• Pay only N20,000, N10,000 to customers in Lagos, Abuja
• Unending pains as ATMs, banking halls are choked
From Uche Usim (Abuja) and Chinwendu Obienyi
Despite the resurrection of the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) are still having hectic time in meeting customers’ cash needs as most of them claim to have run out of stock.
Sources at various commercial banks said that the bulk of the cash mopped up from customers has been returned to the CBN, in order to beat the February 10 sunset date for the old notes.
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, while announcing the extension of the deadline from January 31 to February 10, 2023, added that N1.9 trillion out of N2.7 trillion that was outside the banks had been channeled back to bank vaults.
According to a senior official of a second generation bank, “the little volume of old notes we’re disbursing at the moment is the one we received from customers after the February 10 deadline. Remember there was a grace window CBN gave then.
“The truth of the matter is that we can’t have the volume of cash we had before the cashless policy took off. We can’t pay more than N20,000 per customer per day as instructed by the CBN. The old and new notes have to be rationed at this time and I believe things will get better from next week.”
As a way of braving the odds, customers, especially Point of Sales operators, lay siege to banks as early as 4:00a.m to pick numbers and return later to queue for cash.
With alternative electronic banking channels suffering frequent downtimes, banks are now under intense pressure to meet the cash demand of their customers.
The CBN puts daily cash payout at N20,000 across the counter, as it encourages the use of e-banking platforms.
“We are awaiting fresh supplies from the CBN. For now, we’re rationing the bank notes we have to customers because like I said earlier, the mopped up old notes have not been given back to us for onward disbursement to customers. But hopefully, things will get better from next week”, a first generation bank source disclosed.
Other banks’ staff who spoke with Sunday Sun via the phone, said that they emptied their vaults and returned the old notes to the apex bank to avoid any regulatory sanction.
“The directive was clear and unambiguous and there is no way we can flout it. We’re a responsible organisation”, another bank official said.
Findings by Sunday Sun showed that banks in Lagos and Abuja that have branches in strategic locations like Victoria Island, Maryland, Ikeja, Garki, Central Business District, Kubwa and Wuse and Costain, had customers milling in them.
Their banking halls and ATMs were jam-packed with long queues of anxious customers stretching several meters.
At Zenith Bank, Maryland , Lagos, customers were paid N20,000 across the counter, amid long queues.
It was the same scenario at Fidelity Bank, Allen Avenue, Ikeja and Union Bank, Muri Okunola, Victoria Island.
At the Fidelity Bank, Central Business District, Abuja, customers were paid N10,000 across the counter.
Polaris Bank in Gwarinpa paid customers N10,000 at the weekend.
Stanbic IBTC bank dispensed N10,000 to each customer, resulting in long queues around there.
Many bank customers, especially Point of Sales operators, lamented the endless horror Nigerians were subjected to as the hunt for cash gets fiercer.
Mary Onah, a PoS operator lamented: “I thought they said the naira scarcity was to ensure vote buyers did not get access to cash to disrupt the presidential election. So, what is happening? The elections are over, but the cash crunch is not. In fact, it’s worse right now”.
Another customer, Mohammed Abubakar, lamented: “I’m a trader and I need cash. The mobile apps are not working. Network issue. Nothing is working. This is a dangerous situation. They should do something about these new naira notes.”
Maxwell Edna, a grocer also groaned: “I thought they said we would return to the era of sufficient cash in banks. What is going on? Why do we still have naira scarcity? Nigeria is hell and hell is Nigeria”.
It was also gathered that there was a serious cash mop up last week by politicians ahead of the gubernatorial and state assembly election held yesterday.