Banks Run Out Of New Naira, Demand Soars
…Cashiers ration new notes, lenders allot N100,000 per teller in banks
…Suspicious customers snub new notes as local traders reject new currency
Mixed reactions greeted the disbursement of the new naira notes that officially went into circulation on Thursday with many bank customers demanding for the new notes while a few others snubbed the latest bills in banking halls across major Nigerian cities.
The newly redesigned N1,000, N500 and N200 bills finally became a legal tender on December 15, 2022, over three weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled them at the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had on October 26 announced plans to redesign the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes, while also declaring that the old denominations would cease to be a legal tender by January 31, 2022.
Emefiele stressed that the redesigning of the local currency became necessary to tackle inflationary problems, currency counterfeiting, insecurity and other issues plaguing Nigeria.
He further noted that the currency redesign was aimed at controlling currency-in-circulation as well as ransom payments to kidnappers and terrorists.
A visit to banking halls in several cities across the country, especially in Lagos and Abuja on Thursday, it was observed that several bank branches had run out of the small quantities of the new notes allocated to them from their head offices as early as 12 noon.
Further findings revealed that several bank branches were yet to get their new note allocations with many bank officials informing our correspondents that the new notes were still being expected.
READ ALSO: Naira Redesign: CBN Issues New Cash Withdrawal Policy
In bank branches visited in Lagos, a number of the bank branches had run out of their new note allocations when The PUNCH visited the places. However, officials at some of the centres which still had the new notes told The PUNCH their allocations were very small.
An official of Access Bank Plc at the Ojodu branch in Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said, “Each cashier was given N100,000 of the new N1,000 bill for onward disbursements to customers seeking over-the-counter payments. We don’t have the other denominations of N500 and N200 yet. We don’t have enough supply of the new notes for now.”
Also, it was observed that the ATMs at the bank branch were dispensing only old naira notes.
Customers were also seen depositing the old bills over the counter, while cashiers were paying out more of the old naira notes at the centre.
However, in a few instances, the cashiers were seen mixing a few new naira notes with the old bills in their OTC payments.
Meanwhile, in some of the banking halls visited by The PUNCH, some customers snubbed the new notes due to reports that some local traders were rejecting them as legal tender.
READ ALSO: ICAN Identifies Five Challenges Of CBN Naira Redesign
As such, some of the bank customers refused to collect the new notes for over-the-counter payments.
Confirming the situation, a bank teller in Ogba, Lagos told one of our correspondents that, “Some customers have been rejecting the new naira notes whenever we give them; they said the new notes would not be collected from them in the market; they prefer the old notes.”
At the bank, a cashier told a customer demanding the new notes she had exhausted her allocation.
However, when the customer insisted on having his payment in the new notes, the cashier approached his colleague to demand for some.
“You are eager to get the new notes but many of the customers I attended to today refused to take it from me,” the cashier said.
In the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, only one of the 10 bank branches visited paid their customers using the new notes. Also, only one of the ATM centre dispensed the new naira notes among the several ATM galleries visited by one of our reporters in the FCT.
The PUNCH visited the Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Taj Bank and Access Bank Plc situated at Jabi Garage and the Central Business District.
None of the tellers in the bank branches was seen paying their customers in the new notes via the counters.
However, only the Access Bank ATM in the area was seen dispensing new N1,000 and N500 notes.
The PUNCH observed that the ATM dispensed N1,000 in every N10,000 withdrawal.
At GTBank, Jabi branch, our correspondent observed that the ATM dispensed old N1,000 notes to customers.
At the counter of the same bank, a bank official who declined to give her name told The PUNCH that the new notes were not available.
She said, “No, you can’t make cash withdrawals of the new notes. The best we can do for you is to mix the amount you are withdrawing with old notes.”
When The PUNCH approached another official of the bank, she said OTC withdrawals were still being honoured in the old notes.
At the Zenith Bank, Jabi branch, an official asked our correspondent to come back on Friday or Monday for the new notes.
According to him, the new notes have yet to be distributed to the branch, adding they are hopeful it will get to the branch soon.
A customer was overheard complaining of not being able to get the new notes despite withdrawing a huge sum of money at the branch.
A similar scenario was witnessed at the First Bank and Taj Bank branches as officials said the new notes were not available when our correspondent visited the centres.
At Taj Bank, an official who refused to give his name, claimed the lender was disbursing the new notes to customers over the counter but not at its ATM stand.
However, as of 3:45pm when our correspondent visited the branch, only old notes were being given to their customers.
Lagos banking halls
Also, during a visit to some banks in the Ikotun-Egbe and Isolo areas of Lagos, it was observed that the ATMs were dispensing old notes.
