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Naira Swap: Banks, consumers confirm CBN reversed directive to collect old notes

*Some Branch/Operations Managers of Deposit Money Banks and customers have confirmed the ‘authenticity’ of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s earlier memo to banks to  collect old N500 and N1000 notes before reversal of same

*I don’t understand their denials. The communication is genuine, says bank official

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Some Branch/Operations Managers of the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and several consumers of financial products and services have confirmed the “authenticity” of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s earlier memo to banks on collecting old N500 and N1000 notes while the Bank reversed itself on the  directive.

The Bankers’ Bank, in a statement issued Friday, February 17, 2023, had described the reports on directive from the Bank to commercial banks to collect the old banknotes as “some unauthorised messages quoting the CBN.”

Hitherto, the Bank had maintained that the three old currency denominations of N200, N500 and N1000 were no more legal tender in the West African country.

The CBN, subsequently, asked Nigerians to fill a form online, generate a reference code, and take their old banknotes to a CBN Branch in any of the 36 states of the Federation for documentation and Naira swap.

Presidential pronouncement on old banknotes

President Muhammadu Buhari, in his nationwide broadcast to Nigerians Thursday, February 16 said the old N200 notes would be legal tender till April 10, 2023.

Buhari, however, urged consumers to deposit their old N500 and 1000 notes with the CBN Branches across Nigeria.

Consumer experience at CBN branches

Sequel to Buhari’s that Nigerians should take old N500 and N1000 notes to the CBN office nearest to them, several bank customers thronged the CBN branches across the West African country Friday.

Acting on the President’s pronouncement, it was learnt as early as 1a.m., for instance, consumers had queued up in front of the CBN office in Marina, Lagos, where there was an uncontrollable crowd.

Someone who got there at 6a.m. said he was given tag Number 406, meaning over 400 persons were in the queue earlier, Daily Trust report said.

Certain Badamasi Aliyu, a Kaduna resident, also said that he was forced to relocate to a hotel close to the CBN office the night before so he could get there early enough.

However, Aliyu, who got to the CBN office at 3a.m., said he was given number 134 tag, report noted.

However, when the exercise got seemingly out of hand, and the CBN branch officials found it difficult to control the crowd that kept increasing with time, the customers were asked to return to their respective commercial banks to deposit their old N500 and N1000 notes.

Did CBN direct commercial banks to collect old N500, N1000 notes?

It was gathered that the banking sector regulator had issued a clear directive to the commercial banks in a memo addressed to Branch/Operations Managers of the DMBs to start collecting old N500 and N1000 notes.

The memo stated: “I am directed to convey Management of Central Bank of Nigeria directive that, all Deposit Money Banks to commence collection of old naira notes of N1000 and N500 from their customers with immediate effect.

“Please note that customers with amount of up to N500,000.00 and below can deposit into their bank accounts with their commercial banks.”

The directive also noted: “Any customer with amount more than N500,000.00 should be directed to CBN for deposit.

“Kindly comply accordingly. Thank you.”

Confirmation of genuineness of memo to banks with CBN Spokesman

In order to verify the authenticity of the memo to the bank officials on collecting the old notes, reporters had reached out to Mr. Osita Nwasinobi, Director of Corporate Communications at CBN.

The CBN Spokesman affirmed that the directive was clear, and moments after Nwasinobi confirmed the development, the report went viral in the social media space.

Subsequently, some Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief, saying they would move to their banks to deposit their old Naira notes.

Banks issued public notice to customers to bring old notes

Following the CBN’s memo to the Branch/Operations Managers of commercial banks, the officials also issued public notices to their customers to bring old notes, effective from Saturday, February 18.

The notice by one of the banks stated: “Dear Valued Customer: This is to inform you that our branches shall receive old N500 and N1000 notes of up to a maximum of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) after registration on the CBN portal.

“Please note that deposits of more than N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) should be taken to the nearest CBN location.

“In addition, our branches will be open tomorrow, Saturday, 18 February, 2023, to receive old notes.”

‘Information not formally released by CBN’ -Director

As the public notice to banks on collection of old banknotes gained momentum across the country Friday, Nwasinobi, CBN Director of Corporate Communications, issued a statement, noting that the CBN did not authorise any banks to accept old Naira notes.

He stated: “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria has been drawn to some fake and unauthorised messages quoting the CBN as having authorised the Deposit Money Banks to collect the old N500 and N1,000 Banknotes.

“For the avoidance of doubt, and in line with Mr. President’s broadcast of February 16, 2023, the CBN has been directed to ONLY reissue and recirculate the old N200 banknotes and this is expected to circulate as legal tender for 60 days up to April 10, 2023.”

Nwasinobi also stated that “members of the public should, therefore, disregard any message and/or information not formally released by the Central Bank of Nigeria on this subject.”

The denials and ensuing confusion among banking public

While the Nigerian media was taking the heat as a result of the CBN’s reversal of the earlier directive, the commercial banks, which had already posted public notices on social media, started yanking them off, triggering confusion among the consumers.

In reaction to the development, a bank official, who preferred anonymity, said: “I don’t understand their denials. The communication is genuine.

“Banks received the same directive from CBN. We are even directed to work Saturday and Sunday except on election weekend.”

Also, a bank customer, who had earlier filled a form on the CBN portal ahead of depositing old Naira notes showed a message he received from CBN, directing him to go to Stanbic IBTC Bank to deposit the money which was less than N500,000, an amount being collected at CBN branches, report said.

The consumer’s message from CBN stated: “The total amount you have specified is less than or equal to N500,000.

“Kindly note that you are required to take the notes to your specified deposit money bank (Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc).”

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