Economy

10 days to expiration of old naira notes, fears, frustration mount over scarcity of new ones 

It is unlikely that most Nigerians will be able to meet the January 31 deadline given them by the Central Bank (CBN) to exchange their old N200, N500 and N1000 notes for the new ones, according to an investigation.

 

Reports from our correspondents across the country yesterday confirmed that a huge volume of the old naira notes is still in circulation while the new notes remain scarce despite assurances by the apex bank that there is enough to go round, and its threat to start sanctioning commercial banks that are still issuing the about-to-expire notes.

 

Those who spoke to our reporters did not hide their frustration in getting the new notes from banking halls and/or Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

 

Some traders in Lagos threatened to start rejecting the old notes from their customers this week.

 

The CBN has repeatedly warned that it will not extend the deadline.

 

Apart from taking its public enlightenment on the new naira notes to markets, mosques, churches and other palaces, the apex bank has started sending sms to Nigerians to “deposit your old N200,N500,and N1000 banknotes with your bank or agent.”

 

But the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has made a last minute appeal to the apex bank to consider the poorest and most vulnerable households among other concerns arising from the naira redesign and withdrawal policy.

 

Although the commercial banks have been operating on Saturdays to enable their customers deposit their old notes, the development has had little or no effect in getting the new notes out.

 

The ATMs have also not been of much help as only a few of them are dispensing the new notes.

 

Such ATMs are usually besieged by customers who are eager to have the new notes.

 

In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, long queues of customers were seen at the Jiaz Bank and GTB Dugbe ATM machines which were dispensing the new notes.

 

Adesola Ilori, a food stuff seller, said: “I’ve seen the new N1,000 note twice when a customer brought it to my shop. But all attempts to get it from banks were not successful. At least, I visit banks weekly but they still give out old notes.

 

A Point of Sale (POS) operator at Dugbe, Ibadan, Akin Solaja, said: “They keep recycling the old notes. There will be a serious cash shortage when the deadline expires.”

 

The situation is not different in Bayelsa State. A businessman in the state capital, Yenagoa, Chris Ben, said he was surprised to be given the old notes recently when he went to a bank to withdraw some money.

 

“The bank packed old notes for me and gave me few new notes. I rejected them, but I was told that they could not help the situation as they did not have enough new notes to give out.

 

“I reluctantly accepted what they gave to me because I was in dire need of money.”

 

Traders at the Nkwo Nnewi New Spare Parts markets in Anambra State told a CBN delegation that visited there on sensitization last Friday that the new notes were unavailable.

 

Residents of Enugu, Ogun and Bauchi states are also worried about their inability to exchange their old notes and hope that the authorities will extend the January 31 deadline.

 

Borno border, rural communities reject old naira notes – Zulum

 

Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum said on Friday that rural dwellers in the state, particularly those in the border communities, were already rejecting the old notes.

 

Receiving a team of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who visited the state to monitor compliance with the bank’s policy on the new naira notes, Zulum said many border communities who trade with people in neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon were in a dilemma as their neighbours who normally collect naira notes now insist it must be the new notes or no business.

 

The governor said many of such communities were suffering, citing Kala-Balge Local Government Area which has been inaccessible to vehicles for the past seven months due to difficult terrain and floods as well as non-availability of the new notes to be taken to them.

 

Zulum, who also listed other areas affected by difficult terrain and insecurity in the state, pointed out that only Maiduguri Metropolitan, Jere and Biu local government areas have banks, making things difficult for the CBN policy to work in the state.

 

He said the expectation of Nigerians from CBN was that when it commenced the policy in December, banks would stop giving old notes but that was not the case.

 

“We are still receiving old notes. There is need for CBN to do justice to this matter,” he said.

 

“We are okay with the time frame, but what about the availability of the funds?” Zulum queried.

 

Earlier, Mr Mohammed Tumala, the Director, Statistics Department of the CBN, who led the delegation to Borno, said they were in the state to monitor compliance and to ensure that the new notes reached everywhere before the deadline of February 31.

 

Tumala said the team had within the past two days visited all banks and ATM machines in Maiduguri to ensure compliance with the guidelines.

 

CBN introduces cash swap programme

 

In a move to ease the naira exchange in the rural areas, the CBN said with effect from tomorrow, January 23, rural dwellers and Nigerians living where there are no banking services will be able to swap their old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes for the new ones.