A customer at First Bank ATM in Ikotun-Egbe said, “The ATMs are still not dispensing the new currency here, what we still collect is the old ones.”
A Point of Sale terminal operator in Igando area, who simply identified himself as Chibuike, said he could not get the new notes when he visited his bank earlier in the day.
READ ALSO: New Naira: Old Notes Expire Jan 31, No Extended Deadline – Emefiele
Also, when The PUNCH visited the First Bank branch at Yaba, Lagos, the ATMs were still dispending the old notes.
It was also observed that OTC payments were being made using the old notes.
A bank customer Mr James Oni, told our correspondent he was anticipating to see the new notes, adding that he could not get it in the banking hall.
Also, when FCMB branch on Matthew Street, Yaba, was visited, only the old notes were being dispensed from the ATMs while OTC payments were also done using the old currency.
Meanwhile, it was observed that several bank customers in Lagos and Ogun states could not access the new notes in their bank branches as of Thursday. However, others who were lucky got the new bills. Some customers expressed hope they would be able to see the new currencies in the coming days.
NLC Protests: CBN To Flood Banks With Old Naira Notes
The Central Bank of Nigeria has finally concluded plans to release all N1,000, N500 and N200 notes in its custody to Deposit Money Banks.
This decision is expected to end months of hardships and pains Nigerians have been going through following a controversial CBN naira redesign policy that has caused a severe shortage of old and new naira notes across the country.
The CBN’s latest decision came several weeks after the Supreme Court ordered that old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes should remain legal tender until December 31, 2023.
On Wednesday night, top officials of the CBN and commercial banks confirmed to The PUNCH that the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had directed DMBs to begin the disbursement of old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes to members of the public effective Thursday (today).
According to him, the CBN will also start releasing old notes to commercial banks from Thursday.
READ ALSO: NLC Gives FG 7-day-ultimatum Over Naira Scarcity
According to The PUNCH, Emefiele met with the chief executive officers of DMBs on Wednesday evening where he told them that the central bank would start releasing all old notes in its custody to commercial banks effective Thursday (today).
Sources at the meeting said the CBN would also be cancelling all the controversial cash withdrawal limits it put in place in recent months.
Also, it was learnt the CBN would start by releasing crisp old notes to DMBS after which the ones deposited by commercial banks will also be released.
Furthermore, the CBN stated at the meeting that bank customers would no longer be required to generate any code before depositing their old notes.
One of the bank CEOs at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The CBN governor met with bank CEOs this evening virtually. It was a short meeting that lasted for just about 15 minutes. The governor said all old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes will be released to commercial banks beginning from Thursday. The CBN will start with crisp old notes after which the ones deposited by DMBs will be returned. The plan is to flood the economy with cash and ameliorate the challenges Nigerians have been passing through.“
Top bank chief
The top bank chief added, “Also, the CBN will be cancelling cash withdrawal limits it put in place recently. This means that individuals can now withdraw up to N500,000 across the counter while corporate bodies can do N5m. The CBN is expected to release a circular to this effect later tonight or tomorrow morning (today). But effectively, things should be back to normal as far the cashless policy is concerned.”
Further findings by The PUNCH confirmed the CBN would begin to release the old notes into circulation by Thursday. It was also gathered that banks would begin to pay their customers the old notes immediately to ensure the cash circulate across the country.
According to reliable sources in the CBN, banks have been also been directed to report to the old offices to collect the old naira notes they deposited with the apex bank.
They noted that before the end of the week, the country would be awash with naira notes.
Meanwhile, a top source close to the CBN said the apex bank took the decision to avert the planned picketing of the CBN offices nationwide by supporters and leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress.
READ ALSO: Ramadan: CBN Told To Release More New Naira Notes
Earlier, The PUCH had gathered that the NLC would on Wednesday picket the CBN headquarters and state offices in protest against the lingering naira crisis and fuel scarcity in the country.
The NLC President, Joe Ajaero, who disclosed this at a press conference on Wednesday, lamented that people’s hardships over the naira crisis had worsened.
The union had penultimate Monday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to address the scarcity of naira notes and fuel which had compounded the hardships being faced by Nigerians.
Though the CBN said then that it had complied with the Supreme Court judgment which directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes should remain legal tender till December 31, banks have continued to ration the amount of cash issued to customers, indicating that they have not received cash supplies from the apex bank.
The three states of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara which sued the Federal Government over the naira redesign policy had threatened to file contempt charges against the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN and the CBN governor, Emefiele for not fully complying with the Supreme Court judgment.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, Ajaero said the planned picketing of CBN offices became imperative following the apex bank’s failure to comply with the one-week ultimatum given to it to make cash available for Nigerians.
