The protracted naira crisis has caused hunger and anger in the land, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, lamented yesterday.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address the problem to prevent an uprising.
The new naira scarcity has been worsened by the refusal of banks to accept the deposit of old notes.
As a result, many businesses yesterday insisted on only new notes.
But, lawyers said it amounted to contempt for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to have directed banks to continue to accept the old notes in line with the Supreme Court order.
Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court, in a case filed by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, barred the Federal Government or CBN from enforcing the February 10 deadline for the use of old naira notes.
In a unanimous ruling by a seven-member panel, led by Justice John Okoro, it held that the “interim injunction” will subsist “pending the hearing and determination of the plaintiffs/applicants’ motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”
Worried by the naira crisis, the Sultan said it has made life unbearable.
He said there was increasing tension caused by the CBN monetary policy, adding that urgent steps should be taken to stem the heat.
The Sultan spoke in Abuja at a two-day conference by the Kano State government on livestock reforms and mitigation of associated conflicts.
The royal father said: “Let’s keep politics aside. The issues of development, especially for the common man, (should be prioritised).
“These people that God Almighty gave leadership over, one day, God forbid, will rise (against us).
“After all the English by professors (at the conference), how do we get these developments down to the common man who is a farmer, the common Fulani man who doesn’t know anything about development? He only cares about cattle.
“The people are hungry – is there money? People are angry and hungry. Let’s see how we can douse the tension.”
The Sultan is not the only one worried about the developments.
Kano, Ekiti, Niger and Ondo states have applied to join the Supreme Court case, which comes up for hearing tomorrow.
Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu warned that the crisis may lead to anarchy if not quickly addressed.
To minimise the impact on his people, he has barred the state Board of Internal Revenue Service from collecting 2023 revenue from all markets in the state until June.
Ikpeazu, who spoke through the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, John Kalu, said he was “deeply worried” by the naira crisis.
Kalu said: “The governor has visited many markets in the state since the cashless policy came into effect along with the scarcity of new currency notes as a result of the naira redesign.
“He observed that traders in the state are possibly the worst hit.
“Many of our traders are unable to transact with buyers as the policy implementers failed to capture their peculiar needs while rolling out the new policies.
“The traders are bearing the brunt, and as a responsible government, we are looking at various options to support them.
“One of those options is what the governor announced this afternoon (yesterday) during his visit to Good Morning Market, Aba, that, henceforth, state and LGA revenue collections in the markets will be suspended for at least six months starting from January 2023.”
The Commissioner urged banks in the state to immediately deploy sufficient Point of Sale machines to all markets, superstores, and other trading centres in the state to enable buyers to utilize their ATM cards for transactions.
He also urged the CBN to ensure that the new notes are made available to traders and residents in sufficient volume to avoid a breach of the peace that might result from the “massive suffering occasioned by the new transaction regimes.”
Kalu added: “We are not against the new cashless regime and redesigning of the naira notes by the Federal Government.
“But the governor is deeply worried about the effect on our hardworking traders as a result of the poor implementation strategy which failed to take into cognisance the peculiar needs of rural and urban traders.
“Many rural traders are unbanked, and even if they wish to join the banking system, the branches are not even there, hence, they might have to travel several kilometres to neighbouring communities before they can carry out their transactions.
“Quite a number of them may also not have enough formal education to help them operate the PoS machines, so the policymakers should have made provisions for their needs before rolling out.
“The immediate solution is to inject enough new naira notes into our rural economy through special interventions by the CBN to avert the looming socio-economic dislocation that might lead to anarchy.”
SWAGA accuses Emiefele of plotting to scuttle polls
For the Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju Tinubu (SWAGA), Emefiele must be plotting to scuttle next week’s general election.
It said the currency swap policy introduced by Emiefele was taking a toll on ordinary Nigerians.
National Coordinator, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, said the CBN’s governor’s pursuit of the currency swap was based on an ulterior motive to scuttle the polls.
