Apprehension, skepticism, disappointment, as banks continue issuance of old Naira notes

0
95
  • January 31 deadline uncertain

As the January 31, 2023 deadline for the expiration of old Naira notes in Nigeria draws close, bank customers have continued to express anxiety over their inability to get the new notes from their banks. BAMIDELE FAMOOFO, TIMOTHY AGBOR AND FESTUS OKOROMADU report.

Uba Group

Investigations carried out by The Point revealed that almost one month after the introduction of the new currency by the Central Bank of Nigeria, many Nigerians are unable to access the note as banks continue to issue old notes. A good number of banks visited in the nation’s capital were seen disbursing the old notes at their Automatic Teller Machines and across the counter.
The CBN had last October announced the introduction of newly designed Naira notes.

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, at a news briefing in Abuja said the redesigned notes will come into circulation December 15, 2022, while the old notes remain valid until January 31, 2023.

However, two weeks to the close of the deadline, commercial banks have failed to make available the new notes even as customers continue to demand for them in fear of being stocked with the old notes when it expires.

In the Federal Capital Territory, it was observed that only banks in urban areas such as the Central Business District, Garki, Maitama have their ATM dispensing the new notes, but banks in the suburbs are still issuing the old notes to their customers.

A Zenith bank customer in Dutsa, Musa Daudu, who spoke with our reporter, said he went into the banking hall on Friday to withdraw a sum of N200, 000 with the expectation of being paid with the new notes but was disappointed.

His words: “The cashier told me they don’t have the redesigned naira notes yet. I was told that the CBN has not supplied enough to circulate round. I am worried that up till now the banks are refusing to pay customers with the new notes even though we already see some highly placed personalities spending it. “The question is where these people are getting it from. If banks in Abuja are unable to dispense the new notes now how would the expiring date of January 31, 2023 stand,” he queried.

Similarly, the ATMs of both the First Bank and Zenith Bank in Jabi motor park area of the FCT were still dispensing old notes as at Friday afternoon.

One of the bank’s staff who spoke to our reporter said they were waiting for supply of the new notes from their area headquarters.

“The old notes still remain a legal tender until the end of the month, so why the worries or hurry to get the new ones? The truth is that we are waiting for supply and instruction from our zonal headquarters on what to do. For now we don’t have the new notes in stock,” he said.

In Kuja, a trader, Innocent Azubike, said he was yet to have a feel of the new note.

“I have only seen the picture of the newly designed naira, but I have yet to touch it even though it is a few weeks to the deadline issued by the CBN.

“We are waiting to see what will happen. What I do now is to quickly deposit whatever cash that comes my way from sales so as not to be caught unawares. You can see I have a point of sale (PoS) machine, I prefer to transfer (online) transactions now since we can’t get the new notes from the banks around here,” he stated.

He however, expressed concerns as to the full implementation of the policy. While stressing that it is a good thing to redesign the naira, he said he does not understand why banks are refusing to dispense it to the public.

But Chukwuemeka Eze, a staff of a company located at the NNPC Towers in the Central Business District, told our reporter that all the banks operating within the complex were issuing the new notes.

“You know almost all the banks have branches in the complex, and as on Friday all of them are paying with the new notes, same as the ATMs. However, unlike what we initially heard the CBN say, which is that ATMs will have to dispense the N200 notes, what we are seeing is that they are all paying with the N1000 notes. As a matter of fact, I still have not seen or handled the N200 notes for now, it seems to be scarce. The N1000 and N500 notes are currently dominating circulation,” he said.

The story of circulation of the new naira notes in Ogun State is nothing different from the case at the FCT. Isaac Adebisi, a POS operator in Mowe area of Ogun State revealed that as on Friday when he visited the only branch of First Bank at his location to collect cash needed for his business, he was paid with the old notes.

He also disclosed that the ATM points of the bank were dispensing the old notes as on Friday.

“CBN"

“I would not know if the new notes they are talking about are only available to bank customers in Lagos alone but here in Mowe, what we still have in circulation is the old naira notes,” he hinted.

“The question is where these people are getting it from. If banks in Abuja are unable to dispense the new notes now how would the expiring date of January 31, 2023 stand?”

Another respondent, Ayodele Obafemi, disclosed that the transaction a friend of his made at a POS point on Friday in Ogun State was done with the old naira notes.

Speaking further, he said: “I think the reason why the banks are not making the new notes available as much as we desire is to make it difficult for the politicians to hoard. The CBN is aware that once it awash the banks with the new notes, the politicians will come for it and so the banks must wait till January 31 when the old notes will cease to be a legal tender before it is fully made available.”

A Branch Manager of a Microfinance Bank located in Ketu, Lagos State who does not want his names in print, told our reporter that the CBN was yet to provide enough of the new notes to the banks for disbursement to their customers.

“The situation at hand is that when a customer makes a request for about N200, 000, we can only disburse about N20, 000 because we don’t have enough new notes in stock for disbursement,” he added.
Bidemi Akinbola who spoke to our correspondent in Lagos from Ife, Osun State said he had only seen a single new note of N500 since the CBN announced the disbursement of the new notes to banks before December 15, 2022.

“My approach to this matter is to be cautious about keeping the old notes bearing in mind that it will no longer be tenable beginning from February 1, 2023 and I think that is the way every other Nigerian should be thinking for now,” he said.

