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Naira Scarcity: Consumers stranded, groan as several banks yet to make cash payments

Naira Denominations

*Several Deposit Money Banks have yet to start paying out the old Naira notes as millions of consumers of financial products and services continue to groan while urging the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria to ‘do something’ to ease off the current socio-economic hardships in the West African country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Sequel to the recent Supreme Court’s order to the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to extend the validity for use of old N500 and N1000 notes, many Deposit Money Banks’ (DMBs) branches in the cities, especially in Lagos and some areas of Abuja, FCT, are yet to begin Over-the-Counter or Automated Teller Machines (ATM) cash payments to customers as of Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

ConsumerConnect reports many consumers early Tuesday besieged their banks’ branches in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, anticipating to get cash payments either OTC or via ATMs.

Photo collage of Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, and redesigned Naira notes 

The Supreme Court, Friday last week, had challenged President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier pronouncement in his national broadcast, that the old N500 and N1000 notes were no more legal tender in Nigeria.

Buhari, in his nationwide address on the burning issue, had directed the CBN to re-issue only N200 notes into circulation for a period of 60 days.

However, the country’s apex appellate court has ruled that the old banknotes would remain legal tender till December 31, 2023, in Nigeria.

It was learnt Monday, March 6, that some banks had started paying the old Naira notes to consumers.

Stranded bank customers

Some commercial banks, especially in Kano City, Northern Nigeria, and Abuja, had commenced paying out the old N500 and N1000 notes to their customers, according to report.

Though as some branches of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) Limited issued same old notes Monday in the two cities, others like Polaris Bank Limited, in Abuja, had not commenced payments with old banknotes, report noted.

A member of staff of the commercial bank reportedly said that only the old N200 notes were still being issued, “as we do not have any new directive on what to do yet.”

Still, sources at GTBank Monday also disclosed the commercial bank had received a directive from their Management to begin paying old notes in their vault.

“The problem is that taking the old notes from customers will require the CBN form as we don’t have any directive in that regard,” said a source.

Confusion, dislocations, frustrations continue amid cash cum fuel scarcity

ConsumerConnect revealed customers at some branches of First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Limited, Zenith Bank Plc and GTBank Tuesday, March 7 around Ojodu and Ikeja areas of Lagos State, particularly complained about their banks’ needlessly debiting them in various amounts via ATMs without dispensing cash.

Likewise, several banks Tuesday were open for business while others, including First Bank, Ojodu in Lagos, shut their doors against many weary-looking customers who had besieged the bank branch for various transactions.

It was also observed that other customers at the Ojodu branch of the financial institution, who appeared bent on getting their money even tried to use the bank’s ATM points but to no avail.

Nonetheless, a visit to another FBN branch in Ogba-Ikeja, which was open for business revealed the bank actually experienced a branch-wide network failure all through Tuesday.

When asked what the problem really was as regards the bank’s operations, both a customer service executive and some security officials at the FBN branch, who did not want their names in print as they were not authorised to speak on the matter, later attributed the problem to network failure.

The officials said the downtime had affected operations at several branches of the bank since Tuesday morning.

Whereas the waiting game between the Federal Government, CBN and the DMBs continues, scores of consumers, traders, artisans, business people and organisations have continued to experience untold hardships in the economy.

Situation in banks ‘frustrating, annoying’: Abuja customers

Similarly, in Abuja, commercial banks in some satellite towns of the Federal Capital Territory as of Tuesday had yet to start cash payments, leaving customers stranded and frustrated in spite of the Supreme Court ruling, agency report stated.

Visits to banks in Nyanya, Mararaba and Karu Tuesday, indicated that none of the banks had started paying consumers OTC, or via ATMs.

As observed at some banks’ branches in Lagos, the gates to the banks in these areas of the FCT are still being manned by security officials who barely permit the numerous customers with complaints to go into the banking hall in turns.

Some of the customers noted the current development in the commercial banks was frustrating, report said.

Mr. Isa Abdullahi, customer seen at Zenith Bank, said: “I have been here since 10 a.m. and this is 3 p.m. to complain about some failed transactions but I was refused entry.

“The crowd here is discouraging. They are not even listening to anybody here.”

Abdullahi stated: “Some people said that after the Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Naira would be released everywhere, but that is not the case.

“We are suffering so much in this country. You will have money but you cannot access your money.”

Mrs. Angel Abiodun, another customer at the branch of First Bank, Karu Road, in Abuja, also described the situation as annoying.

Abiodun said: “I am helpless. I came to my bank to complain about my expired ATM card, and also to collect some cash but I was not allowed in.

“If I knew that the situation will turn like this, I wouldn’t have deposited all my money in the bank even when they told us to take our old notes to the bank.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should do something and save us from this mess.”

New Naira notes still scarce -PoS Operators

Speaking on the current Naira scarcity cum cash crunch in the country’s economy, some PoS operators also confirmed that the new banknotes were still scarce.

Gami Johnson, a PoS operator, reportedly said: “I wonder what is happening. We are yet to see the old or new Naira.”

Meanwhile, the CBN is yet to respond to the Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the use of old banknotes in circulation till December 31 this year.

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