 

The Director Banking Supervision Department, Haruna Mustafa, and the Director, Payment System Management Department, Musa I. Jimoh, in a joint circular to all Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) Mobile Money Operators (MMOs), Super Agents and Agents said the programme will enable “citizens in rural areas or those with limited access to formal financial services to exchange old naira notes for redesigned notes”.

 

Under the initiative, agents can only exchange a maximum of N10,000 per person. “Amounts above N10,000 may be treated as cash-in deposit into wallets or bank accounts in line with the cashless policy,” the directors said.

 

Agents are also required to demand for BVN, NIN or Voter card details of the customers before accepting to exchange more than N10,000.

 

The new cash swap programme, the CBN said, “is also available to anybody without a bank account”.

 

Agents were urged to open a wallet or account instantly upon request, “leveraging the CBN Tiered KYC Framework”.

 

This, the circular said, will “ensure that this category of the populace are able to exchange or deposit their cash seamlessly without taking unnecessary risk or incurring undue cost”.

 

Agents were authorised to sensitise their customers on opening wallets/bank accounts and the various channels for conducting electronic transactions.

 

Some designated agents are eligible to collect the redesigned notes from DMBs “in line with the Revised Cash Withdrawal Limit policy”.

 

Agents have been given permission to “charge cash out fees for the cash swap transactions but prohibited from charging any further commissions to customers for this service”.

 

The apex bank was however silent on how much the agents should charge as cash out fees.

 

As part of the Cash Swap Programme, agents are expected to “render weekly returns to their designated banks regarding the cash swap transactions, while DMBs will in turn render same to the CBN on a weekly basis”.

 

The CBN warned that Principals (Super Agents, MMOs, DMBs) will “be held accountable for their agents adherence to the above guidelines”.

 

It assured rural dwellers and those targeted by the programme that “Cash Swap agents will be readily identifiable in all local governments, particularly those in the rural areas”.

 

Govs to CBN: Consider poorest, vulnerable households

 

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), in a last minute appeal to the CBN, urged it to consider the poorest and most vulnerable households in implementing its policies on the naira redesign and withdrawal policy.

 

The NGF Chairman, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, in a statement in Abuja, said while the governors were not opposed to the objectives of the naira redesign policy, they were not unaware of “huge challenges that remain problematic to the Nigerian populace.”

 

Accordingly, the governors asked the CBN to consider the peculiarities of the states, especially as they pertain to financial inclusion and under-served locations and made three resolutions as follows:

 

*”Work closely with the CBN leadership to ameliorate areas that require policy variation particularly the poorest households, the vulnerable in society and several other citizens of our country that are excluded.

 

*” Collaborate with the CBN and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) in advancing genuine objectives within the confines of our laws, noting that the recent NFIU Advisory and Guidelines on cash transactions were simply outside the NFIU’s legal remit and mandate.”

 

The NGF set up a 6-member Committee headed by the Governor of Anambra State, Professor Charles Soludo to engage the CBN in addressing anomalies in the country’s monetary management and financial system.

 

Other members of the committee are the Governors of Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Borno, Plateau and Jigawa states.

 

No going back on policy, NFIU tells governors

 

The Director, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Modibbo Hamman Tukur, yesterday said it would not waive its new policy on cash withdrawal from government accounts.

 

He asked the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) to show some understanding because the policy was designed to save the naira.

 

He said the entire financial system suffered excess liquidity and liquidity ratio infringements.

 

He said NFIU took preemptive measures to control the looming barrage of investigations in the nation’s financial system.

 

He said Nigerian banks have lately been fined of millions of U.S Dollars by the United States FIU and the United Kingdom FIU due to non-compliance.

 

Tukur made the NFIU’s position known in Abuja following the NGF’s claim that the ban on cash transactions was outside its “legal remit and mandate.”

 

According to a statement by NFIU’s Chief Media Analyst, Ahmed Dikko, the Director made the clarifications when approached by newsmen to respond to a statement issued by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum regarding the guidelines on cash withdrawals from all government accounts,

 

Tukur said: “First of all, we are ready to partner with the six-man committee they set up. We will enlighten them.”

 

“Secondly we acted within our functions and the law. We issued the guidelines to control the barrage of investigations that we saw coming. Our guidelines were meant to help the governors not to fight them or any public servant.”

