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Pressure mounts on CBN as speculators mop-up new naira notes

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.

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).

Recall that some unscrupulous officials of the CBN and commercial banks are already conniving with touts to ‘sell’ the new notes to willing buyers.

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.

It was 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.

It was 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 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.

It was 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.



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