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February 2, 2023

Naira Redesign: Hardship, anger as old, new notes remain elusive

Dormant accounts

.

•CBN directs banks to stop dispensing old naira notes

•Businesses suffering cost of currency management —LCCI

•Protests rock Enugu over fuel price hike, cash crises

•Apprehension mounts in Ibadan

•Food prices skyrocket as available naira is sold to stranded Nigerians

•Banks fail to meet customers’ expectations

By Clifford Ndujihe, Babajide Komolafe, Peter Egwuatu, Nkiruka Nnorom, Yinka Kolawole, Godfrey Bivbere, Providence Ayanfeoluwa, Adeola Badru & Dennis Agbo

Contrary to expectations, commercial and daily life activities across Nigeria came under new pressures, as scarcity of Naira notes worsened amidst equally worsening petrol supply crises, despite the extension of the deadline for acceptance of the old Naira notes as legal tender.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, last Sunday, made some softening adjustments to its arrangements for transitioning from the old Naira notes to the new one by extending the deadline for stoppage of use of the old note as legal tender by ten days from January 31, 2023, to February 10, 2023, while also saying that no Nigerian would lose money on account of this change. The apex bank said that the old notes could still be returned to the CBN after the deadline.

But Vanguard’s findings across some commercial centres indicated that rather than softening the pressure on the populace, most people could not access either the old notes or the new ones, throwing commercial and daily life into confusion and agonies.

The commercial banks have stopped dispensing the old notes while they claim the new notes are not sufficient to meet demands either at the Automated Teller Machines, ATMs or over the counters in banking halls.

Meanwhile, in a bid to enhance the circulation of the new naira notes and in preparation for the February 10th deadline for the old notes, the CBN, has directed banks to stop dispensing old currency notes.

Confirming this to Vanguard, a CBN source said the directive was ahead of the February 10th deadline and to enhance the proper circulation of the old notes.

However, this development, coupled with the continued shortage of the new naira notes made it more difficult for many Nigerians to engage in any form of commercial transactions including regular daily living.

According to a bank official who also confirmed the CBN directive, the situation is more challenging than before as there is no cash to give customers once the branch has exhausted the volume of new naira notes received from the Head Office.

Reactions

Reacting to the new Naira Redesign, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has said that businesses are suffering the consequences of lapses in currency distribution management occasioned by the introduction of the redesigned 200, 500 and 1000 Naira notes.

Recall that the CBN had, a few weeks ago, introduced the newly redesigned N200, N500 and N1000 denominations across the country.

The apex bank had also directed commercial banks to fill their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) with the newly redesigned naira notes.

CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, stated that all banks are to accept the deposit of old Naira notes at no cost to the depositors and load ATMs with the redesigned banknotes.

The apex bank had stressed that one of the objectives of its currency policy changes which included the imposition of limits on cash withdrawals was to encourage cashless monetary transactions through the various digital channels.

But bank customers that visited various branches of commercial banks across Nigeria lamented that economic activities are affected as traders could not accept transfers for the payment of goods since they cannot get cash from the banks.

Narrating his experience to Vanguard, Mr Duke Akpan, a civil servant said: “Economic activities were paralysed at Ketu market and environs, yesterday, as a result of the unavailability of cash in banknotes. Many buyers, individuals and households did not have adequate cash to pay for essential goods and services, including food items.

“The banks and other financial service providers were unable to address the issues or problems encountered by individuals, households and businesses.

However, a few Points of Sale, PoS, operators, who had limited cash took advantage of the situation to make brisk business by charging a high premiums on cash supply where N100, N500 and N1,000 are charged for supplying N1,000, N5,000 and N10,000 respectively to customers.”

Commenting as well, Mary Eze, said: “At Abule-Ado and Trade fair areas of Lagos, all the banks’ ATMs were empty and were not dispensing. I visited all the banks at Abule-Ado and others at Trade Fair. With one exception, all the banks did not have money to pay either through their ATMs or at the banking hall.

‘‘Unfortunately, the one that was paying, configured its machines to dispense only N1,000 (One thousand Naira) per time. Though it did not get to my turn because of the long queue, customers who made withdrawals while I was at the bank were charged N35.00 on each N1,000 withdrawn.

“So, customers who withdrew N10,000 parted with N350 instead of N35.00 that they should pay in line with the approved bankers’ tariff.”

She further stated that PoS operators around the area that have the money charged customers N1,000 fees for withdrawal or deposit of N10,000 old notes.

A bank customer, who identified herself as Chioma Anene lamented that her visit to all the banks along Okota Road, Isolo area of Lagos yielded no results as she wasted the whole day trying to see if she could get money from any of the banks.

She said that of all the banks she visited in the same area, neither their ATMs nor Over-the-Counter withdrawal was possible.

Narrating her experience, she said: “I left my house very early in the morning to see if I could withdraw money but in the end, I could not withdraw anything.

“I the bank I first visited, the ATM was not dispensing. Inside the banking hall, they told me that they didn’t have cash. A staff of the bank took pity on me and wanted to pay me with N100 notes, but the notes were tattered and would be difficult to spend.”

She said that a visit to other banks nearby yielded the same result, while at one she was told that the bank paid each customer that came to withdraw in the morning N2,000, but as at the time she got there, the bank had stopped disbursing.

Continuing, she said: “While we were still in line at there, the money in the ATM finished. The security man asked us to wait a while for bullion to come. When the bullion eventually arrived, and it was taking too long to load the ATM, I left the bank without getting any money.

“At another bank, the gate man even told me not to bother myself going inside the banking hall because they are not paying,” 

She said that all the PoS she visited didn’t have money, while the only one that had old notes demanded N4,000 payment before she could be given N20,000.