Ajaero explained that the union took the decision when it noticed that the situation appeared to be getting worse despite the Supreme Court order allowing the old N500 and N1000 notes to circulate with the new notes till December 31.
He directed all NLC’s affiliate unions and their state councils to begin mobilisation on Friday for the nationwide mass action, saying the Federal Government and the CBN have not shown any commitment to address the situation.
Giving an update about the ultimatum at the briefing which was held at Labour House, Ajaero said workers could no longer access cash to pay fares to their respective workplaces or buy food for their families.
He said, “Last week at the end of our CWC (Central Working Committee) meeting, we gave a one-week ultimatum for the Federal Government to address immediately, among other issues, the issue of cash crunch that was caused by the policy. As of this morning when the CWC met again to review the situation, we discovered that not much improvement has been made.
READ ALSO: Supreme Court Nullifies FG’s Cashless Policy, Naira Redesign
“The situation is still almost the same. People are still buying our currency with our currencies. People no longer have access to the currency and the government seems to be very adamant about this. No moves have been made to reduce the suffering of Nigerians.
“Consequently, the CWC-in-session resolved to go into the process of actualising the one-week notice. From Friday, there will be a mobilisation of all state councils through a NEC meeting. All unions have already been directed to mobilise all their organs and their branches.
“By Wednesday, next week, all Central Bank of Nigeria offices nationwide will be picketed. All central banks from the CBN headquarters will be shut till further notice. Workers are directed to stay at home and join in the picketing exercise.
“We call on Nigerians to understand the circumstances we are operating in. People will be telling you about the political situation. The political situation is self-inflicted and the economic situation is worse than the political situation because people cannot eat.”
The labour leader described the proposed demonstration as “total”, saying the workers have been pushed to the wall.
He added, “Workers can no longer go to the office and nothing is happening. So, we have been pushed to the wall having given one week (ultimatum) and we thought they could address the situation which is not addressed.
“We have decided to take our destiny into our hands. So, comrades, the mobilisation commences immediately and when we talk of action from Wednesday, it’s total; until further notice.’’
The labour leader explained that the lingering fuel scarcity and cash crunch were important issues for the NLC as they affected every Nigerian.
The Secretary-General of the National Union of Aviation Transport Employees, Ocheme Abah disclosed that the unions would comply with the NLC’s directive on the picketing action.
Responding to inquiries from The PUNCH, he said,” Yes, of course, we will comply as NLC directed. Yes, all the unions in all airports.
Meanwhile, the Acting Director of Corporate Communications at CBN, Mr Isa Abdulmumin, said he could not immediately comment on whether the CBN would be releasing the old notes to commercial banks.
He said the apex bank would communicate its position on the matter on Thursday.
Naira Appreciates At Investors, Exporters Window
The Naira on Wednesday appreciated against the dollar at the Investors’ and Exporters’ window, exchanging at N461.50.
The rate represented an increase of 0.11 per cent, compared to the N462 for which it exchanged to the dollar on Tuesday.
The open indicative rate closed at N461.59 to the dollar on Wednesday.
READ ALSO: Old Naira Notes Being Used For Vote Buying In Kaduna – Shehu Sani
An exchange rate of N544.50 to the dollar was the highest rate recorded within the day’s trading before it settled at N461.50.
The Naira sold for as low as N460 to the dollar within the day’s trading.
A total of US$ 431.77 million was traded at the official Investors’ and Exporters’ window.
JUST IN: CBN Raises Interest Rate To 18%
The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria has voted to increase the benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 18. per cent, The PUNCH reports.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this while reading the communiqué of the second MPC meeting of the year on Tuesday.
Addressing journalists at the end of the two-day meeting in Abuja, Mr Emefiele, said the committee voted to keep the asymmetric corridor at +100 and -500 basis points around the MPR.
Analysts in the country had predicted the Central Bank of Nigeria and the MPC may not raise the lending rates at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee.
However, the governor stated the slight increase is to mitigate the effect of inflation and other economic issues.
The MPR has been on the rise since April 2022, when it was 11.50 per cent.
READ ALSO: CBN Bans Banks From Operating PoS, Approves 17 Companies as Mobile Money, Operators In Nigeria
The rate impacts lending and inflation rates, and, when jacked up, consequently affects upward movement of prices of goods and services.
He said, The MPC committee voted to raise the MPR by 50 basis point to 18 per cent, retain asymmetric corridor at +100 and -500 basis points around the MPR.”
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