BY OGIE EBOIGBE
Less than a month for the old Naira notes to cease to be legal tender, banks are still paying customers in the old notes.
Also, Why are ATMs still dispensing old notes? I have never received any of the new N200, N500 and N1000 notes from the ATM. And I do use the machines regularly. So where are the notes? A couple of people have shown me some notes but I have never touched any. I only receive cash from ATMs and none has dispensed the new notes to me.
There was something about ATMs being programmed to dispense only N200 notes. But I have only been given N500 and N1000 notes.
The only places I have seen the new notes in large quantities are party venues and wedding receptions where those ‘urchin’ if I may call them that, sell you notes to spray the celebrants. Don’t wonder where they get them while you, a regular bank customer cannot get any.
And I don’t think I am alone. Many people are still ignorant of what the redesigned notes look like. There was a video circulated online where a couple of ladies almost lynched a gentleman who paid for service with a new note. The ladies insisted it was fake currency and went on to practically drag the man all over and tore his clothes. They even refused the explanation of passersby who tried to confirm to them that the notes were genuine. Whether the video was of a real situation or a skit does not matter; it was a real attempt to show that the new notes have not circulated widely enough in the communities among the citizens.
Yet we have less than one month to wipe out the old notes!
Or is the deadline no longer at the end of this month? How can we achieve this? Or has the CBN announced a new date? I did not see any news about that.
Recall that on Thursday 15th December, 2022, the newly designed Naira notes were said to have gone into circulation as promised by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
Several banks were reported to have started paying the new notes across the counter and were reconfiguring their ATMs to dispense the same. The CBN was said to have started distributing the new notes to banks early that week for onward circulation to their branches.
Mr. Emefiele, had in October announced that the re-designed N1000, N500 and N200 notes will be released in December. Old notes would cease to be legal tender from 31st January, 2023. The redesigning of the naira notes is expected to help curb counterfeiting and reduce ransom payments to terrorists and kidnappers. The redesigning of the local currency would also help to mop up the currency outside the banking sector, whose figure is put at N2.75trn, out of about N3.3trn in circulation.
Many analysts have earlier said that the style adopted for the change was not likely to succeed because of the time allotted to the change. They are even asking the same questions I am asking now as to how feasible it will be to mop up the billions of Naira outside the banking system and replace them with the new notes required by citizens in the short time.
It is not as if all the returned money are to be turned to new notes but there ought to be action and a programme process, including payments from the ATMs.
The Bank of England recently also announced and unveiled new Pound Sterling notes and their procedure to phase out the new notes is planned to take a much longer time.
Unlike the Nigeria process, the new British notes featuring the image of King Charles III will not come into use until mid-2024 and even at that time, the notes featuring Queen Elizabeth II and the King will be in circulation at the same time. The new banknotes will only be printed to replace those that are worn and to meet any overall increase in demand for banknotes. This means that current polymer banknotes featuring the portrait of late Queen Elizabeth II will continue to be legal tender and will only be removed from circulation once they become worn or damaged. They will co-circulate with those featuring King Charles III.
If we follow the Bank of England process and replace Naira that are worn or damaged, billions or even trillions of Naira would have been removed by now, judging by the quality of Naira many Nigerians have been dumping in the banks since the policy was announced. A lot of the money has practically become useless, having been hoarded for a long time in underground chambers, sewage tanks and such dark places.
There are over 4.7 billion Bank of England notes in circulation and they are together worth about £82 Billion. De La Rue is the company that currently prints the pound notes, and its counterpart in Nigeria is the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting PLC.
Has the NSPMC printed enough Naira notes to replace the old ones? Where are they? Are we still expected to have phased out the old notes by the end of January or is it just a political gimmick to ensure that politicians who had stored the old Naira notes don’t have unfair advantage over their opponents? Several questions are begging for answers.
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.