Another bank customer located at the same Okota Road, Isolo, said though she was not lucky to make any withdrawal when she visited the bank on Wednesday, February 1, she was told that the bank disbursed old notes between 8am and 10 am and each lucky customer was paid N5,000 of the old notes.

Businesses suffering cost of currency mismanagement —LCCI

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has said that businesses are now suffering the consequences of lapses in currency management occasioned by the introduction of the redesigned 200, 500 and 1000 Naira notes.

Director General, LCCI, Dr. Chinyere Almona, stated this in a statement made available to Vanguard on Wednesday.

Her words: “Businesses are suffering the consequences of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) currency management po

licy lapses. Regarding the deadline extension for phasing out old notes, LCCI does not see any value in this if the scarcity of the new Naira notes persists.

“While we support the drive toward a cashless economy, redesigning the Naira and phasing out old currency notes could have been better planned and implemented with no hardship for businesses and individuals.”

Almona further stated: “With the launch of the redesigned Naira notes last December, expectations were high for the smooth transition to the use of the new notes for business transactions across the country.

“We regret to note that expectations have been dashed, business deals impeded, and loss of time and value experienced by many. CBN needs to enlighten the public on grey areas about the scarcity of the new Naira notes in addition to strengthening its policy implementation capacity. This is the minimum expectation in the face of a currency crisis in which we find ourselves.

“The new Naira redesign has triggered varied reactions and feedback that suggest that related issues like the phasing of old currency notes, withdrawal limit, and the scarcity of new notes may have started to impact businesses and social livelihood beyond intentions. While banks have endeavoured to meet the currency demands of their customers through Automatic Teller Machines, and electronic transfers, the scarcity of the Naira has rendered their efforts ineffective.”

Protests rock Enugu over fuel price hike, cash squeeze

 Residents in Enugu metropolis, on Wednesday, mounted non-violent protests in different parts of the state capital city, raising objections against exorbitant prices of petroleum products and lack of physical cash to conduct business.

A liter of Premium Motor Spirit, sells for N450 despite it’s scare availability in most filling stations; compounded by lack of access to cash, while money transfers and Point of Sale, POS, services experienced high hiccups.

Queues built up at all the ATMs, of all commercial banks that dispensed few cash while POS operators charged extra N2,000 for every N10,000 withdrawals.

Subsequently, transportation in the city jerked with few commercial and private vehicles plying the roads.

Irked by the compounded hardship,  residents took to protests in New Haven, Old Park, Zik Avenue, Agbani Road and other parts of the state capital where tricyclists, bus drivers and even private vehicle owners blocked roads and chanted anti-President Muhammadu Buhari songs.

They asked all operating filling stations to close businesses, saying that Nigeria has slide into a failed state.

One of the protesters whose name could not be ascertained said “revolution has started, the independent marketers want to kill us, every day they add 100 naira per litre, fuel is now going to 800 naira per litre whereas subsidy has not been removed. There is no money in any POS, life is just unbearable.”

Apprehension mounts in Ibadan as POS operators introduce 10% charges for transactions

Residents of Ibadan, Oyo State capital, are apprehensive over the sudden introduction of a ten per cent charge per transaction among Point of Sales (POS) operators in the city.

Report shows that residents of Ibadan have been experiencing scarcity of cash in the last few weeks following the CBN cash swap policy.

Vanguard, however, learnt that POS operators in the ancient city have increased their transaction charges by ten percent.

The increase, had since been attributed to the shortage of cash (both old and new notes) in the last few days, because of the inability of some of the ATMs to dispense and the inability to withdraw money in the banking halls.

Following the situation, POS operators who usually charge N200 for a withdrawal of N10,000 and N100 for N5,000 now charge N1,000 and N500 respectively for the same amounts.

The increase in POS charges is responsible for the growing outrage among residents of the ancient city.

Findings by Vanguard in some areas such Dugbe, Iyaganku, Agodi gate, Sango, Apete, Mokola and Adamasingba, revealed that residents were not comfortable with the development.

A resident, Mr. Deji in an interview, said he paid N1,000 to withdraw N9,000.

He lamented that he and many residents of the ancient city are finding it difficult to bear it.

“It is too bad. I paid N1,000 to withdraw N9,000 at Adamasingba. We are not happy, there is no cash, ATMs are not dispensing cash, POS operators are extorting us.”

Another resident, Mr. Oludare expressed disappointment over the increment of the charges by the POS operators.

He called on the CBN to intervene by mandating banks to fill their ATMs with cash.

“What I want to say is, the CBN should intervene. I have gone to many banks to withdraw but the queues are too much.”

“It is difficult to enter the banking halls and POS operators are now charging ten per cent for any transaction.”

Mrs. Olayinka who also spoke, in her remarks, said the increment of the transaction charges has increased the suffering of the people of the city.

“We don’t know who we offended in this country. We don’t have cash, ATMs are not dispensing, and the banking halls are no-go areas.”

“The introduction of the ten percent per transaction is unfortunate. You cannot withdraw without paying ten per cent. They collect N500 for N5,000 withdrawal which is too much.”

But a POS operator, Kemi Omolola said the need to increase the charges became necessary due to the scarcity of cash.

She said that the POS operators are also using money to collect cash in banks.

“It is not our fault. We are now using money to collect cash in banks. That is why we have to charge ten percent on every transaction.”

Trade by barter returns

As scarcity of old and new naira notes worsened, peasants in some rural communities have returned to barter, which is considered the oldest form of commerce.

Barter is the direct exchange of goods or services with goods .

In a telephone chat with Vanguard, a trader in Orsu, Imo State, Anselm Okeke, said: “It has become a battle for survival. Many people came to market with their goods but there is no money. Those who wanted to buy had no money.

Many traders did not want transfers because of network problem.