The former Minister of State for Works, who spoke in Akure, said the shortage of naira notes across the country needs to be tackled through the solution provided by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu.
Adeyeye, who expressed optimism that Tinubu would emerge victorious at the polls, said the punishment imposed on Nigerians by the CBN was unnecessary.
“With the situation, they have inflicted pain on Nigerians. Emefiele should heed Asiwaju’s suggestion to solve the situation.
“Emefiele has become the most controversial and partisan CBN governor in the history of Nigeria. He has become extremely controversial.
“Either he (Emefiele) likes it or not, the people of Nigeria know what is going on. Tinubu will win this election.
“We want to commend the ordinary people, particularly the market women, who understand the issue so well.”
Lagos Judiciary turns back litigants
In Lagos, litigants who besieged the Ikeja High Court registry yesterday were turned back as old currency notes were rejected.
Officials told litigants and lawyers that the court was no longer accepting the old notes for filing applications and other court processes.
It was also a bad day for those who came to depose to affidavits as they were turned back.
The development followed the refusal of the court’s bank to accept the proceeds of last Friday’s transactions from court officials.
Account officials said when they went to deposit proceeds last Friday, the bank rejected the old notes.
Lawyers lamented the fact the state judiciary was not accepting old notes despite the Supreme Court order.
A lawyer, who preferred not to be named, confirmed that the registry at Osborne Division of Lagos High Court rejected the old notes and prevented him from filling his processes.
The lawyer blamed Emefiele and the CBN for disobeying the Supreme Court order by not directing banks to comply.
He said: “Non-acceptance of old notes would be catastrophic to the nation. The highest court in the land, Supreme Court, made an order, which is being flouted with impunity.
“It is obvious that the CBN, especially the governor, is ready to impose a state of anarchy on Nigeria by directing banks against the order of the apex court.”
NUJ slams banks
The Nigerian Union of Journalists, Ondo State Council, said it was wrong for banks not to accept the old notes for deposit.
State Chairman of the Union, Prince Leke Adegbite, in a statement, said the banks’ action was an act of defiance to the Supreme Court.
“The development has forced traders to reject the old naira notes across the state and thereby paralysing commercial activities.
“Banks and traders in other parts of the country are still accepting the old naira notes in line with the ruling of the Supreme Court,” he said.
Zamfara clamps down on old note rejection
The Zamfara Anti-thuggery Committee started clamping down on businesses rejecting the old notes.
Its Commander, Bello Bakyasuwa, led the team to petrol stations, markets and supermarkets in Gusau, the state capital to ensure compliance with Governor Bello Matawalle’s directive against the rejection of old notes.
The governor on Friday directed security operatives to arrest anyone rejecting the old naira notes.
Bakyasuwa said the team was carrying out the governor’s directive that old N200, N500 and N1000 must be accepted by traders in line with the Supreme Court order.
Matawalle said the old currency notes remain legal tender until the final verdict in the case by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara governors.
Nothing has changed, says CBN official
A senior official of the CBN, who declined to give his name, advised anyone still in possession of the old notes to deposit them at any branch of the apex bank.
He said: “The earlier directive on February 10 expiration date for the old notes by our boss, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, subsists. Nothing has changed.”
An FCT resident, Akin Oladokun, said he turned back at the gate of the CBN branch by security men who told him the exercise had not started.
Banks reject old naira notes, close branches
Despite Supreme Court’s interim order, commercial banks in the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) and some states yesterday rejected old naira notes from customers who thronged to their different branches for cash deposits.
Some new-generation banks even closed their branch operations, with their ATMs not dispensing cash to customers.
Unlike the banks in the FCT, Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Kwara, Benue, Edo and Imo states that have begun outright rejection of the old notes, a few in Plateau, Taraba and Adamawa states accepted them.
In Delta State, some banks accepted while others rejected.
