The scarcity of the new naira notes and the difficulty in accessing the few available ones are proving to be a daunting experience for Nigerians across the country.
The challenges thrown up by the scarcity of the new notes were visible in Benin City, the Edo State capital, on Monday as hordes of residents who had gone to banks to withdraw some cash were left stranded.
Many struggled to get a hold of a few new naira notes but without success.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in October last year announced its decision to phase out the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes and replace them with new designs. The apex bank also gave Tuesday, January 31, 2023 as deadline for phasing out the old naira notes.
The CBN has since launched the newly designed notes into the banking sector. However, the penetration of the notes has been too slow, leaving many Nigerians scratching their heads.
On Monday, The Nigerian Observer checked around many banks in the city and found that there was hardly any bank that dispensed cash via its Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
At Ring Road branch of First Bank in the heart of Benin, none of the ATMs in the bank dispensed cash. Those who could put the ATMs to any use were those who wanted to make money transfers to other accounts.
Similarly, the new notes were not available for over-the-counter withdrawals. Customers who were at the bank to make withdrawals were paid only with N100 notes not exceeding N20,000.
A staff of the bank who did not give a name blamed the scarcity of the new naira notes on the CBN. The staff said the new naira notes were not available, which accounted for the crowds milling around the banks with no cash.
A customer who spoke to The Nigerian Observer was bitter. According to the customers, who had to withdraw money over the counter because no ATM was dispensing cash, said the bank could only pay N100 notes and placed the maximum amount payable to a customer at N50,000.
Another customer, however, claimed she was paid only N20,000.
The manager at First Bank, Ring Road branch was needlessly aggressive and unfriendly, claiming he had no information to give. He also insisted that our reporters could get whatever information they may need from the news.
The situation was the same when The Nigerian Observer visited Polaris Bank at Ring Road. One of the staff who pleaded anonymity disclosed that there was no more money. According to the staff, the ATM at the bank was loaded with the new naira notes twice in the day which had all been withdrawn by the crowd who came earlier.
“For now, there is no more money,” the person said.
When The Nigerian Observer stopped at Zenith Bank on Airport Road, none of the ATMs was dispensing cash. Information gathered from an anonymous staff was that the ATMs were dispensing both the new and the old notes earlier in the day until, all of a sudden, the there was a directive from the CBN to halt.
Similarly, the ATMs at Access Bank on Airport Road had no money to give to customers as at 3:00pm on Monday. One of the bank’s staff said there was money in the ATMs in the morning, though the machine had been set to pay only N100 and N50 notes. The staff also claimed that there had been an instruction from “above” to halt payment with the new notes.
“The bank can only receive the old notes and can no longer pay the new notes,” the person said.