•Banks’ ATMs dispense limited notes   

…As PoS agents make brisk business with naira swap in Imo

By Chinwendu Obienyi and Stanley Uzoaru (Owerri)

Despite the 10-day extension of the deadline for the final withdrawal of the old notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), investigations  has revealed that an acute scarcity of the newly redesigned naira notes has hit the the Nigerian economy. 

The development came after the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele announced that the apex bank had obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the deadline for the exchange of old naira notes for new ones from January 31 to February 10, 2023.

Emefiele said “Aside from those holding illicit/ stolen Naira in their homes for speculative purposes, we do aim to give all Nigerians that have Naira legitimately earned and trapped, the opportunity to deposit their monies at the CBN for exchange.

Based on the foregoing, we sought and obtained the approval of the President for the following; A 10-day extension of the deadline from January 31, 2023 to February 10, 2023 to allow collection of old notes legitimately held by Nigerians and a 7-day grace period beginning on February 10 -17, 2023 in compliance with sections 20 (3) and 22 of the CBN’s act allowing Nigerians to deposit their old notes at the CBN after the February deadline for the cessation of the notes as legal tender”, 

However, Daily Sun observed on Monday that the re were long queues in the various bank branches with customers being paid lower denominations of N100 and N50 over the counter.

The customers were however being encouraged to use alternative channels for their transactions, while those who insisted on the new naira notes were advised to use Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). For instance, long queues at Ajah and Ikeja were noticeable as several customers engaged in fist-cuffs to take turns in withdrawing the new naira notes due to the fact that some ATMs were not dispensing enough cash.

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Also noticeable was the fact that Point of Sales (PoS) operators who had access to the new notes from bank staff decided to hike charges per transaction. Alinze Nwankego, a PoS operator in Ajah, said, “Right now to collect N5000 (new notes), you have to pay N300 and if you want to collect N10000, it is N600. If any customer feels that this is too costly, they can try to go to ATMs to queue because the new notes are not even enough at the ATMs”.

Also speaking to Daily Sun, a stockbroker who pleaded anonymity, said his clients have been paying for their services by transferring cash via banks apps.

He said, “The truth is that I had last week, sent emails to my clients that they can pay via bank apps due to the fact that as at Friday, the CBN did not look like extending the deadline but now that they have extended it, there won’t be much tension again but I think there will be long queues at the bank this week because the apex bank gave a 10-day period”.

Before the CBN extended the deadline, several businesses as well as bank customers had started rejecting the notes. For example, leading e-commerce platform, Jumia, announced that from Monday, January 30, 2023, it would no longer accept the old naira notes as a form of payment for goods purchased on its platform.

Meanwhile, POS agents in Imo State are currently making brisk business with the old naira swap following the deadline extension by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN).

Some of the agents charges between N800 and N1000 for a swap of N10,000 of the old naira notes.  This even as queues got longer at most commercial banks ATMs in the state dispensing the new naira notes.

However, Director Financial, Policy and Regulations, Department of the CBN, Chibuzor Efobi, warned agents refusing the old naira swap to desist or face serious sanctions. 

Efobi handed the warning at the weekend during a sensitisation tour of the markets in Owerri,the Imo State capital.

He said” I want you to report any agent who refuses to collect the old naira notes or those doing business with it,it’s also your duty to inform the law enforcement agents on the activities of such people”.