The continued shortage of the newly redesigned Naira have posed significant challenges for individuals and businesses, and it can be concerning when one’s savings are limited.
Nigerians are becoming worried and recalcitrant, breaking up ATM terminals. Some have gone naked inside the banking hall, crying and shouting. There are fears that the situation could turn into social unrest.
Checks by TechEconomy on Monday morning at some of the banks at Oshodi bus stop reveal that many Lagosians were already queuing at Fidelity, UBA, Stanbic, Access, Union, and Zenith banks. This has been the trend for over 2 weeks.
The deadline for the deposition of the new currency remains fixed at February 10, but the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said that banks will still be available to collect the old notes until February 17. There are clues as to whether the dates will be extended any further.
“The lower class, especially in the rural areas, is bearing a huge part of the brunt,” Emeka Orji, a twenty-four-year-old bike man in Aba, told TechEconomy on a call.
“There are no Naira notes here, old or new, and POS operators have no cash.” Some people are trekking and using more bicycles. “It’s even tougher right now because a liter of fuel now costs N500 at filling stations,” he said.
CBN Looking Vindicated
Many Nigerians including notable public office holders have accused the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, of sabotaging the process of distributing cash to Nigerians, lately. But, the reality on the ground shows that the narrative is shifting.
Remember, last week, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, threatened to issue arrest warrants for Emefiele and the managing director of any commercial bank that did not honor the House’s invitation.
However, in his address to the ad hoc committee on Tuesday, Emefiele explained that he had been out of the country, thus failing to honor the House’s previous invitations.
The CBN Governor said the apex bank’s actions on the newly redesigned currency were consistent with international best practices and that the bank must maintain control over the currency in circulation in the country.
Emefiele, unequivocally stated that cash was made available to commercial banks. According to him, N1.4 trillion was in circulation in 2015, and by 2022, it would have risen to N3.33 trillion.
Commercial Banks Looking Like Culprits
As the situation worsens, the CBN takes another major step just to ensure that Nigerians have access to cash. It directed commercial banks on Thursday to begin issuing the newly redesigned Naira notes to customers over the counter, not just through the ATMs. However, the regulator stated that each customer can only be paid a maximum of N20,000 over the counter.
In addition, the CBN began monitoring the distribution of the new naira notes. They are meticulously touring several states to determine whether banks are truly making cash available. The findings reveal that commercial banks are the culprits.
The CBN discovered N4 million in new naira notes hoarded in some commercial banks in Ogun State last week.
The Central Bank apprehended some banks that have new notes in their vaults and forced them to upload them to their machines.
In another ugly situation – after receiving the funds for more than two weeks, the CBN discovered N6 million of the new Naira notes hoarded in Sterling Bank Plc’s Ado Ekiti branch on Bank Road, Ado Ekiti in Ekiti State.
In a trending video on social media, a man identified as Oluwole Owoeye, a Deputy Director of the CBN, was seen questioning bank officials about why they have not uploaded the funds into their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), despite having six of the machines in place, while monitoring the distribution of the new naira notes in the state.
In addition, the CBN director announced a N1 million fine for each day the fund remained in the bank’s possession.
“I am currently at Sterling Bank on Bank Road as part of the new Naira notes compliance monitoring team,” the CBN official said.
Sterling Bank had N6 million in its possession but has yet to disburse any of it. They claimed they had yet to configure their ATMs. On the contrary, there were approximately 5 ATMs in the banking establishment.
“The Zonal Service Manager, Tunde Onipede promised that by 10:00 am tomorrow (Monday), because I told him that by 10:00 a.m. latest, I’d be here and I want to see the machine dispensing this money.
“What is the name again?” Olumide Owolabi (Service Manager, Ado) & Motunrayo Babayele. My name is Oluwole Owoeye and I am a Deputy Director of CBN.”
“This is the third week of ensuring strict implementation of our directive regarding the issuance of new notes,” a CBN senior staffer said. New notes are circulated in the economy by banks, agents, and super agents. We saw some people trying to hoard new notes, we forced them to upload them into ATM terminals, and others had poor cash management.
“In our experience, commercial banks, not the CBN, should be blamed for scarcity.” We caught some of them, with new notes in their vault, and we compelled them to upload them to their machines. We told them that instead of trying to ration, upload the ones they have and contact your central cash management unit, which has direct access to CBN, for more.
“We came across instances of sabotage on the part of operators, we will take the case up and they will be dealt with appropriately.
“We came across one of them that couldn’t account for almost four million Naira of new notes, and appropriate sanction will be placed on them.”
Potential Social Unrest
Limited access to cash can have far-reaching consequences for individuals, communities, and society as a whole. This can result in protests, demonstrations, and other forms of public dissatisfaction.
It is critical for the CBN and financial institutions to maintain access to cash and other essential financial services, particularly during times of economic stress.
Already, disturbing videos have emerged online, and one of them showed a female bank official being attacked after the day’s work. The tire of her vehicle was removed while she screamed helplessly for help.
This sort of situation must be nipped in the bud before it escalates beyond control.