The Nation Newspaper
Many banks ran out of old and new naira notes yesterday, dashing Nigerians’ hopes that the cash scarcity will ease soon.
When the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced on Monday that the old N1000, N500 and N200 banknotes would remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023, in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment, many heaved a sigh of relief.
But many bank branches remained shut across the country; those that had cash rationed it.
It was learnt that the CBN was yet to supply the old notes to the banks.
In many branches, crowds gathered in banking halls and at the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
In Jos, the Plateau State capital, customers were told there was no money.
An official, who pleaded not to be named, told our correspondent that the branch had no money to dispense.
He said: “The truth is there is no cash. The banks are interested in doing business, but CBN is yet to release cash to us.
“I have sympathy with our customers who are left stranded, but the truth is, there is nothing we can do about it. We don’t have the cash.”
In Imo, none of the ATMs our correspondent visited dispensed cash.
Some residents got to the bank before 6 am only to be told there was no money.
“We were told to return tomorrow (today) after they paid a few customers the old naira notes,” a resident, simply identified as Meshack, said.
In Lagos, banks set up canopies so customers could sit and wait.
In many of the branches in Ibeju-Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi, many customers queued for hours to withdraw cash.
Mrs. Nkiru Onyema said she spent over three hours before she was paid N20,000 across the counter.
Another customer, Stephen Abiodun, said he came early, but was yet to be attended to an hour later.
The limit policy meant that each customer could not withdraw more than N20,000 daily.
Many banks within the Ajah axis of Lagos had no cash. Their ATMs were not working.
In many of the branches visited, only few ATMs were operational.
It was a similar tale across the country.
Customers were crowded in most banks in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Branches that had cash paid only N20,000 to each customer.
Banks are also not getting regular deposits, even of old notes.
A worker said customers would rather sell the new notes than deposit them.
In Anambra, few ATMs dispensed old notes, with frustrated residents struggling to get cash.
A university don, Prof. Dennis Aribodo, said: “The pain and hardship Nigerians go through to access their money is too much!
“Is it the man-hour lost, the insults, the crowd, the psychological trauma?
“The government is meant to make things easy for the people but this is not the case with the outgoing government.”
Residents of Benin and its environs in Edo State lamented the rationing of cash by banks.
Many ATMs were not loaded with either old or new naira notes, but banks were accepting old note deposits.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, some customers were shut out of the banking halls due to a lack of space.
Some were fortunate to be paid N20,000.
An official at Access Bank in Bodija said: “The maximum a customer can withdraw is N20,000 so that the available cash can reach everyone.”
The cash scarcity also persisted in Ogun State, with the few that had money paying only N10,000.
Many ATMs did not dispense cash, but at the popular Kuto market, Abeokuta, traders and transporters were happy that the notes had returned as legal tenders.
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, banks paid only N20,000 to each customer. None of the ATMs visited by our correspondent was dispensing cash.
Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) President, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, said it would be difficult for the CBN to attend to banks’ cash requests at once.
The former Registrar of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) said: “Many banks requested cash immediately after the CBN announced that the old naira notes remained legal tender.
“I believe it will be on a first come first served basis. Not all the banks will have their cash needs met at once,” he said.
According to him, it could take some time before the cash will reach all the banks’ branches and tackle the current cash scarcity.
An industry source said: “Only branches with leftover cash are paying customers.
“Those expecting cash from the headquarters are not paying customers until they get cash supply.”
Old notes rejected
Some traders in various markets in the satellite towns of the FCT were sceptical about collecting the old notes.
Some at Karu, Nyanya, and Mararaba Markets said they would not accept the notes until further notice.
Mrs Beatrice Ibe, a tomatoes dealer at Nyanya Market, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN): “I am scared of collecting the old notes because it will be rejected by the people I buy my goods from.”
A trader at the Mararaba Market, Mr Alphonsus Iguru, said he had old notes but was unable to spend them.
Another trader at Nyanya Market, Mrs Philomena Joseph, said she was hearing about the directive for the first time.
In Enugu, businesses were still reluctant to accept the old notes.
Customers refused to queue at ATM galleries where the old notes were being dispensed.
While a few petrol stations accepted the old notes, many traders and motorists reject them.
A Point of Sale operator, Pauline Ngene, told our correspondent that the old notes she collected from the bank were rejected by her customers.
In Ebonyi, the state government warned residents and businesses against rejecting the old notes.
Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development, Orlando Nweze, said in a statement: “Take notice that the CBN has announced that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 remain acceptable legal tenders till 31 December 2023”
“Any person or institution, banks inclusive, found refusing to comply with this directive should be reported.”
There was a mild drama in Minna, the Niger State capital when a resident’s car was seized at Mobil Filling because he wanted to pay with old naira notes.
Efosa Osayande said he was paid N10,000 old notes at a bank.
“After buying the fuel, I tried to pay with the money but they rejected it.
“They stopped me from leaving, saying I would not go until I paid them,” he said.
Osayande was delayed for two hours until the station manager intervened and asked the attendants to accept the old notes.
Banks in Minna, Bida and Kontagora paid the old notes, but most rejected them when sought to be deposited.
None of the ATMs across Minna metropolis dispensed cash, while only N10,000 was paid over the counter by the few branches that had cash.
A Jos resident, Mazi Uchendu, could not deposit his old notes at a First Bank branch.
He said: “I went to deposit cash and they told me to generate some code. I got angry and left.”