There has been an increased pressure on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to extend the January 31 dateline for phasing out old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes. Relevant stakeholders are also saying the deadline is not possible because the new notes are nowhere to be found.
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), among others, have added their voices for the extension of time or outright cancellation of the policy until the country is ripe.
They made the call with barely three days to the January 31 deadline as people across the country have decried untold hardship over their inability to access the redesigned naira notes from the banking hall or the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
Daily Trust Saturday reports that some unscrupulous officials of the CBN and commercial banks are already conniving with touts to ‘sell’ the new notes to willing buyers.
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For instance, in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, cash speculators hanging around banks collect N11,000 of old notes in exchange for N10,000 new notes.
The situation is the same in Kano as some CBN officials allegedly took the new naira notes to various mosques and churches for distribution to POS operatives, who would in turn distribute the money to desperate citizens who want to get rid of their old notes.
One of the POS operators, Kabiru Isiaku, said, “We were asked to go the mosque in our area in Hotoro and I was among the first set of people to be there.
“We were told they would come with N10million to share for us. We waited until around noon. And when they shared around N700,000, they said we should go to mosque and come back later; and when we returned, we discovered that they had left. The whole thing is a racket,” he said.
Another trader in Hadejia, Jigawa State, Sajo Aliyu, said, “It is an outright violation of what is expected. Of course, they have brought something like mobile banking to exchange the monies, but when you go with N300,000 they would only give you N10,000 of new notes and leave you with N290,000 of old notes. I don’t understand what is happening,” he said.
At the 20th edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue on Thursday, a professor of Political Science and member, Governing Board, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Jibrin Ibrahim, said the ambitious CBN would continue to face challenges.
He said the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting facility did not have the capacity to meet the currency needs of Nigeria, hence the paucity of funds in banking halls and ATMs.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt from credible sources that although the CBN wants to reduce the over N3trillion in circulation to about N1trn, they were able to produce only about N200billion new notes so far.
Visits to various ATMs in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos indicates long queues where the naira is available.
Daily Trust Saturday observed that most of the ATMs in the state were out of cash before noon during a visit to Ikeja, Agege and Surulere.
Banks also witnessed crowds of customers who wanted to deposit old notes. Most banking halls in the city were crowded as customers rushed to beat the January 31 deadline.
A staff of one of the banks confided in our correspondent that they didn’t have new naira notes to load in the machine as instructed by the CBN.
“We can’t put old notes on the machine because of sanctions from the CBN,” he said.
A businessman, Kayode Adeoye, who said he needed cash to embark on a journey to Ibadan, lamented, “We are in a pathetic situation in this country. I couldn’t get cash in the bank and at PoS operators. I am supposed to go to Ibadan to see my family for the weekend,” he said.
Daily Trust Saturday observed that most shop owners have stopped collecting old notes, thereby turning back potential customers. The old notes were also rejected by commercial bus drivers.
Similarly, a number of ATMs within the Kaduna metropolis have been besieged by customers in an attempt to withdraw the new naira notes ahead of the deadline.
Our correspondent gathered that scarcity of the new notes is causing undue hardship on customers, who have to spend many hours on the queue to withdraw money, while some end up not withdrawing as the money loaded in the machine is exhausted.
Some of the banks visited were congested as customers were seen frantically trying to deposit their old naira notes. This, our correspondent gathered, presented an opportunity for bank officials to take advantage of desperate customers.
A customer in one of the banks visited told our correspondent that officials in some banks refused to change the old notes until they were given bribe.
Muhammad Garba said he was at the bank yesterday to change his old notes of N1. 8 million but was asked to pay N60,000 by officials of the bank before his money would be changed.
He said he had no option but to pay the money for fear of losing his money since the deadline was only days away.
Ganduje, Northern Elders call for extension
The Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has sympathised with the people in the state over the prevailing hardship as a result of CBN’s new policy on redesigned naira notes which went into circulation last week.
The state commissioner for information, Malam Muhammad Garba, who made this known in a statement on Friday, said the government was deeply moved by the attendant consequences of the policy, which has been affecting the people, especially poor Nigerians, due to its timing and short transition period.
Ganduje assured that the state government was making frantic efforts to collaborate with other stakeholders to see to the extension of the transition period set for the total withdrawal of the old and issuance of enough new naira notes to the people.
Similarly, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has called for an extension of the January 31 deadline set by the CBN for the cessation of old naira denominations as legal tender.
In a statement signed by the Director of Publicity and Advocacy of NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the elders noted that the current difficulty and hardship Nigerians are going through over the cashless policy warrants that the apex bank should extend the deadline.
The Forum noted, “Whatever its benefits, it cannot be of value if it destroys many aspects of the economy or alienates already hard-pressed citizens further.”
The chairman of the Sokoto State chapter of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Muhammad Mansur Aliyu, a lawyer, in his remark appealed to the federal government to extend the deadline by at least two weeks.
He said businesses in Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States were almost grounded as a result of the January 31 deadline, as well as a refusal to accept the old notes in commercial transactions out of fear of possible inability to deposit the old ones in commercial banks.
Kano lawyer asks court to restrain Emefiele over deadline
A Kano-based lawyer, Sanusi Umar Sadiq, has asked a Federal High Court in Kano to restrain the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele from implementing the currency swap deadline on January 31.
The lawyer, in the motion for the enforcement of his fundamental rights under sections 44 and 46 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and others, the lawyer said that making the N200, N500 and N1000 notes to cease to be legal tenders by January 31 would violate his fundamental rights, and therefore, unlawful and unconstitutional.
The legal luminary contended that the arbitrary stoppage of the existing notes, which are largely in circulation, would cripple the economy and further entrench poverty among Nigerians, as well as throw the country into chaos.
He wants the court to compel the CBN and its governor “to follow and comply with the global best practices for changing currency, whereby the old ones are gradually withdrawn from circulation by not releasing them to the public once they get deposited in banks within a reasonable time that shall not be less than six months.”
Banks extend operations to Sunday to receive old notes
As the deadline draws closer, First Bank Plc has notified its customers that it would open its branch on Saturday and Sunday
Zenith also joined the fray of banks to open on Sunday between the hours of 9am to 2pm to receive old notes.
Other banks who have indicated interest to provide Sunday operations include FCMB, Guaranty Trust Bank, Wema, Union Bank,
January 31 deadline not feasible – Experts
A financial expert, Professor Uche Uwaleke, says the deadline of January 31 for the currency redesign is not feasible, while calling for an extension by extra two weeks.
Reacting to the development of the scarcity of new naira notes, he told Daily Trust Saturday that, “As much as the initiative is a positive move for the Nigerian economy, I think the deadline has become unrealistic in view of the fact that the new currency notes are still not well circulated, even in urban areas.
So, I suggest an extension by two weeks to enable the new notes reach rural communities through the agents and networks licensed by the CBN,” he added.
Expressing a divergent view, a development economist, Joseph Momoh, said the forthcoming elections may be one of the reasons banks were allegedly hoarding new banknotes
He noted that with politicians’ quest for cash during elections, it is possible that the CBN deliberately made the move to halt disbursement so that they would not take advantage of the situation to stockpile cash for the elections.
“As you are aware, elections are close and politicians are very smart people. If the money is made available everywhere, they may hide it to buy votes. So I suspect that the CBN is being smarter and cautious at the same time,” he added.
Sunday M. Ogwu, Philip S. Clement (Abuja), Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna), Abiodun Alade (Lagos) & Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano)