Banks in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State’s capital, have opened their doors to customers to withdraw cash and conduct other financial transactions in accordance with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s recent directives, but are still unable to pay customers the new redesigned naira notes.
GIST correspondent reports that long queues are seen within banking premises as customers besiege the financial institutions for transactions, and that almost all banks are paying old Naira notes only.
A cashier at a popular bank on Ikwerre Road told our reporter that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has not given them the redesigned Naira and that they are only paying money deposited by other customers. When asked how much they can pay per withdrawal, she said ten thousand Naira only because they are managing their limited funds.
Our correspondent also went to the Zenith Bank at Olu-Obasanjo Road and was told that they are not paying because they do not have enough cash. Customers seen wandering around their premises were either conducting inter-bank transactions, filing complaints, or making inquiries. However, when The Gist visited a UBA branch in Diobu on Tuesday morning, they were not issuing cash but were instead attending to customers who came in for other transactions. However, a bank official assured that they were expecting cash and promised to begin disbursing as soon as it becomes available. Customers met at the bank, on the other hand, confirmed that they were able to withdraw N10,000 on Monday.
Despite assurances from the central bank and deposit banks that Nigerians would begin to receive new naira notes from ATMs across various platforms on Tuesday, findings revealed that many ATMs belonging to financial institutions were still dispensing old notes.
Some of the ATMs visited at Aba road, GRA, Waterlines, and Ikwerre road, among others, dispensed the old notes as banks were still loading a significant number of their ATMs with the old naira notes, which the CBN is set to phase out after December 31 this year.
However, one of our correspondents observed that the UBA and Access Bank ATMs at Rivers State University were out of network and, as a result, couldn’t tell if they were dispensing the new notes.
A customer who did not want his name printed said he had queued at two different banks’ ATMs but was unable to withdraw any money because the notes were exhausted before it got to his turn in each case. Even his attempt to withdraw old notes at the counter failed, he said, because banks were instructed not to pay old notes with the affected denominations.
Meanwhile, the majority of the PoS operators in Rivers State were still giving their customers the old notes, explaining that they had not yet received the new notes. Some of them charge 20% for each withdrawal. For example, anyone withdrawing N10,000 was charged N200. Most PoS operators we spoke with said they didn’t have new notes to give out to customers.
According to a PoS operator at Casablanca GRA, many of the operators still find it difficult to obtain large amounts of cash from banks, so they rely on traders to buy from them. “Most of us don’t have enough new notes,” he said, “so we may continue to give our customers old notes for the time being.”
Miss Ogochi Blessing, a Point of Sales (POS) operator along Mile 3 Market, stated that the money is purchased from a bank. When asked which bank they buy the money from, she said that her boss usually buys the money and gives it to her for operations.
Meanwhile, our reporter saw some people trading the new Naira notes at Garrison bus stop. Attempts to speak with one of the ladies involved in the exchange were futile because she declined our request to interview her.
The Central Bank of Nigeria had previously threatened to arrest anyone selling the newly redesigned banknotes as well as anyone who openly abuses the notes at social functions across the country. The central bank stated that it will work with security agencies to ensure that those who misuse the new notes are apprehended and punished in accordance with existing laws.
Section 21 (4) of the CBN Act 2007 states that “it shall also be an offence punishable under sub-section (1) of this section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in the naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the bank”.
The stated offences above are punishable under Sub-section 21(1) which provides, among other things that, a person “shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine not less than N50,000 or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
The above-mentioned robust legal provisions, which should have protected the notes from abuse, are now being observed in breach rather than compliance. Regrettably, the CBN and security agencies have kept their eyes closed while the nation and its people suffer from preventable currency abuses.
Despite the fact that the law prohibiting hawking and Naira abuse has been in place for over a decade, the CBN is still in the process of “awareness creation” and “sensitization” of citizens