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Customers, banks battle new naira shortage ahead deadline

Not less than 8 days to the January 31 deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to stop the old N1,000, N500, and N200 notes from being legal tender.

Banks’ Automated Teller Machines in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country are still dispensing the old notes, findings by The PUNCH have revealed.

Despite the apex bank and depositing banks’ assurances that Nigerians would begin to receive the new naira notes from ATMs across different platforms, findings as of Sunday showed that many ATMs belonging to the financial institutions were dispensing the old notes.

Although some of the ATMs visited in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun, Osun, and Gombe, among others, dispensed the new notes, The PUNCH observed that banks were still loading a significant number of their ATMs with the old naira ntes which are due to be phased out by the CBN in about a week’s time.

ATMs in Lagos

When The PUNCH visited some bank ATMs along the Ikotun-Idimu Road, Lagos on Sunday morning, it was observed that several ATMs were dispensing the old notes with only a few dispensing the new notes.

While customers got the new notes from Sterling Bank ATM on the axis, Access Bank ATMs dispensed the old notes.

Findings by The PUNCH showed that five of the seven banks visited by our correspondent were still dispensing the old notes to customers.

At the Guaranty Trust Bank on 50, Ogunusi Road, Ojodu area of Lagos, all three ATMs adjacent to the main building of the bank were dispensing old notes around 1 pm when one of our correspondents visited the place.

When The PUNCH visited the ATMs at Access Bank in the same Ojodu axis, only the old naira notes were available to the customers.

Meanwhile, a different report was observed at all the ATMs in the premises of First Bank Plc located opposite Michael Agbaje World Outreach, Aina Junction, Ojodu.

All three ATMs were dispensing the newly redesigned naira notes when The PUNCH visited the bank.

However, the eight ATMs at the Zenith Bank located on Ogunusi Road were seen dispensing the old notes in different denominations.

Although some bank customers said they received the newly redesigned notes, when The PUNCH visited the United Bank for Africa’s ATMs in the area, some of the machines were however seen dispensing the old ones.

The ATMs located inside the premises of GTBank at Gate, Oke-Afa, Lagos, were seen dispensing a mixture of old and new notes, with the old notes surpassing the new ones.

One of our correspondents who monitored ATMs on Oba Akran Road in the Ikeja area of Lagos found a Wema Bank ATM dispensing old N1,000 notes.

Also, The PUNCH observed that several Point of Sale operators were still paying their customers with the old notes as of Sunday. However, a few of them were seen paying their customers with the new notes.

“Banks are still limiting the amount of new notes they give to us. So, we also have a few to give to our customers, ” one of the PoS operators in Ikorodu told The PUNCH.

Abuja ATMs

In Abuja, some of the ATMs visited along the Airport Road dispensed old notes while a few others dispensed new naira notes.

The PUNCH visited ATMs of Access Bank and United Bank for Africa located at the Federal Secretariat on Sunday.

Our correspondent observed that the Access Bank ATMs dispensed the new naira notes in N1,000 denomination only. Similarly, the UBA ATMs dispensed the new notes.

However, one of our correspondents who visited UBA and First Bank ATMs located at Maitama observed they were out of network and, as such, couldn’t tell if they were dispensing the new notes.

The ATM stands visited include GT Bank, Stanbic IBTC and Zenith Bank.

At GTBank, Sauka Branch, crisp N200, N500 and N1,000 were available for withdrawal.

Meanwhile, only the old naira notes were dispensed at Zenith Bank in the area.

When our correspondent asked for explanations, an official on duty queried, “Is the money no longer a legal tender?”

States

In Osogbo, Osun State, some bank ATMs dispensed the old notes, especially in some remote parts of the state. However, most of the banks in the Osogbo capital failed to load their ATMs apparently to avoid CBN sanctions.

Meanwhile, it was observed that the majority of the PoS within the Osun State capital were still giving their customers the old notes, explaining that they had yet to get the new notes.

A PoS operator at Sabo Area of Osogbo, Tiamiyu Omoyeni, said many of the operators still had large volumes of the old notes.

He said, “Most of us don’t have enough new notes and we may continue to give our customers old notes for now.”

In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, as of Sunday, several commercial banks’ ATMs were still dispensing the old naira notes to their customers.

Many customers, who made withdrawals from bank ATMs in Abeokuta, were disappointed at the development.

The ATMs located in Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta, Panseke and Asero were still dispensing the old naira notes.

In Gombe State, several ATMs were still dispensing the old notes with PoS operators complaining of not being able to access the new notes.

Also, customers could not access the new notes in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. CBN had last Thursday threatened to sanction banks over the development.

