Nigerians groan over scarcity of new currency notes

By Bode Durojaiye.

The CBN Act Section 2 (b) mandates the Central Bank of Nigeria to be the sole issuer of legal tender currency in Nigeria.

The CBN regulates the volume of money supply in the economy in order to ensure monetary and price stability.

The economy requires a certain amount of available cash to function. Cash is the dominant means of payment, as the clear majority of our daily payments are made using banknotes or coins.

Following the introduction of new currency notes in the denominations of 200, N500, and N1000 by the Federal Government , and its official launching by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN) has given the 31st of January, 2023, as deadline for the withdrawal of old currencies from circulation.

But there is gross shortage of new currencies in banks , let alone the POS centres, as most Nigerians are not only lamenting , but groaning not only for the shortage , but refusal by business centres or traders to reject the old currencies , when in fact , the new ones

The nagging question is where are the new currency notes ? Who is fooling who , the CBN or the commercial banks?

The CBN said it has distributed more than enough new currency notes to the commercial banks for circulation to the members of the public through the POS centres.

While some commercial banks” officials insisted that the new currency notes made available to them are grossly inadequate .

Many of those who spoke to this Journalist in Oyo town are worried over the scarcity of the new notes, especially at banks’ Automated Teller Machine (ATM) points.

This concern is coming less than seven days to the January 31 deadline CBN fixed for phasing out of the old naira banknotes.

The CBN introduced the redesigned banknotes on December 15, 2022, saying it was part of measures to control inflation, mop up currency outside the banking system, fight corruption and discourage payment of huge cash to kidnappers and bandits among others.

Findings at ATMs in Oyo metropolis indicated that the old notes are still being dispensed.

Customers who visited the banking halls also disclosed that they were issued the old notes.

One of them, Mrs AINA Eniola said, “I was given old notes at the bank on Thursday, December 29. The new notes are very scarce. I am not sure if they can keep to the January 31 deadline because the notes are not available.”

It was learnt from some bank workers in that they have not been issued new notes while others said the CBN was rationing the new notes.

“We don’t have any new notes and have not been dispensing any in the last one week because CBN has not issued us any since the last one was disbursed,” said a GTB bank.official.

A Point of Sales (POS) operator at Araromi area of Oyo town , said she was still collecting the old notes because the new ones are hardly available. She said that banks are still issuing the old notes to them.

“They are still issuing the old notes to us and in some cases if you are lucky, you can get N2, 000 worth of new notes if you are making a withdrawal of N50, 000 or N100,000 depending on availability,” she said.

It was also gathered that most customers who paid with cash at shopping malls and stores during the last festive period used the old notes.

However, investigation revealed that currency hawkers are profiting from the few redesigned notes in circulation.

In some banks they charged as high as N10, 000 on a bundle.

A bundle of new N200 notes which is N20,000 is sold for N30,000 while N500 and N1,000 which are N50,000 and N100,000 are sold for N60,000 and N110,000 respectively.

A currency hawker who spoke on condition of anonymity said the charges are their gain.

“There are very few new notes in the market. It was a difficult task getting them during the festive period. We would have made huge gains if they were available. We also paid for the few new notes we got so we have to put the charges,” he said,

Some of the banks visited showed that the new naira notes were not yet inputted in the ATM machines.

Despite many Banks’ ATMs in Oyo metropolis , all were not dispensing the new naira notes.

A security guard told this Journalist the machines were yet to be loaded with the new notes.

A customer of a bank, Alabi Issa, who withdrew from one of the machines, said he was not concerned about the type of money available.

He said since the old currencies were still a legal tender, he was not worried as he will spend the notes he collected before the CBN’s policy takes effect.

Another customer, Bimbo Opeola, said it was tough at the bank he visited as everyone was requesting for the new banknotes.

“What they did was to give a piece of the N1, 000 notes to everyone making withdrawal; we even asked for the N500 note but they said it has been exhausted.”

“People that need to be worried about the new notes are those that engage in huge transactions. For me, if I should withdraw N50, 000, all in old notes, I will spend them before the deadline takes effect,” she said.

Some bank customers however said that shortly after the December 15 roll out time, some banks issued pieces of the new banknotes.

The CBN had last week in a circular assured that “The current N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes will circulate side by side with the redesigned banknotes till January 31, 2023, when the current notes shall be withdrawn from circulation and cease to be legal tender.

“The current banknotes remain legal tender till January 31 and should not be rejected as a means of exchange for purchasing goods and services.”
CBN also emphasised that there will be no extension after the January 31, 2023 deadline. It said:

“There will be no extension, so citizens are advised to ensure they deposit all the N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes in their possession before the deadline of January 31, 2023.”

On December 22, 2022, the Deputy Governor of CBN, Aisha Ahmad, while briefing the House of Representatives on the redesigned naira on behalf of the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, said 500 million mint notes were ordered by the bank.

She however, did not state how much those notes were worth.

“I am unable to share that now, only because I want to give an accurate figure,” Ahmad responded to the lawmakers’ enquiries.

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