March 12, 2023

NAIRA: Nigerians lament scarcity as banks issue old notes to hesitant customers 

scarcity of currency

Stories by Tunde Oso

Over a week after the Supreme Court ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to allow the old N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes to remain legal tender until December 31, Nigerians are still unable to obtain cash: old and new Naira bank notes. 

The CBN had issued a deadline of February 10 for the old denominations.

On Friday, Supreme Court legalised using certain denominations of old Naira notes as legal tender until December 31.

A visit to some banks in Ota, Ogun State, Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt revealed that neither the old nor the new banknotes were available, not even the N20, N50 and N100 notes that were not redesigned.

A bank official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the bank had not started paying out the old notes because there is no directive from CBN and the apex bank has not disbursed the notes.

A bank customer in Ota, Ogun State, Mr. Ciro Ojukwu said the new naira note is scarce and limited in circulation. 

He lamented: “A large number of people are  unable to get access to their money, because most of the automated teller machines (ATMs) are not loaded and little or no cash is dispensed over the counter in the banking halls. This is so frustrating! 

Another customer, Idris Hassan in Lagos complained: “When one eventually finds any ATM dispensing the new or old Naira note, only N5,000 per debit card, even regardless of this inadequacies constant charges hit one’s accounts.

Another customer, Wahab Leke, when interviewed talked about his business that have been shutdown because he can’t buy anything from the market or do any transactions, said; “People are now sleeping in front of banks. People are dying in the hospital and market people crying over the unending naira scarcity.

Adding fuel to the fire is that Point of Sale (PoS) transactions, charges have jumped to amounts that have made most people unable to withdraw money through this means again.

Ms. Uche Hillary, a PoS attendant noted that it is difficult to get cash from the bank and when you eventually get any amount, one must have bought the cash at exorbitant rate from the manager. 

She said, “This is the reason for the hike in price because  how will you buy cash and then collect charges from customers at the normal price. Another way we get cash instead of using banks is if  an individual brings cash  and sell to us. An example is if they bring N10,000 they could sell at N2,000 charge. 

 Another PoS operator agonised: “Currently, there is no cash anywhere and the only way we can do  business is to transfer to peoples account or do other cashless transactions using the PoS. Some of my (PoS) business colleagues have stopped working because they can’t afford to be buying cash at these outrageous amounts again. I personally have stopped buying cash,  I can only make transfers for customers,” she said.