Scarcity of Naira cash has intensified in Awka, the Anambra capital, as the country approaches the Feb. 10 deadline for complete phasing out of old N200, N500 and N1,000 bills for the new ones.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Correspondent, who monitored the situation in Awka on Thursday, reports that citizens are finding it difficult to access cash in spite of the extension of the swap window.

Residents have consequently resorted to electronic money transfer with its attendant transaction cost and inconveniences.

Recall that Mr Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, had assured the release of sufficient new notes with teams of enforcers to ensure that commercial banks release them into circulation.

A visit to some of bank branches in Awka showed numerous customers struggling anxiously to make withdrawals.

Though the banks easily accepted the old currency bills from depositors, most customers were directed to the congested ATMs for withdrawal.

In a particular bank, there were no fewer than 125 customers waiting to withdraw the maximum of N20,000 as at 10 am.

Gregory Okoli, a businessman who spoke to NAN at one of the commercial banks, said he had been visiting the bank to get cash for two days without success.

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Okoli said his sales had dropped because most of his customers could not get cash and some of them were not used to making transfers.

He said the prices of goods and services have increased because of the high cost of Point of Sale (PoS) transactions and transfers.

Chidi Umennaka, another customer, said the increase of customers at the banks were because PoS operators were no longer disbursing cash and the few that had cash were charging exorbitant amounts for transactions.

Umennaka said Awka is going virtually cashless when the demand for cash is compared to what is available.

He said businesses, especially small ones, were suffering as there was no means of paying for both household commodities and big transactions.

Efforts to know why there was no sufficient cash in circulation proved abortive as no commercial bank agreed to speak.

Also, efforts to know how the CBN is implementing the enforcement of disbursement was not successful as the Operations Controller of Awka Branch declined interview, saying he needed clearance from the Headquarters. (NAN)