- The CBN’s compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling has come as a relief to many Nigerians enduring the hardship caused by the naira scarcity.
- Some customers came out in large numbers to appeal to their respective banks to disburse the old banknotes.
- They are optimistic that the return to status quo in the use of old naira notes will reduce the current hardship.
Many banks across Lagos witnessed a huge turnout of customers who had come in the hope of being able to make cash withdrawals, over-the-counter or via Automated Teller Machines (ATM).
This heavy turnout follows the recent directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes.
The CBN’s move is in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment of March 3, 2023, ordering the old notes to co-exist with the new notes until December 31, 2023.
Some of the banks visited by Legit.ng showed scores of customers waiting in the premises of the banks in the hope that the banks will dispense the old banknotes as the CBN has approved their status as legal tenders.
CBN’s currency redesign and cash swap policy summersault
It would be recalled that the CBN had in December 2022 effected a naira redesign policy which required Nigerians to return to bank vaults old N200, N500 and N1000 notes in exchange for the newer versions of the aforementioned denominations.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, the CBN did not print enough of the new notes, resulting to banks facing a huge problem of efficiently disbursing the few available cash to millions of customers across the country.
This equally resulted to a torturous scarcity of naira and untold hardship on many Nigerians who could not access cash over the counter and via Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). PoS operators capitalised on the scarcity to extort Nigerians by charging as much as 15%-40% commission on withdrawals.
Protests and vandalism of bank properties were noted in some parts of the country due to to the naira scarcity. This led to some state governors initiating a law suit against the Federal Government and the CBN, the result of which is the Supreme Court’s judgment on the status of the old banknotes.
Customers throng banks to make cash withdrawals
The CBN’s directive to banks to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court came as a relief to many Nigerians who have been heavily affected by the policy. For weeks, many could not withdraw enough cash needed to conduct their daily affairs including transportation, petty trading and otherwise.
For many others who were relying on bank transfers as alternative options to sort their bills or trade their wares and commodities, they were however confronted with challenges such as poor bank app networks, inefficient transfers, amongst others.
At GTBank on Okota Road in Lagos, scores of customers stood inside the bank premises waiting to see if the bank will dispense naira notes. Adebayo Adekanji, a customer who spoke to Legit.ng said h arrived the bank as early as 9am hoping to at least request a withdrawal of the old banknotes. He said:
I was elated when heard the CBN’s directive last night. So, I came early this morning thinking the banks will dispense the old notes with them to customers. I need some amount of cash with me so that I can pay for transport fare as I go out everyday. I like in Okota and my carpentry shop is at Oshodi. I can’t pay for my transport fare to and fro Oshodi using bank transfer, that’s why I need money for transport fare.
The same level of crowd could be seen at the Access Bank that is beside GT Bank. Customers did not seem to be pleased that the bank was yet to attend to them as at 10am. Rukayat Adesola, a food vendor, said that she glad that the CBN obey the court and directed the extension of the deadline of the naira swap policy.
To be honest, the last few months have not been easy for us selling food stuffs. Patronage ahs been very low because a lot of people do not have cash with them. You can understand why we are happy with the extension of the deadline. I was hoping the banks would start dispensing the old notes, but that has not yet happened.
According to our source in Ikeja, the same was observed at most of the banks there. In the past weeks, the number of customers going to banks reduced due to unavailability of cash. But today, there seems to be a surge in the number of customers who have thronged to the banks to see if there is a possibility of withdrawing cash, either old or new banknotes.
Chukwudi Eke, a trader at Ikeja Computer Village who was patiently waiting with other customers at Fidelity Bank said that he really didn’t mind whatever denomination of cash he can get from the bank. He said:
Right now, I can accept any cash. Whether old or new notes, it doesn’t matter anymore thanks to the CBN’s reversal of the policy. It has been a very difficult two months of this policy. If the policy was to curb vote buying and money laundering, I doubt if that has worked. I’m just hoping I can get something from my bank before the end of the day.