 

He said the increasing recourse to transactions by government institutions was alarming and undesirable for the country.

 

He said: “We reached a stage where if we allowed the present scenario to continue, all public institutions will drift into structured cash withdrawals of certain amounts of money which by law, standards and best practices must be investigated continuously which is neither desirable nor reasonable.

 

“We feel communities must move on by accommodating changes and adjusting to new developments.

 

“Last time, we issued the Local government Guidelines we were taken to court but we won the case.”

 

Tukur also explained that it was important to save the nation’s Naira and banking sector.

 

He said NFIU had been tolerating some excesses in the financial and banking sectors for too long.

 

He added: “But more importantly we need to understand that in recent past United States FIU and United Kingdom FIU penalized Nigerian banks with fines of millions of U.S Dollars due to non-compliance.

 

“Internally, non-compliance with sections cited in the recent guidelines comes with heavy penalties on financial institutions. We did, on gentlemanly pretext, avoid until this moment putting a fine to financial institutions expecting, gradual learning and adjustments.

 

“But to eternally guarantee this kind gesture is to automatically keep abusing our laws.

 

“We want every stakeholder to appreciate that we cooperated for too far and long.

 

“We held deep breath while defending these deficiencies internationally, just to continue to remain in the International pay points and competing with others.

 

“Finally, we also clearly stated in the preceding advisory, that the entire financial system suffered excess liquidity and liquidity ratio infringements which put hedging pressure of demand for foreign currency and gradually destroying the value of the Naira and above all creating wide room for money laundering and terrorism affecting significantly the rural populace on top of general inflation in the open market place.

 

“We are in support of working together to stop these challenges and in most progressive manner.”

 

Emirs, CAN express worries over January 31 deadline

 

The Emir of Bauchi, Dr. Rilwan Sulaiman Adamu, and the Emir of Katagum, Alhaji Umar Kabir II have expressed concern that the new currency notes are not yet in full circulation across the country.

 

They warned that the deadline issue should be handled with utmost tact in the interest of peace in the country.

 

The Emirs spoke when CBN officials visited them in their palaces in Bauchi and Azare respectively to enlighten and seek the support of traditional institutions on the new monetary policy.

 

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman in the state, the Reverend Abraham Damina, said many rural dwellers don’t even have account numbers to deposit their old notes.

 

In response, the Director of Medical Services of the branch in Bauchi, Jubril Abdukadir, said provision has been made for the Point of Sale Operators (POS) to make the new notes available to rural dwellers after depositing their old notes in exchange for the new ones while accounts will be opened by bank officials for those without one.

 

CBN asked to monitor commercial banks on disbursement

 

The Olu (of Warri) Advisory Council has asked the CBN to monitor the disbursement of the new naira notes by the commercial banks to customers.

 

The Advisory Council gave the charge on Friday while hosting a high-powered CBN team on the naira sensitization exercise, who were on a courtesy visit to the palace of the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, in Warri, Delta State.

 

Members of the Olu Advisory Council, led by the Ojomo of Warri Kingdom, Chief Tesigiwa Pessu, also urged members of the public to formally report commercial banks still dispensing old notes to customers for necessary sanctions.

 

The traditional chiefs tasked the CBN to urgently

 

L disperse its fieldP inspectors across the country and ensure that commercial banks are working optimally to meet the target of changing all old notes from customers to the new currency, without hitches.

 

The Council expressed concern that the redesigned naira notes, which many willing customers are finding difficult to procure from the commercial banks, are now being hawked openly by touts at motor parks and along the streets of the metropolis.

 

“What is the CBN doing about this? This negative trend has become a norm in Nigeria. There is the urgent need for the CBN to sit up and do the needful now without further delay,” the Olu Advisory Council stated.

 

Speaking earlier, the leader of the CBN team, Mr. Sunny Daibo, a Deputy Director of Finance from Abuja, noted that the sensitization team would be collating all the public complaints for action by the management of the apex bank.

 

Daibo remarked that CBN had long ago criminalised hawking or sale of naira currency by touts, stating however, that execution remains the major problem in this regard.

 

The CBN team later moved in batches with flyers and handbills to the popular Igbudu Market in Warri, in continuation of the public sensitization of the Naira redesign policy.

 

 

(The Nation)

 

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