Relief As Banks Ration Old Notes
*NLC Insists On Seven-day Ultimatum
Deposit Money Banks have begun to ration the disbursements of old N1,000 and N500 notes to their customers amid uncertainty over whether the Central Bank of Nigeria will release the old notes in its custody.
This came about 24 hours after the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, announced that old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes remained legal tender.
But despite the CBN’s statement on Monday night, the Nigeria Labour Congress on Tuesday insisted on the seven-day ultimatum it gave the Federal Government to end the cash crunch.
The apex bank’s position came on the heels of several weeks of confusion over the legal status of the old currencies amid a series of Supreme Court judgments in a suit between some state governments and the Federal Government.
The declaration by the CBN was expected to put an end to the scarcity of old and new naira notes that had inflicted pain on Nigerians but findings on Tuesday revealed that the naira crisis might not be over soon.
Investigations by our correspondents revealed that banks were rationing old notes to their customers via over-the-counter payments with a few lenders loading their Automated Teller Machines.
But findings revealed that the majority of the lenders in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun, Kwara and other states were paying only N5,000 to each customer over the counters, while a few banks paid N10,000 only.
Further findings indicated that only a few banks loaded their ATMs and most of them were disbursing only N5,000.
Top bank executives revealed that most banks were paying what was left in their vaults, having sent a major chunk of old naira deposits to the CBN several weeks ago.
Other officials said lenders were also paying customers from little fresh deposits made by their customers.
Due to the naira scarcity, Wema Bank at Ilupeju, Lagos placed a limit on its ATM withdrawals from other banks’ cards and was dispensing only old naira notes. Same with GT Bank on Oba Akran, Ikeja where customers were made to withdraw only N5,000 cash.
When reporters visited the branch, the bank’s customers were able to withdraw only N10,000 with Wema Bank’s cards, while other banks’ customers could withdraw only N4,000 only.
At the Access Bank branch on CMD Ikosi Road, Lagos, customers were asked to generate a code from the CBN portal before they could be allowed to deposit.
They said this was mandatory although the CBN had declared old notes legal tender.
One of the bank officials who attended to our correspondent said, “We are paying the old notes but if you want to deposit them, you must go and generate the pin from the CBN portal.”
A visit to the First Bank branch at Mazamaza along Lagos-Badagry Expressway revealed that the bank had started dispensing the old notes via over-the-counter withdrawals.
At the Union Bank branch also in Mazamaza, the situation was the same.
The branches of United Bank for Africa, Access Bank, and Fidelity Bank at Oshodi in Lagos also dispensed old notes to their customers, though they had long queues.
At the Fidelity Bank branch, one of their three Automated Teller Machines was dispensing old N1,000 notes.
A customer, who collected the old notes from the ATM, Helen Orji, expressed relief.
She said this was the first time that she was able to collect cash from an ATM.
“It’s a major relief. PoS charges are killing. I wanted to buy baby formula on Monday, so I went to collect N5,000 and was given N4,000. It wasn’t enough for what I wanted to buy. To be able to go back to normal is a relief.”
Meanwhile, when a bus conductor plying the Mile 2-Oshodi route on Tuesday attempted to refuse the old notes, his passengers revolted and started handing him old N500 and N1,000 notes. He backed down and accepted the old notes.