Also, bank customers in Osun State are yet to start withdrawing the new notes.

Checks by The Point across some Automated Teller Machines in Osogbo revealed that customers still get the old notes, contrary to assurance by the Central Bank of Nigeria that the new notes were already in circulation.

Sola Adedigba, a resident of Osogbo told our correspondent that he visited a branch of Access Bank on Friday morning but the ATM dispensed old notes.

“I visited Access Bank on Thursday at the Post Office Area of Osogbo, I withdrew old notes. This morning again, (Friday), when I visited the bank, the ATM dispensed old notes. I don’t think the new notes are in circulation yet,” he said.

Findings further revealed that most operators of Points of Sales in Osogbo are also transacting with the old notes as at Friday.

“We are yet to start getting the new notes from banks. I used the ATM today at Polaris Bank, only old notes came out. That’s why we are giving the old notes to customers. An official of the bank told me that the new notes were scantily given to them,” a POS operator who simply identified herself as Bukola said.

Another resident of Osogbo, Ben Inebui, who visited a POS operator, said he was given the old notes.

Meanwhile, a resident of Ibadan, Oyo State, Ololade Fasoranti, told The Point that she and her brother withdrew new notes at a branch of Access Bank in the capital city on Wednesday.

She, however, added that when he visited Zenith and Access Banks to deposit the old notes, none of those who visited the banks to withdraw got new notes.

“My brother withdrew the new note from Access Bank on Wednesday. And me, I have the new notes myself, N200, N500 and N1000. I have also seen a couple of people in Ibadan and Lagos spend the new notes. The withdrawal was in Ibadan.

“But, yesterday (Thursday), I was in the bank to deposit the old N1000 notes and for all who came to withdraw; none was given the new notes both in Zenith and Access Banks.
“Also, I don’t think the January 31 deadline will fly,” she stated
Meanwhile, the CBN last week embarked on a sensitization campaign to major markets in Abuja and Lagos.

Addressing traders at Wuse modern market, CBN Abuja Branch Controller, Michael Ogbu said they were at the market to educate the traders on the need to embrace policy initiative.

He urged the traders to accept the new notes, stressing that the redesigning of higher denomination banknotes will have many benefits on the Nigerian economy. He stated that acceptance of the new notes will ensure effective formulation and implementation of monetary policies, as well as enable it to have more accurate data on money supply and monetary aggregates besides helping to control inflation, thereby making monetary policy more effective.

The CBN had lamented that hoarding the currency notes outside of the banking sector was a major contributor to Nigeria’s surging inflation rate.

“The currency redesign would assist in the fight against corruption as the exercise would rein in the higher denomination used for corruption, and the movement of such funds from the banking system could be tracked easily.”

Manager in the currency operations department of the bank, Awa Ndayako told the market population that the new currency notes have better features including enhanced security, greater durability and attractiveness than the old ones.

“We are yet to start getting the new notes from banks. I used the ATM today at Polaris Bank, only old notes came out. That’s why we are giving the old notes to customers. An official of the bank told me that the new notes were scantily given to them”

“Accept it, Use and Respect it as our national symbol,” Ogbu said, adding that “there is no limit to how much a customer can deposit between now and January 31, 2023, as the CBN has suspended bank charges.”

The branch comptroller who was represented by Kareem Williams encouraged the public to explore other payment channels, such as eNaira, POS, electronic transfer, USSD, internet banking, and mobile money operators and agents, for their economic activities.

CBN advised members of the public to ensure that they deposit cash holdings in the redesigned denominations at their commercial banks before January 31, 2023 when the old banknotes will no longer be acceptable as legal tender.

CBN told the audience to quickly take their old currency notes to the nearest commercial banks and agent banks to them.

Ndayako explained some of the features of the new notes, telling them to ignore the fake stories that are being peddled over the new banknotes. She urged them to explore other electronic transfer channels to conduct financial transactions.

CBN encouraged Nigerians to be at liberty to approach their banks at any time with their complaints for resolution and/or clarifications. In the instance that their banks are not able or willing to address the issues, the bank customers were asked to contact the consumer protection department of the CBN through a designated mail address for solution.

Unfortunately, while the CBN was busy embarking on sensitization for the citizens to accept the new notes and the rationale behind the policy, banks appear to be sabotaging their efforts, leaving the Nigerians in confusion as to its commitment to its full implementation.

The Branch Controller, CBN, Lagos State, Koyor Baribokola, gave the assurance when the apex bank took its sensitisation tour on the new naira notes to Balogun Market, Lagos, on Tuesday that the new redesigned notes will be made available in due course.

“We are making them available to you and you will have them if you haven’t had them before. Please have the assurance that you are going to have them. We pushed out a lot last week and now we are continuing with it, part of the meeting was what delayed my coming out here. We set a date for the deadline for the complete change over that is January 31, and for now, that stands. We have not extended or changed the time,” he said.

He encouraged stakeholders to be the apex bank’s mouthpiece by spreading the message, and to protect and keep the new notes safe.
“Please have the assurance that the new naira notes were redesigned in the interest of all Nigerians including you so that you have them and you enjoy spending them and keep them safe, and as much as possible, try and also do electronic transactions. We encourage people to use our e-channels to do transfers, to spend, to buy and to do all that you need to do to share with your friends and your families,” he stressed.