Banks’ officials react

Meanwhile, bank officials who spoke to our correspondents complained of a shortage of new notes.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the development had made it difficult for them to fully comply with the CBN directive on the need to load ATMs with new notes.

When asked why the Access Bank had yet to comply with the CBN’s directive on the new note, a source close to the bank said the lender had yet to get enough new notes for adequate distribution across its branch network.

“The new currency is not enough for the bank to start dispensing; that is why they are still given the old currency.”

Another official of the bank told The PUNCH that there was a scarcity of the newly redesigned notes, adding that no bank would deliberately want to flout the directive of the CBN.

He said, “The CBN has gone around our ATMs and found out that we are very compliant with their entire directive. No bank will hoard the new notes. CBN is going around and monitoring. No bank would want to be caught flouting the rule. There is scarcity. If a bank’s ATM does not have the new notes, it means the bank does not have it.”

Also reacting to the scarcity, a top official of Zenith Bank said, “If the new currencies are exhausted from the ATMs, is it not better to fill the ATMs with old currencies so that people will have access to cash? It is still legal tender until the end of January. It is only when the branches have the new currencies that they can fill the ATMs will them.”

The PUNCH observed that banks were still loading their ATMs with the old notes amid threats by the CBN to sanction errant banks.

A Director at the CBN and serving Managing Director of NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, Dr Abdullahi Kure, had said the CBN would query banks found hoarding or diverting the new notes and dispensing old cash.

He said the CBN had enough “stock of cash to meet the requests of banks.”

Kure noted that the CBN would go through its “record to ascertain the quantity of new notes given to banks found to be dispensing old notes via ATMs. Where we detect any infraction, such banks would be sanctioned.”

He urged Nigerians to exchange old notes in their possession through established channels in return for new ones.

Customers demand extension

Meanwhile, the President, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Dr Uju Ogunbunka, said there would be a need for the CBN to extend the deadline.

He said, “It seems like we don’t have enough and if we don’t have enough, what we expect to be done is that the date for the deadline should be extended, otherwise we can run into trouble where I am still holding a bunch of old notes and the date has expired. Even when I go to the bank, I cannot get the new currency. My suggestion is that the authorities should look at this and we still add a week or so to the date. I believe that is enough to make changes where necessary. There is a need for an extension.”

Several bank customers had also spoken with The PUNCH in the past, appealing for an extension to the CBN’s deadline due to the scarcity of the new notes.

Ex-NSPM director reacts

Meanwhile, a former Director of Administration and Assistant General Manager in the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Limited, Brown Mene, has asked the CBN to sanction any commercial bank still dispensing the old notes.

Mene, a member of the Olu Advisory Council and Ogwaolusan of Warri Kingdom, while assessing the ongoing advocacy by the personnel of the CBN on the new naira, said the advocacy had come too late.

“The advocacy the CBN is just doing now, they ought to have done it even before the notes are out. Sensitisation of members of the public is the proper thing to do. But it is long overdue,” he stated.

CBN reacts

The CBN has taken the ongoing sensitisation on new naira notes to the Abubakar Mahmud Gumi Market, Kaduna with an appeal to traders to ensure that the old notes are deposited at commercial banks.

The apex bank stressed that there would be no extension of the January 31 deadline.

The CBN’s Director of Capacity Development, Mohammed Abba, who briefed journalists on the benefits of the new naira notes while sensitising traders at the Central Market Motor Park, Kaduna on Saturday, urged traders to hasten up and deposit their old naira notes in exchange for the new notes.

He also noted that the CBN would sanction errant commercial banks which refused to dispense the new naira notes through their ATMs or were found hoarding the notes.

“For now, I don’t think there is any possibility of changing or extending the January 31 deadline within which the old naira notes will cease as legal tender,” he added.

The CBN had at various programmes vowed to sanction any commercial bank found hoarding the new naira notes, saying it had produced enough for distribution to all the banks across the country.

The CBN Kano Branch Controller, Alhaji Umar Biu, said during a sensitisation programme on the new naira notes organised for traders at the Sabon Gari market in Kano last Thursday that traders had the right to report any bank found either hoarding the new naira notes or charging customers before depositing their old naira notes.

“You have the right to report any bank found hoarding the new naira notes or refusing to collect your old naira notes before the 31st January 2023 deadline.

“No bank should refuse to collect the old naira notes until the deadline of 31st January 2023,” the branch controller said.

According to him, the apex bank has directed commercial banks to desist from payment on the counter as part of effort to check the favouritism of customers.

He maintained that there was no going back on the 31st January 2023 deadline adding that all the old naira notes would cease to be legal tender on that date.

Punch

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