In Osun where residents are losing patience, soldiers manned some of the bank branches, especially in the Ogo-Oluwa area of Osogbo, the state capital.
A Civil Society Organisation(CSO), Dialogue 365, which lamented the hardship caused by the policy, warned that CSOs in the state might embark on a protest if the banks continued to reject old notes.
The situation was worse in Anambra, Abia and Imo state where banks did not open due to Monday-sit- at home.
The same development happened in Bayelsa State where there was fear of protest by aggrieved persons.
At all the banks visited by The Nation in the FCT, their officials said they took the decision not to accept old notes on Friday evening.
They, however, explained that they “were not given any instructions by the CBN on old banknotes.”.
One of the officials said: “After the close of work on Friday 10th February, we effectively stopped collecting old banknotes.
“There was no circular or other directives from the CBN asking banks to stand down on the earlier circular prohibiting banks from accepting old notes after February 10.”
The Ajose Adeogun branch of an old-generation bank was not open for business yesterday and its ATMs were not dispensing cash.
Security operatives sighted at the branch told customers to go to other branches for their transactions.
At a new generation bank’s Ajose Adeogun branch, officials also refused to take cash deposits from customers.
Many of the customers, who came with cash, were told that the bank was not handling cash transactions.
But the story was different at another bank in Obanikoro, Lagos where tellers received old naira notes.
A member of staff of a petrol station in the area confirmed depositing in the bank.
“My manager told me to take the fund to the bank. He was not even sure they will take the cash, but the bank did.
“We have continued to collect the old notes from customers despite the risk associated with it,” he said.
Many of the customers in the banking halls were activating mobile apps, and getting a hard token for their internet banking transactions.
Martins Azu, a Lagos-based entrepreneur, said digital payments platforms have continued to disappoint customers.
He said many customers who use banks’ Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) technology for payments, inter-bank and intra-bank transfers have continued to face poor network challenges.
In Benin City, Akure and Ilorin, banks and traders rejected the old notes.
Banks advised residents that wanted to make deposits to do so at CBN branches nearest to them.
An official of an old-generation bank in Akure told our reporter that they were acting on instruction from the CBN.
Some distraught customers were seen shouting in front of the banks in Ilorin to register their displeasure at the development.
A staff member of one of the banks said: “We are not accepting the old notes from customers today (yesterday).
“We are yet to get a directive from the CBN to effect the Supreme Court ruling for the extension of the deadline.
“We don’t want to credit our customers’ accounts and at the end of the day, CBN will not accept them from us. If that happens we will be at a loss.”
In Delta, banks in Warri and Effurun rejected old notes but some in Asaba accepted them.
A customer, who was at one of the branches in Warri to deposit money said that the development caused a “tense atmosphere” in the banking hall.
Many residents of Benin City and its environs who besieged commercial banks to make deposits also lamented their inability to do so.
Some top officials of old and new-generation banks said they had not received any directive from the CBN to collect the old notes from customers.
Banks in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, paid customers between N1,000 and N5,000 in N10, N20, N50, N200 and N100 denominations.
In Jos, Plateau State customers who besieged the banking halls were lucky as they were able to lodge their old notes.
The banks also paid customers new notes through ATMs.
At one of the banks in Jalingo, Taraba State, an official confirmed that they still collect the old banknotes but will stop today.
For Bayelsa residents, the situation was also worse as banks did not open fully due to fear of planned protests.
The residents said the development had worsened their sufferings.
At the major commercial bank branches visited, customers were turned back by security men who told them they were acting on instruction.
One of the security men said: “It is a precautionary measure to safeguard the banks because there is information that people want to protest, and if you go around town no bank is open.
“They are monitoring the intelligence report and may review the directive if there is a change, but for now we cannot allow anyone.”
A spokesman for the Bayelsa State Police Command, Asinim Butswat, had in a statement on Sunday said the police had reinforced security in banks to forestall breaches of security.