~ No new naira notes
~ATMs not dispensing cash
~Residents move from bank to bank in search of money
~Some banks closed earlier
~Banking halls crowded as people make efforts to change their old notes
~Banks staff accused of withholding new notes ,selling them for profits
~POS operators charge more
Friday ,27th January, 2023 is one day that a lot of residents in Lagos State, will not forget in a hurry.
It is not because of any kidnapping or bombing incidents that are peculiar in Nigeria, but due to scarcity of cash occasioned by the current bank notes redesigning policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
A lot of people abandoned their works in search of the new notes ,but ended up disappointed.
“Early in the morning, my wife said we had to spend all the old #200, #500 and #1000 notes remaining in the house ,since people have started rejecting them. I quickly disbursed the cash among the family members in the hope of collecting new notes. But, I have visited over five banks and didn’t succeed in getting the new notes. Now,I don’t have any money to run the house and its weekend. No new notes,no old notes”, cried out a man that came to Fidelity Bank branch, on Old Ojo Road, Maza-Maza in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, in search of the redesigned naira notes.
There were many people facing similar challenge in the Fidelity banking hall that was filled up by customers. While some came to deposit their old notes ,others were at the bank to make transfers. No new notes were available for them. Even their Automated Teller Machines, ATMs were not dispensing cash.
There , a popular Roman Catholic priest was seen. He said he came to change his old notes, and only ended up depositing without receiving the new notes.
Close to the Fidelity Bank branch on Old Ojo Road,Maza-Maza are 2 Access bank, First bank, Union bank and Zenith bank branches which had the same problem.
At the other side of the Expressway which is FESTAC, bank branches equally had no better story to tell their customers.
Infact the situation appeared worse there.
At the Zenith bank branch close to FESTAC First Gate, angry customers accused staff of the bank of hoarding the new notes and selling them to certain classes of persons.
Our reporter was at the bank for over three hours (between 2pm and 5pm) and observed that people waited for hours and left without cash because the ATMs were not paying.
But around 4:30 pm something strange happened. A certain man in kaftan went straight from the bank hall to the ATM and withdrew the new notes.
People thought the bank had loaded money into the ATMs and quickly queued. But the ATM did not work again after the man in kaftan withdrew.
The supposed influential man later told them that he was the one that instructed the bank workers to load the ATM with that particular amount only for himself.
That killed the spirit of the people who had been waiting for hours , as they lamented that the bank was only serving the rich while the poor are neglected. Gradually, they started leaving the Zenith bank branch.
“Why should I wait for these long without withdrawing any money, not even the old one”, yelled one of the stranded bank customers.
Opposite the Zenith bank, is Polaris bank branch that closed at 3pm , with their customers crowded and wailing at their gate.
Outside Amuwo Odofin, it was same tales of woe. People were seen moving from banks to banks without success.
” I arrived UBA Obalende, couldn’t withdraw because ATM not dispensing, so l went upstairs to sort out something only to come back to meet a long queue at the ATM. It started dispensing and i joined the long queue. After 20 minutes, no money again. Chai!”, lamented Gladys Helen.
“Sterling bank at Obalande ATM doesn’t accept any other banks debit card, but there’s are dispensing the new notes”, said Gladys Helen who later went to the nearby Sterling bank ATM to try her luck.
Oluyinka Olaniran, another frustrated Nigerian narrated his ordeal,
“When banks refuse to load ATM with new notes how feasible is the deadline for cessation of old notes in circulation? Many customers wore long faces today at Gtbank and Sterling Bank and no information as to when the ATMs would be loaded”.
On his part, Akintan Obilana lamented
” I withdrew new Naira notes from FirstBank ATM on Monday. I went back for some more on Wednesday, ATM didn’t dispense cash at all. Went back today, ATM didn’t dispense cash again.
Then, I went to Sterling Bank, and it ATM dispensed a mixture of old and new Naira notes. Are we really sure about this January 31 deadline?”
Bank workers have generally been accused of hoarding the new naira notes and using them to transact businesses for quick gains. But they have continued to deny the allegation while blaming the scarcity on insufficient supplies from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
Appearing before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the scarcity of the new notes ,
Hadiza Ambursa, an official of Access Bank, who stood on behalf of the Managing Director of the bank ,said they only got 10 per cent of the money the bank deposited with the CBN.
According to her, “we are not getting the money as quickly as we want them. We only get 10 per cent of the money deposited. We are paying and collecting money. We are also loading our ATM.
Jimoh Garuba, the representative of Sterling Bank, said it receive allocation weekly from CBN but had no sufficient fund to meet its customers’ demand.
He said, “as we speak, our Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is dispensing what we received which fluctuate most time.”
He said his bank received a minimum of N150 million from the CBN weekly to be shared among its branches in Abuja.
He further said in Kaduna, the bank received N150 million weekly which is shared among its branches across the 36 states of federation.
According to him, in Kano, “we received N100 million weekly and we can only dispense through ATM and not through the counter.
“If we are to go through the counter to dispense the money, the allocation will go in less down 10 minutes.”
He said the percentage of money received from the CBN varies on weekly basis, adding that it receive 80 per cent of what it deposited in Abuja and less than 10 per cent in Kano.
He said the reason the new designed note was not in circulation was a result of cashless policy of the CBN.
Arerepade Akagwe, the representatives of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), said the bank had taken 70 per cent of the old money it deposited with the CBN.
She said the bank collects money from CBN everyday and today isn’t an exception, adding that the directive from the CBN was not to issue the old notes from the counter.
Other banks in attendance such as Guarantee Trust Bank, GTB, ECO bank, Lotus Bank and Fidelity agreed that they have collected 60 per cent of the old naira money deposited.
Lotus Bank for instance said in the last few weeks what it was receiving was insufficient, adding that it received an average of N40 million weekly and that was not sufficient because the customers are many.
Some of the lawmakers, however, queried the workability of the cashless policy, raising concerns about their constituents living in remote control.
The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, said the bank operators’ appearance before the committee was not a witch hunt exercise but a fact finding on issues affecting the people.
“We need to know the actual facts regarding claims by commercial bank that CBN has not released new notes and the counter claim by the CBN that it has released same.
He berated the apex bank for giving deadline on the old notes, saying it is worrisome that a time the country wanted to hold election that it would consider changing the country’s legal tender.
He said the CBN should have contacted the parliament when it wanted to embark on such nature of changing the legal tender, because the leadership of the house is not happy about it.
According to him, changing of legal tender is not peculiar to Nigeria, it happens world over. But when the CBN wants to bring something sinister, we will blow the whistle.
“We are in a democratic government and no one can be greater than the institution of democracy.”
The Reps had also summoned the CBN and directed it to extend the deadline for phaseout of the old #200,#500 and #1000 notes till they are sufficiently available. But the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele refused ,insisting the January 31st January, 2023 remained sacrosanct.
Barely 4 days to the deadline, most of the people are without the new notes. They only have a few amounts of the old notes which they withdrew at POS that is now the only reliable source of money since banks ATMs stopped working.
According to our findings, people withdrew the little they could quickly spend before the deadline catch up with them.
Visits to Monkey Village, Mazamaza and neighbouring Kirikiri saw however that even accessing cash from POS was problematic following poor internet access.
Because of that ,people had to keep waiting at POS stands until internet returned to enable them complete their transactions.
People waiting for internet to return to enable them withdraw cash at POS stands
It was also observed that some POS attendants were taking advantage of the scarcity of cash to exploit their customers by increasing their commissions. For instance, some of them were charging #200 commission for #5000 withdrawal as against #100.
However, most of the POS attendants in the areas visited were charging the old commissions , but none had new notes to give.
Meanwhile, later Friday evening it was discovered that some people had started rejecting the old #200,#500 and #1000 notes.
Narrating her ordeal, a particular House wife told Buzzministry that “, I went to grind corn to prepare palp for my children, but the operator of the machine refused to attend to me because I had no new notes to pay her.
“She said I must give her five #100 notes since her charge was #500. I pleaded with her to accept since the deadline was still 31st being Tuesday but she refused, saying they could be long queues at the banks on Monday that could make her not to return the old notes to her banks.
“She even said the attendant at filling station declined to collect the old notes from them when they went to buy fuel earlier. We are really suffering.
“She only accepted to grind for me on credit in the agreement that I pay her with new note on Monday”, she said.
Buzzministry reliably saw that a lot of people were buying on credit to pay bank from Monday when they hoped to get the new notes ,buy others were paying via mobile transfer.
By Innocent Onoh (08034158834)