a telephone interview.
“When it started, I went to all the banks in this town but they kept saying they don’t have new Naira notes I should go and return late. If I’m in Talata Mafara and I can’t get it (naira notes), where would I get it in the whole of Zamfara State?”
Maryam Galadima, a civil servant in Talata Mafara, also lamented how the unavailability of the new naira notes is taking a toll on their lives.
“I went to get money from my account, joined a queue for close to three hours but could only get N10,000. When the line reached me, the bank people said money would soon finish so I must withdraw N10,000 instead of N20,000. I’ve even spent it that day and now I’ve nothing with me,” she said.
In Sokoto, Ishaq Abdullahi, a graphic designer and journalist, said he was stunned when he went to withdraw N2,000 but was charged N300.
“She (POS operator) was the only one who has money in the area, and it was even a miracle that I got the money in her stand,” he said.
He told PREMIUM TIMES over the telephone that most ATMs are no longer active because they also don’t have the money.
“There is a big POS operator around Rima Radio in the city centre. Anytime you go there you’ll get money but the place has been under lock for three straight days because he doesn’t have the money.”
Mr Abdullahi said only few ATMs dispense cash in the city.
In Nigeria’s North-east, the ripple effect of the policy has been most intense on rural dwellers and commodity traders.
A PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, observed that residents wake up early to meet long queues while other travel long distances to the city centre to make withdrawals.
Goni Abubakar, a resident, told this newspaper he traveled about 200km from Geidam town to Damaturu. But when PREMIUM TIMES’ spoke to him on the queue at about 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, he was still on the queue at the Jaiz Bank branch in Damaturu, the state capital.
Mr Abubakar’s intention was to go back to Geidam but he couldn’t make the over 3 hours journey back to his base.
“I came all the way from Geidam this morning to Damaturu. Look at me here confused. I have (not) withdrawn any money and it is almost 5 p.m. now. Which one will I think of now. The money or where I am going to sleep. I will have to sleep here until i get the money,” he said.
“Look at the problem people are facing here, old people, women with children. Some people are sleeping here. Even me, I will have to sleep here today to get the money. The government needs to make this money available to all.”
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the culture of women forming a separate queue in public places has now been disregarded due to the chaos.
Amina Musa said she came to the Jaiz Bank branch in Damaturu since 6 a.m. but hasn’t been able to withdraw cash.
“Honestly, we are going through hardship. The men are not giving the women any consideration to withdraw. We plead with the men to consider us because of the house work we have at home but they refuse. We have to wait and follow the queue. I came here since 6 a.m.,” she said.
On Wednesday, Richard Inoyo, the Country Director of Citizens’ Solution Network, Calabar, Cross River State, told this newspaper that it’s been a ‘terrible day’.
He said: “Today as early as 6 a.m., people were already at the bank to use the ATM. They waited at the bank till 8:10 a.m before the bank started loading money at the ATM. By the time the bank finished loading money at Access Bank it was already 8:34 for people to start withdrawing it.
“Let me tell you something, you cannot withdraw more than N20, 000 per day. From every card you hold you can only withdraw N20, 000. And if you have more than one card due to the BVN connection to your card they will not allow you to withdraw more than N20, 000 or withdraw from any other account. You will just have to withdraw from only one account.
“The policy itself is a very absurd policy. In the real sense, they said the policy is targeted at the poor but obviously the reverse. Right now people are queuing on the line just to get their own money and sadly enough you cannot withdraw more than N20,000 in an economy where at least 35 per cent of those who trade in the retail market basically depend on physical cash for transaction, so that is where we find ourselves.”
Mr Inoyo recounted his experience at a Pharmacy store and how poor network stifled the transaction.
“In Cross River State now, I can put it to you that the policy is not working,” he said.
For Collins Oscar, CEO, Made in Akwa Ibom Corporation, which runs two large supermarkets in Uyo, there has been a reduction in sales.
He said: “We also have a POS stand around here but the queue is so massive so even with their money they still suffer to even withdraw it because they run out of cash and to get cash is so difficult. This has been our experience it reduce our daily turnover to almost 50 per cent because you have the buying power but you are restricted.”
In Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa, a resident who declined to have his name mentioned told PREMIUM TIMES that there is a ‘huge challenge’ with the implementation of the policy due to sabotage on the part of some POS agents.
In the South-east, traders also complained of the impact of the policy on their businesses and daily operations.
For Sylvanus Ukpong, CEO of Emem Farms Ltd in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, the policy has impacted his operations negatively.
He said: “I went to First Bank in Uyo to withdraw N120,000 to buy feeds for my poultry farm, the bank officials refused, they said there’s an instruction from the CBN that banks shouldn’t pay money from the counter, that all withdrawals should be done via ATM.
“The bank told me the highest amount my company can withdraw from ATM is N20,000. The feed sellers said they prefer cash, not electronic transfer of fund, because they too needed physical cash. I left in frustration.
“We had no other option except to give the birds starter feeds, instead of layers, and that completely affected our egg production. Today we had only 27 crates of eggs instead of 60.”
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