Despite the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive authorising commercial banks to dispense and receive the old N200, N500, and N1000 notes, many Nigerians this week rejected the bank notes.
A PREMIUM TIMES’ survey across major cities found that some motorists and traders refused to accept the old notes amid the uncertainties surrounding the acceptance of the notes by commercial banks.
The apex bank had on Monday announced that the old and newly redesigned banknotes remain legal tender until 31 December. The move brought relief to Nigerians who had gone through hardship as a result of the cash crunch occasioned by the CBN Naira redesign policy since December.
The CBN policy caused widespread chaos across the nation, as frustrated Nigerians staged protests amid poor banking operations.
On 8 February, the Supreme Court intervened by issuing an order restraining the CBN from enforcing the deadline for the withdrawal of the N200, N500, and N1000 notes. The court granted the order following a lawsuit challenging the CBN’s currency redesign policy.
The order from the Supreme Court was met with relief from many bank customers who had faced hardship while trying to access their money. However, both President Muhammadu Buhari and CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele refused to comply with the court order.
On 3 March, the Supreme Court again intervened by ruling that the CBN must extend the use of old banknotes until 31 December due to the negative impact of the policy.
In the ruling, made by a seven-member panel led by John Okoro, the court ordered the CBN to continue accepting the old notes from Nigerian citizens.
On Monday, the presidency in a statement claimed that Mr Buhari never directed the CBN to disobey the Supreme Court’s order, prompting the apex bank to direct commercial banks to comply with the Supreme Court order.
Days after the CBN gave its directive; PREMIUM TIMES observed that while many Nigerians now accept the old N500 and N1000 notes, some others are still rejecting the banknotes.
A survey conducted by this newspaper on Tuesday and Wednesday also showed that there are long queues at the banks and ATM galleries, although there has been relative reduction in the number of customers struggling to access the banks.
Although commercial banks began issuing the old notes last week, there has been an improvement in the amount of money being dispensed to customers since the CBN announced that they should comply with the court order Monday night.
But bank officials who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES under condition of anonymity said that the banknotes available for customers remain insufficient as of Wednesday evening.
A top official at one of the Union bank branches in the CBD area of Abuja confirmed this development to PREMIUM TIMES. “We do not have sufficient supply so I doubt there will be better circulation of money this week. We will wait for the CBN to supply us,” he said.
He added that the amount banks get from the CBN is not enough to meet customers’ needs.
Meanwhile, in Abuja, PREMIUM TIMES observed that some motorists have refused to accept the old banknotes.
Reuben Akintola, a taxi driver that plies the Apo-Kubwa route, expressed reservation about the CBN directive.
“Honestly, I am not sure I will collect the old notes, since it is not a criminal offense (yet).
“The whole back and forth of the CBN and banks on this naira note is really discouraging, they don’t seem to know what they are doing.
“For now, I can’t collect it from passengers even if it will affect the amount of money I see daily, I don’t mind,” he said.
At the popular Garki market, while some traders received the old naira notes from their customers, others rejected the old notes and insisted on being paid with the new notes only.
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Mary Ochigbo and Anaiah, both thrift traders at the market, told PREMIUM TIMES that they won’t be collecting the old notes until they are able to confirm if the banks are receiving it from traders.
Ismaila Oiza, another trader, attributed her refusal to accept the old notes to the cash crunch.
“The village people I get cassava from mostly don’t know what is going on, they won’t receive the old note and I will not put my market on hold because of that so I have to abide,” she said.
In Ogba, Lagos State, PREMIUM TIMES found that many traders are not accepting the old notes. One of the traders, Henry Obasa, argued that President Buhari has not given a clear order that the notes should be accepted.
At the Olujudo market, Ekiti, a trader who identified himself as Odogwu expressed concerns about old note deposit at the bank.
He said: “I know that the CBN has made the old note a legal tender, some people are collecting it now, while some are still not collecting. For me, I won’t collect it because I don’t know if I will be able to pass through the stress of depositing it back into the bank.
“If you have the old note with you and you go to the bank to deposit it, you have to go through many procedures for that and this is just like having your money and also suffering to save it in the bank. So what’s the need of collecting it.”
A frozen fish seller at the market, Olaitan bukola, said: “I am collecting the old naira notes but my problem now is that some of my customers are rejecting the old note.”
Emeka Obi, an electronics dealer at Oja Oba in Ado Ekiti, insisted that he will not accept the old naira note.
“I already had a placard in my shop that read ‘Pay with the new note or you do a transfer’.
“The president and the CBN started all this issue without considering the masses and now they said we should start collecting it again. The problem is not even to collect but to deposit back is a serious matter,” he said.
In Uyo, the capital of Akwa-Ibom State, traders and commuters are accepting the old notes according to residents who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday.
“There is circulation of the old notes. I’ve actually bought beef today with the old note. ATMs are dispensing old notes. The queue is gradually reducing,” says Mkpouto, a resident of the city.
Isaac Onyedikachi, a thrift vendor at the Nyanya market in Abuja, expressed delight about the new development.
“We were waiting for either Buhari or Emefiele to give go ahead, and they have so we have started collecting. Now we pray the money circulates so well so sales can pick up again,” he said.
He expressed frustration on how the policy affected sales and patronage since it was introduced in December.
“We really suffered. There are times we will come to the market and there will be markets but no money and the network will even mess up,” he said.
“I lost almost N6,000 in a day due to a fake alert and since then I stopped collecting transfers.”
A butcher at the Garki market, Adekunke Samuel, said there were days he recorded huge sales but had to trek home because of the cash crunch.
“Last Friday, I sold so well that before afternoon, I had sold the beef. But customers made payment with PoS as no one in this place (stall) had cash.
“We had to join some of our people who have cars. I joined my brother at the police signpost in Lugbe and trekked a distance to my house because I didn’t have N100 to pay for a bike,” he said.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Nkiruka Romanus, a foodstuff seller in Olojudo market, Ido Ekiti in Ekiti State, quipped: “This is a major relief for everyone now. I have called the man that used to supply me with goods and he said that I should start collecting the old note so if you have someone that still can’t spend the old naira note please, refer the person to my shop. I will collect it.”
On his part, Yakubu Uwaidem, who resides in the Ibagwa community of Abak LGA, Uyo, said traders within the community are still skeptical about collecting the old notes.
“Business People around here are afraid to collect the old notes. But I spent the old notes in Uyo yesterday and it was not rejected,” he said.
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