Nigerians have expressed hope that the evacuation of banknotes from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commercial banks across the country would ease the ongoing naira scarcity in the country.
The CBN Friday also directed all commercial banks to open for operation on Saturday and Sunday to meet the demands of their customers as part of a coordinated effort to ease the circulation of banknotes of various denominations.
According to a statement by the acting director, Corporate Communications of the CBN, Dr Isa AbdulMumin, a substantial amount of money in various denominations had been received by commercial banks for onward release to their customers.
He said the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, would personally monitor the compliance of the commercial banks to the directive.
This move comes days after the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) directed workers to picket all branches of the CBN nationwide from Wednesday, March 29 to protest the lingering cash crunch and fuel scarcity.
Kano traders express hope
In Kano, traders said they were optimistic that the new directive given to commercial banks would address the problem of cash scarcity. They, however, opined that unless the banks issued cash over the counters and across other channels, opening on Saturday and Sunday alone may not address the issue.
Basiru Dauda Kunya from Singer Market said the decision was a welcome development and would bring positive change to the hardship they were experiencing with regard to the cash crunch.
“We are battling with the issue of going to banks to withdraw money or do any other transaction, but I believe that with this development the queues would reduce and people would be able to do transactions,” he said.
Musbahu Musa from Sabongari market, who said he was not aware of the new directive, said he believed it would go a long way in reducing their hardship in accessing the banks.
“If the banks will open, work and issue cash to us, it is a perfect decision and a welcome one. It will address the scarcity of cash and other difficulties we are facing these days as a result of this new policy,” he said.
He added that the addition of two days would bring succour to people, and that there should be awareness for people to know about the decision.
Abdulazeez Muhammad, a local marketer in Kurna, said the decision would address the long queues in banks.
A bank customer in Lagos, Aderonke Adebayo, said the initiative would douse tension provided it happens as scheduled.
“I think that should go well with us if the CBN can make it a reality because the agony of cash scarcity is taking a bad dimension in the life of Nigerians,” she said.
A Point of Sale operator at The Countryside Communications Limited, Mr Johnson Okanlawon, doubted if banks would operate on Saturday and Sunday to ensure adequate physical cash in circulation.
Okanlawon told Daily Trust Saturday that he visited First Bank, Sterling and Access Bank at Ikeja and Iyana Ipaja branches, where he was unable to cash out for his PoS business.
“I don’t believe it until I get there tomorrow and the bank can give cash to customers. The reason I don’t trust the CBN is that we had this information in the past three days that the apex bank would flood banks with cash, but it is not true because we can’t see the cash yet.
“As I am talking to you, I have business contacts in the banks as an operator and they reliably told me that there was no money in the banks. I visited Zenith Bank at Ikeja (Oregun) today and there was no money there. I also visited First Bank, Sterling and Access Bank at Iyana Ipaja with the same no-cash response to me,” Okanlawon said.
Another PoS operator around Ladipo Kuku Street, Ikeja, Musa, said the information at his disposal was that the shortage of cash would continue until after May 29 when the new president would be sworn in.
Nigerians have been battling with the scarcity of naira notes since February when the CBN announced a deadline for the use of old N200, N500 and N1000 notes, a directive that was later voided by the Supreme Court in March.
‘Pay salaries in cash to ease tension’
Uche Uwaleke, a professor of Finance and Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, said governments at national and sub-national levels should pay March salaries in cash to douse tension.
Uwaleke, who was featured on the Daily Politics programme of Trust Television last night, said one of the ways to ease tension and free the economy in a time of emergency was to pay civil servants in cash.
He said the money would trickle down to small and medium enterprises and petty traders within a short time and normal life would resume.
“It is evident that the solid infrastructure is not there for the commercial banks to ensure a cashless policy in a country like Nigeria,” he added.
Professor Uwaleke, however, said the cashless policy was good because it is the way to go, but faulted how it is managed in Nigeria.
Abiodun Alade, Jide Olasunkanmi, Lagos; Sunday Michael Ogwu, Abuja & Zahraddeen Yakubu Shuaibu, Kano
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