From Uche Usim, Abuja 

Smiles lit up hitherto forlorn faces of depositors at the weekend, as many commercial banks opened for operations to disburse and receive cash lodgements, in line with the directives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

But several Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) failed to dispense cash, as banks assured the situation will normalise within the week.

The development led to a remarkable reduction in long queues of anxious depositors who hitherto besieged the banks

The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, last Thursday, said tons of naira notes have been dispatched to commercial banks across the country as part of a coordinated effort to end the cash crunch imbroglio.

He also directed them to open for operations on Saturdays and Sundays with the pledge to monitor compliance personally.

When Daily Sun visited commercial banks in Abuja on Saturday and Sunday, many of them were open for business.

From Kubwa to Wuse and Garki, banks like UBA, FCMB, Fidelity, Zenith and GTCO.

As directed by the CBN, the maximum payout across the counter was N20,000, although some banks paid N10,000 with the promise of reaching the N20,000 threshold within the week as more cash comes in.

“We’re still rationing the cash a bit but as we enter into this new week, things will certainly get better. But it’s a maximum of N20,000 daily. It’s not like you can come in and withdraw N200,000. I’ve had to explain this to many customers who came in with an over-inflated hope of getting any amount of cash they desire. It’s not the case. We’re on a journey to a cashless economy and we can’t have the volume of cash we had before in circulation. People should not abandon the use of alternative electronic banking channels and go back to cash addiction. It’s not the case and shouldn’t be”, a bank official told Daily Sun. Already, bank customers are enjoying the new development, urging the CBN to ensure banks do not hoard cash to create artificial scarcity.

Hamisu Saliu, a trucker, described the relief as most timely therapeutic.

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“I was beginning to lose my sanity over this naira scarcity horror. Whenever I drive on the road and my mind strays to it, I develop palpitations even while on the steering wheel. It was that bad. 

“I’ve been buying naira at exorbitant prices. It’s not funny one bit”, he said.

Khadija Oseni, a trader in Kubwa market heaped the naira scarcity blame on Point of Sale (POS) operators, saying they connived with bank officials and security men to empty the cash hitherto loaded into Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

“I know two POS operators working for a senior banker. One is in Kubwa and the other at Zuba spare parts market. They hardly lack cash but they sell it at very exorbitant prices. In Kubwa, you N10,000 at N12,500, while in Zuba, N10,000 sells for N13,000. Isn’t this evil”, she queried.

John Paul, an auto mechanic in Ushafa area of Abuja urged the CBN to monitor banks closely as promised.

“The banks need to be quicker in disbursement and not this offish posturing we often see. People are dying of hunger since the naira redesign came on board.

“The CBN should monitor the banks and ensure they comply; the typical Nigerian banks that I know would start well now and do something else in the coming days,’’ she said.

Nigeria’s first professor of the capital markets, Prof Uche Uwaleke hailed the CBN for making more cash available to ease the suffering of the public. He also noted that the naira redesign was part of the cashless policy that holds loaded benefits for the country and the citizens, while making monetary policy administration easier and more fruitful.

According to economic experts, the benefits of a cashless economy includes; reduced crime rates without tangible money to steal, digital paper trail, and less money laundering, less time and cost associated with handling, storing, and depositing paper money and easier currency exchange while traveling internationally.