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Naira scarcity: Long queues persist as banks ration old notes

Old naira notes
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Banks opened their doors to weary customers to withdraw cash on Saturday in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive. However, some of the old issues persisted as naira was still being rationed to them.

In many locations in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, long queues of customers trying to make withdrawals were recorded at bank branches, with some of the customers expressing relief that at last, they would be able to get their money after over two months of scarcity.

Bankers said that the naira supply situation was expected to gradually improve in the days ahead as the apex bank had matched its word with action by supplying the lenders with significant volume of the previously withdrawn old naira notes.

A manager in a Tier-1 bank in Lagos told one of our correspondents on Saturday that the naira supply situation had improved tremendously compared to a month ago as the CBN had made available old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.

He said, “The information from our head office is that the CBN gave our bank N5bn in old notes earlier this week and this has been disbursed to the branches. I can confirm to you that we have started paying each customer N20,000 over the counter and people can also withdraw the same amount from our Automated Teller Machines unlike the situation in the past when they were restricted to N10,000 on the few occasions when we had cash.

“We expect to be able to pay customers more next (this) week as we anticipate increased supply by the CBN. We have removed the N100,000 weekly withdrawal limit or N20,000 daily imposed by the apex in the wake of the naira redesign and implementation of the cashless policy and reverted to the old limits of N500,000 for individual account holders and N5m for corporate bodies.

“I am personally relieved that the CBN has now decided to obey the Supreme Court judgment and make the old notes available. The past two months were extremely difficult for us bankers as we felt the pain that our customers felt, suffered bodily harm and our facilities were attacked by frustrated customers, who could not get their money out. We are currently battling to clear the backlog of failed transactions using alternative payment channels. I think the problem arose because of the lack of capacity to handle the huge volume of such transactions.”

One of our correspondents, who visited Access Bank in the Ibafo area of Ogun State around 1.42pm on Saturday, observed a large number of customers waiting for the bank to allow them access into the banking hall and ATM gallery.

The main gate was under lock and key, while some customers were leaning on the gate.

A customer, Titilope Oyediran, said she had been at the bank since 6am with the hope of withdrawing money because she heard on radio that the banks would be working.

Oyediran said, “I have been here since 6am and the bank has yet to open. The security man just told us that money had just arrived and they would answer us but since he said that over an hour ago, nothing has happened.

“If not because I heard on radio that the banks will be open today I wouldn’t have come; but now, I will wait till they answer me.”

An official of the bank, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that customers would be attended to but was not sure of the time.

“They just brought in cash and they are preparing to attend to customers. I don’t know when customers will be attended to; when we are ready, we will open the gate,” he said.

At the UBA also in Ibafo, customers were attended to in the early hours of the day but were limited to a maximum of N5,000.

This was later stopped and the customers were directed to the ATM gallery, where a long queue had been formed.

A customer, who identified himself simply as Bayonle said, “What is happening is that they first paid N5,000 to us inside the bank, but they later stopped and told us to go to the ATM gallery. I collected N5,000 over the counter, but it’s not enough. I want to use the ATM, that’s why I am waiting here.”

Abuja banks

Banking halls across various commercial banks in the Federal Capital Territory were opened on Saturday to customers in accordance with the CBN directive although some banks refused to open for business.

The apex bank had on Friday directed commercial banks to open for operation on Saturday and Sunday as part of a coordinated effort to ease the circulation of banknotes of various denominations.

The CBN also confirmed the evacuation of banknotes from its vaults to commercial banks across the country.

Checks on Saturday by our correspondents revealed that while most banking halls were opened to customers, a few others were not opened for business.

However, large crowds of customers seeking to make withdrawals formed outside some of the ATM galleries of the banks.

At the Stanbic IBTC Bank in Garki Area 11, few customers were seen making withdrawals and other enquiries.

The bank’s ATMs were dispensing a maximum of N10,000 per customer or debit card, with most of the notes comprising the old N200, N500 and N1000. However, this caused a lot of frustration among customers who were hoping to withdraw larger sums.

Similarly, at the First City Monument Bank in Area 1, only a handful of customers were seen at the ATM gallery and in the banking halls.

Our correspondents also visited Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Stanbic IBTC and United Bank of Africa located along the Airport Road and Kuje Road.

At GTB, customers were allowed entry by 9am and cashiers paid N30,000 in old N1,000 per customers over the counter and N40,000 from ATMs.

At the UBA branch in Kuje, customers were restricted to withdrawing only N20,000 from the ATMs, while over-the-counter withdrawals were not permitted.

However, Zenith and Stanbic IBTC were not open to customers as of noon when one of our correspondents visited.

The UBA branch in the Federal Housing, Lugbe, was opened to customers and dispensed cash over the counter; however, a large crowd had built up when the bank was visited.

It was also observed that ATMs belonging to Wema Bank and UBA dispensed cash to customers.

Banks in satellite towns of the FCT also opened for business on Saturday.

Huge crowds of customers were seen at banks’ ATM galleries in the satellite communities, while customers were also seen standing in queues at the gates in order to be allowed access into the banking halls.

Banks that opened for business along the Nyanya-Mararaba Road included FCMB, UBA, Zenith Bank, First Bank, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank and Access Bank, among others.

A customer at Access Bank, Mrs Ngozi Ugoh, said although she did not know about the CBN directive, she came to get cash from the ATM and saw a large crowd trying to enter the banking hall.

”I didn’t know about the directive of opening at weekends, but I was just passing by and saw people so I entered to see if I can get some cash,” she said.

Another customer at Zenith Bank, Mr Andy Jerry, described the development as a welcome one.

He said the banks were complying with the CBN directive to work during the weekend in order for the Nigeria Labour Congress to shelve its planned strike on Wednesday.

“I think the CBN compelled banks to work at weekends so that the protest by the NLC will not hold. I like this because it will give more time for people to access cash,” he said.

Miss Stephanie Ikpe commended the CBN for the directive, saying the development would help reduce the cash crunch currently being experienced by the masses.

Ikpe appealed to the CBN to monitor banks to ensure that their weekend operations continued.

Osun banks

Some bank customers in Osogbo, Osun State capital, on Saturday commended commercial banks for making available more naira notes.

Many of the banks in the state opened for business, while their ATMs also dispensed cash to customers.

A Point of Sale operator in the Kelebe area of Osogbo, Dorcas Olapade, said she was able to withdraw N40,000 from a branch of the UBA.

“It was the first time in a long while we were able to get such an amount from the bank. I got N40,000 from my UBA account. I am excited,” she said.

Another bank customer around the Stadium area of the city, Saidat Olanrewaju, said she was able to withdraw N30,000 from a First Bank branch without stress, adding that many people were unaware that banks would open for operation on Saturday and Sunday.

Olanrewaju stated, “It was a pleasant surprise. The queue was minimal. I got N30,000, the amount I got from my bank in close to two months. I commend the banks for operating during the weekend.

“I hope this will be sustained. We don’t want a return to the hardship of the past months. The government should ensure that we have more cash.”

The acting Director, Corporate Communications Department, Isa Abdulmumin, said a substantial amount of money in various denominations had been received by commercial banks.

The apex bank also directed all commercial banks to open for operations on Saturdays and Sundays.

Abdulmumin stated, “The CBN has also directed all banks to load their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) as well as conduct physical operations in the banking halls through the weekend.

“Branches of commercial banks will operate on Saturdays and Sundays to attend to customers’ cash needs.”

He added that the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, would personally monitor compliance of the commercial banks with the directive.

The CBN spokesman urged Nigerians to exercise patience as the current situation would soon ease off with the injection of more banknotes into circulation.


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