Traders, others reject old naira notes four days to deadline
•Northern Elders, Ganduje, Others Seek Extension
•Bank’s Not Issuing New Notes, Customers Lament
•Banker Accuses CBN Of Hoarding New Notes
Some Nigerians have expressed worry as traders and Point of Sale (PoS) operators started rejecting old naira notes yesterday, four days to the deadline issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Many people who spoke with The Guardian on the development said they were not happy, as they had no new notes to spend.
One Ms. Janet Aondo, a customer, who was spotted at Karu, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, particularly said she was frustrated.
Aondo said she came out to get snacks for her children to take to school but was told that she could only make payment with the new naira note.
She said it was worrisome that people had begun to reject the old notes.
According to her, she expected that the rejection of old notes would begin from January 31, as announced by the CBN.
Another customer, who pleaded anonymity, said a Point of Sale (PoS) agent turned her down when she went to deposit some old naira notes.
“The agent imputed the amount and recipient’s number but the moment I brought out old notes he said, ‘Madam we have stopped collecting old notes.’
“I tried explaining to him that the deadline is January 31, but he was adamant,” she said.
In Borno State, findings showed that commercial, microfinance banks and PoS operators in the state were hit by the scarcity of new naira notes, as most banks and PoS in Maiduguri, the state capital, could not meet the demands of their customers.
In an attempt to beat the January 31 deadline, many banks customers had rushed to the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) of commercials located along Shehu Lamimu Way and Baga road, Maiduguri, with the hope of withdrawing new naira notes.
Adamu Isa, a trader at the Maiduguri Monday Market (MMM), told The Guardian that he arrived the place at 7.30am only to discover that the ATMs were not loaded with any of the redesigned naira notes.
He recounted that on reaching the banking hall, “one Aisha in the bank, politely told me that the bank has no new notes either in its strong room (vaults) or ATMs,” disclosing that if the bank issue old notes, the CBN would sanction it.
He, however, noted that the bank accepted lodgments of old notes.
The situation in Cross River State was not different, as commercial banks in the state told their customers that they didn’t have the new notes.
POS operators in Calabar, the state capital, also complained of poor supply of the new notes, lamenting that their businesses were suffering as they could not meet customers’ demand.
A bank official who pleaded anonymity said: “We do not have enough new notes now and even the few have are the ones we collected from customers. Because of this we have limited our ATM withdrawals to only N20, 000 per day.
“We suspect a deliberate hoarding by the CBN and we are wondering how much of the new notes are in the hands of politicians yet the banks do not have. In December, we had enough of the notes but customers were rejecting them and we pushed all into the ATM machines and they have all been withdrawn.”
However, normal business activities were noticed in most of the banks with people on queue at ATM points and in the banking halls.
A customer in one of the commercial banks in Calabar, Mr. Effiong Ekpe, complained that he could only get N20,000 from the ATM saying “since morning I realised that I could withdraw only N20,000.”
Following the difficulties being encountered by Nigerians, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has urged the CBN to postpone its deadline on the currency swap programme, saying it has not worked as planned.
Similarly, the Kano State government, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to extend the deadline due to unavailability of the new notes in the state.
In a statement by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, yesterday, NEF noted that the CBN’s insistence on the deadline was strangulating economies, communities and the patience of citizens.
NEF also noted that there were murmurs that hint at the possibility that the forthcoming elections may not hold and that some kind of unconstitutional contraption may be forced on Nigerians after May this year, warning those planning to interfere with the conduct of the elections in a credible manner and the peaceful transition of power to another administration to desist.
The group added that those who peddle the rumours point to the near-desperate circumstances under which Nigerians live.
The statement read in part: “They suggest that difficulties simultaneously imposed by insecurity, crushing inflation, fuel scarcity, exchange of old for new currency notes and others, which affect particularly poor Nigerians are deliberately contrived to inflame passions and trigger unrest, which may poison the election environment or threaten its conduct.
“The Forum has no basis to support these conjectures. Nonetheless, it warns against any attempts to interfere with the conduct of credible elections and a peaceful transition to a new administration.”
According to NEF, the severe economic and social difficulties under which Nigerians live were indeed threats to peace and security.
“Solution must be found to improve the security of the citizen and the state. Fuel shortage can and must be eliminated immediately. The currency swap programme has not worked as planned, and it is strangulating economies, communities and the patience of the citizen. It should be revisited, particularly around its timelines and operations of the CBN and banks.
“Whatever its benefits, it cannot be of value if it destroys many aspects of the economy or alienates already hard-pressed citizens further. The Forum advises a postponement of its deadlines and a major review of the utility of the continued stay of the leadership of the CBN in place,” NEF said.
In an emergency meeting with religious leaders and other stakeholders held at Government House, the Kano State government noted that the deadline has imposed unnecessary hardship on the citizens.
The resolution of the meeting, which was made available to journalists, read in part: “Economic activities have been paralysed in Kano, the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria, due to hardship caused by the shortage of the new naira notes.
“We urge President Muhammadu Buhari, out of his magnanimity, to consider the suffering caused to the people of the state due to the shortage of the new naira notes and extend the deadline set by the CBN.”
Members of Islamic sects, which included clerics from Tijjaniya, Kadiriyya and Izala sects also lamented that the deadline set by the apex bank has caused unnecessary hardship to Nigerians.
They further complained that the commercial banks and the CBN failed to inject the redesigned naira notes in circulation, a situation that dislodged many people from their businesses.
The meeting had in attendance the Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, his deputy, Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, state APC chairman, Abdullahi Abbas, among others.