The new naira notes introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the wake of its now voided naira redesign policy have become scarce despite the increase in currency circulation from N982.09 billion in February to N1.6 trillion at the end of March.
Daily Trust on Sunday observed the scarcity of the new naira notes from major banks, markets and Point of Sale (PoS) outlets in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Niger, Borno, Imo and across the country.
It would be recalled that the CBN had introduced new notes of N200, N500 and N1,000 on December 15, 2022, with a plan to phase out the old notes in January before it was moved to February 10.
This led to weeks of hardship following the inability of the apex bank to circulate enough new notes after mopping up N2.3trn old notes from circulation during the policy implementation.
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However, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of Nigerians in a landmark judgement voiding the policy and directing that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 should remain legal tender till December 31.
While the latest figure shows a 71 per cent increase in currency circulation as the CBN had injected N701.4bn into circulation, the new notes are becoming unavailable for the majority of Nigerians.
In Niger State, our correspondent who visited some Automated Teller Machine (ATM) galleries reported that none of them was dispensing new notes.
One of the customers at the Minna branch of First Bank ATM, Abdulsalami Umar said,”It was all politics. Since the Supreme Court delivered judgement that they should allow the use of old notes, I have never for once withdrawn new notes. Even in banking halls, they don’t issue new notes. They have played their politics.”
A PoS operator, Suleiman Mohammed, said new notes were scarce, even in banks, saying, “We don’t access new notes anymore.”
Also, traders at the Kure ultramodern and Gwari markets, Minna, told our correspondent that they received more old notes than new ones from customers.
One of the traders at the Kure Ultramodern Market, Mallam Idris Aliyu, told our correspondent that on Sallah eve, the two major transactions he made, amounting to about N1million, were all in old notes.
“One of the customers gave me to N200,000, all in N200 old notes. Another customer gave me N618,000 cash of N500 and N1,000 old notes. There was no single new note. So, we hardly get paid using new naira notes,” he said.
Another trader at Gwari market, Alhaji Salami Mohammed said, “Our customers don’t bring new notes. Maybe, until the end of the deadline, they will make the new ones available. But what the government and the CBN would have done is to release the new notes from now so that every old note that enters banks should not come out again.”
However, a staff of First Bank, Minna branch, who didn’t want his name mentioned, told Daily Trust on Sunday that they dispensed both old and new notes. He, however, said the ATM machines were loaded with old N1,000 notes.
A visit to different banks by our correspondent in Port Harcourt and surrounding communities showed that banks are dispensing old naira notes.
A visit to banks located in Port Harcourt Old Township, Ikwerre road, Olusegun Obasanjo, Oyigbo and Eleme showed that old naira notes are being dispensed by banks.
At the Union Bank located at the popular Ikwerre road, customers are being paid with the old notes of N500 and N1,000.
Also, a visit to United Bank for Africa (UBA), First Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and First City Monument Bank (FCMB) showed that customers are being paid with the old naira notes.
A resident of Oyigbo, Emeka Akpa, said he had never received payment in the new currency since the reintroduction of the old notes.
“I have been to banks on several occasions, and I can tell you that nobody has paid me in the so-called new naira note. All the time I have been visiting the bank, the payments I received were in the old naira notes,” he said.
A resident of Kano, Isyaku Ali, said he got the new notes of N120,000 a week ago at one of the banks in the state.
“I got N120,000, see the remaining with me here (showing the new notes). They are still in circulation, honestly,” he said.
Also, a businessman at Kwari market, Nafiu Idris, told our correspondent that the new notes were still in circulation but not as much as the old ones in the market.
“People are bringing them, but they are not enough; the old ones are still dominant in the market,” he said.
However, Abdullahi Said, who works in one of the commercial banks within the metropolis, said the CBN had not sent new notes to banks in recent weeks.
“Honestly, there are no new notes in our bank; I can’t even recall the last time they brought it. Maybe they are keeping them or something,” he said.
Most of the ATMs along Zoo Road in Kano were also dispensing old notes when our correspondent visited.
In Owerri, the Imo State capital, most residents complained about the disappearance of new naira notes.
When our correspondent visited most of the banks along the popular Bank and Douglas roads, all the ATMs were dispensing the old notes.
“Since the extension of the deadline for the exchange of the old notes to the new currency came into effect, it appeared the new notes utterly disappeared. This is very strange because one would have thought we would be spending the new notes more, especially as there is a December 31 deadline.
“This means that we are going back to square one when the deadline expires because there will be scarcity of the new notes,” a customer, Amadi noted.
It is a similar story in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, as traders and customers decried the non-availability of the new notes.
Kamilu Sani, who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday at the point of withdrawing cash from an ATM at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), said he spent almost one week frequenting the machine but had not received a single new note.
“I have a patient in the hospital; the billing point in the hospital has issues with their PoS machines, so we always come out here to get cash before making payments. I have not received new notes from this ATM, even once; it always dispenses old notes and even mutilated ones sometimes,” he said.
Abubakar Salihu complained that his bank had continued to pay him old notes even when he requested for new ones.
“It is like the bank staff are hiding the new notes. In fact, I requested for the N200 denomination of the new notes purposely to celebrate Sallah, but the bank staff clearly told me to forget it.
“For the N50,000 I requested, I only got a mixture of new N500 and N1,000 notes with old N200 notes. With the way things are going, I am afraid the incoming administration would reverse this policy,” he said.
Nigerians hoarding new notes — CBN, bank officials
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the scarcity of the new notes is majorly as a result of hoarding by Nigerians.
A top bank official in Lagos told our correspondent that most Nigerians didn’t spend or deposit the new notes, saying they preferred to keep them.
“Banks are giving out the notes, either old or new that we get from the CBN. What we have discovered is that while the old notes are used for transactions and we get them back, Nigerians hardly bring back the new notes. They are keeping them, maybe in anticipation of the December 31 deadline. Nobody wants to be a victim of scarcity again,” he said.
A source at the CBN disclosed that the apex bank was also managing the circulation of the new notes because it discovered that ordinary Nigerians were hoarding them.
“In the past, our currency suffered from hoarding by the political class, but now, ordinary Nigerians are hoarding the new notes. So, we have to manage the circulation of the new notes,” the source said, stressing that the apex bank has decided to release more old notes to the commercial banks.
“We have our strategies of mopping up the old notes ahead of the deadline. Nigerians should know that both old and new notes are legal tender and should be free to spend them. Over a trillion naira is in circulation and more notes are being released to the banks,” the source added.
Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, said the CBN should explain to Nigerians why the new notes are not available.
The former director-general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said that by the judgement of the Supreme Court there should have been a gradual withdrawal of the old notes as the new notes are being introduced into circulation.
“The old notes should be gradually withdrawn and replaced with the new notes. However, from all indications, the CBN seems not to be printing new notes. The old notes are about 80 per cent of the cash in circulation. The cash situation has still not normalised to the pre-naira redesign crisis. There are still clusters of people in some banks. The CBN is in a better position to explain because we should not allow the situation to degenerate to another crisis by the end of the year,” he said.
From Abiodun Alade (Lagos), Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano), Abubakar Akote (Minna), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri) & Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Maiduguri)