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New Naira: Consumers relate experiences as banks struggle with increasing demands for redesigned notes

New N200, N500 and N1,000 Banknotes

*Banks mix cash withdrawals with existing  notes on Over the Counter, ATM centres, as stakeholders and consumers suggest the need for more extensive  sensitisation for public acceptance of new banknotes as a legal tender in the West African country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As commercial banks started releasing the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes into circulation Thursday, December 15, 2022, customers’ demand for the fresh notes has surpassed available quantities across several banks in Nigeria.

ConsumerConnect had reported the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), on line with the monetary policy directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) commenced issuance of the new banknotes to customers Thursday.

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN 

However, there are mixed reactions to the disbursement of the new Naira notes as several bank customers are now demanding the new notes.

Whereas a few others have snubbed the latest banknotes in banking halls across major Nigerian cities, according to report.

Build-up activities prior to issuance of new Naira notes

It is recalled that the newly-redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes  became a legal tender December 15 over three weeks after the President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled them at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, in Abuja, FCT.

Ahead of the launch in Abuja, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, October 26 this year had announced plans to redesign the selected notes, as he stated that the existing denominations would cease to be a legal tender in the West African country January 31.

Rationale for Naira redesign, by Emefiele

The CBN Governor, in his address at the briefing October, also stressed that the redesigning of the local currency became necessary to tackle inflationary problems, currency counterfeiting, insecurity, and other burning issues affecting  Nigeria.

Emefiele said the national currency redesign project was aimed at controlling currency-in-circulation, recently estimated at over three trillion Naira, as well as ransom payments to bandits, kidnappers and terrorists in the country.

Consumers relate experiences in  banking halls

Visits to banking halls in several cities across the country Thursday, December 15, especially in Lagos and Abuja indicated 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 also revealed that several bank branches were yet to get their new note allocations with many bank officials disclosing that the new notes were still being expected in such areas, The Punch report said.

Report indicated that in Lagos, a number of the bank branches had run out of their new note allocations.

However, officials at some of the financial institutions, which still had the new notes noted that their allocations were “very small”.

An official of Access Bank Plc, Ojodu branch, in Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity reportedly said, “Each cashier was given N100,000 of the new N1,000 bill for onward disbursements to customers seeking Over-the-Counter (OTC) payments.

The bank official stated: “We don’t have the other denominations of N500 and N200 yet.

“We don’t have enough supply of the new notes for now.”

Existing banknotes, new Naira and ATMs

ConsumerConnect reports that in regard to the expected reconfiguration of the DMBs’ Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), at the commencement of the formal issuance of the new banknotes Thursday, ATMs at several bank branches, especially in Lagos State and some parts of Ogun State are still dispensing only old Naira notes as of Friday, December 16.

Likewise, bank customers are also seen depositing the old bills over the counter, while cashiers were paying out more of the old Naira notes with ‘few’ pieces of new notes at some branches in the areas.

Recognition, acceptability of new banknotes in circulation

At some of the banking halls visited, report showed some customers snubbed the new Naira notes largely due to reports that some local traders were rejecting them as legal tender, perhaps of lack of knowledge of the distinct  features of the redesigned denominations.

As such, some of the bank customers refused to collect the new notes for OTC payments.

Confirming the situation, a bank teller at Ogba, in Lagos, disclosed 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,” report said.

At the bank, a cashier told a customer demanding the new notes that she had exhausted her allocation at the bank branch.

However, when the customer insisted on having his payment in the new notes, the cashier approached his colleague to demand 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.

ConsumerConnect, yet observed that the immediate acceptance of the new Naira notes is a different ball game to certain consumers.

Some informed customers   confirmed this development as they showed this publication mint few pieces of the new notes, particularly N1,000 denomination, which they are guarding jealously, not ready to part with such limited pieces of the new Naira for now.

Observations at commercial banks in Abuja

In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, only one of the 10 bank branches visited Thursday paid their customers, using the new notes, according to report.

Only one of the ATMs dispensed the new Naira notes among the several ATM galleries visited by one of our reporters in the FCT.

Visits to 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 (CBD) indicated that none of the tellers in the bank branches was seen paying their customers in the new notes via the counters, report stated.

It was learnt, however, that only the Access Bank ATM in the area was seen dispensing new N1,000 and N500 notes.

It was also observed that the ATM dispensed N1,000 in every N10,000 withdrawal at the branch.

At GTBank, Jabi Branch, the ATM dispensed old N1,000 notes to customers at the point.

However, at the counter of the same bank, a bank official was quoted to have said that the new notes were not available as of the time.

The female bank official declared: “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.”

Another official of the bank noted that OTC withdrawals were still being honoured in the old notes.

At the Zenith Bank, Jabi Branch, an official asked the news correspondent to come back Friday or next Monday for the new notes.

The bank staff said that the new notes had yet to be distributed to the branch, and they are hopeful it would get to the branch soon.

A similar scenario was witnessed at the First Bank and Taj Bank branches as officials said the new notes were not available when visited.

At Taj Bank, an official claimed the lender was disbursing the new notes to customers over the counter but not at its ATM point.

Nevertheless, as of 3:45p.m. when visited again, the bank branch was still dispensing only existing Naira notes to their customers.

First-day experience with collection of new Naira in Plateau State

In Plateau State, bank customers were disappointed Thursday, as they discovered that the new notes were yet to be in banks, especially in Jos, the state capital.

The Nation’s survey showed that most commercial banks in the capital city were not issuing the new Naira notes both on the counter and ATM points.

Similarly, hundreds of customers who had besieged various banks in Jos, in anticipation of collecting the new notes, expressed frustrations that their banks could not provide the new notes despite assurances by the Central Bank of Nigeria, that the new notes had been distributed to the commercial banks across the country.

Situation will improve with time, say bank customers

Michael Abiodun, a customer of Keystone Bank, said: “I was paid N10,000 in the new notes, and another N15,000 in the old notes.

“The teller told me that it will get better with time.”

Abiodun said he believed that with time, the new notes will go round, stressing that the old currency continues to be legal tender till January 31, 2023.

A woman, who gave her name as Madam Alice in Jos yesterday said she had anticipated to receive the new notes but was disappointed the ATM only  dispensed old notes,  despite visiting three banks.

“My intention was to be the person to show my children and neighbours the new notes,” Alice said.

Also, Mr. Bulus, a customer of First Bank Limited, said he was disappointed by the CBN for not sending the new notes to the banks in Plateau State.

The customer disclosed that a staff of the bank had informed him that the new notes were not available yet.

“Look, CBN told Nigerians that they’ve delivered the new notes to all the banks in the country,  on getting here to withdraw money, all I got was the old news,” Bulus said.

PoS operators speak

A Point of Sale (PoS) terminal operator in Uganda area of Lagos State, who simply identified himself as Chibuike, said he could not get the new notes when he visited his bank earlier in the day, report stated.

It was the same story at the First Bank branch at Yaba, in Lagos State, as the ATMs were still dispensing the old notes as of Thursday evening.

A bank customer Mr. James Oni, also said that he had anticipated to see the new notes at his branch, but that he could not get it in the banking hall.

Generally, 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.

But, others who were fortunate got the new bills, whereas some customers expressed hope they would be able to receive the new currency denominations in the days ahead, said report.

Additional reporting by Gbenga Kayode

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