The rage being expressed by Nigerians across many states over the cash crunch arising from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s naira redesign policy has forced many bank branches to lock up.

Last week, anger over the scarcity of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes snowballed into violent protests, leading to attacks on banks and destruction of their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in many cities.

These attacks compelled many banks to shut their branches in violence-prone areas, limiting services to only online transactions. The closure of some bank branches has, however, worsened the cash scarcity situation, throwing citizens into even greater confusion.

But amid concerns regarding why the banks would not open their doors to render financial services to the people as a time like this, the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) has said the safety and security of bank staff and customers were of paramount importance, assuring the public that banks would remain open as long as it was safe to do so.

Dr. Ken Opara, president/chairman of Council, CIBN, in a statement issued in Lagos on Saturday, explained that wherever there was a security challenge, bank managements were “empowered to take proactive measures to close their operations in such location and inform the Central Bank of Nigeria”.

“Therefore, the safety concerns being expressed in various quarters are already being addressed,” he said.

Opara gave the assurance that banks would continue to ensure that adequate security measures were put in place to protect staff and customers while safeguarding their assets in contending with the current challenge.

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He appealed for calm and non-violence, assuring Nigerians that the banking industry remained resolute and committed to finding ways to address all the related issues.

“We indeed appreciate your continued patience and understanding as we work together towards restoring normalcy,” he said.

The CIBN had last week assured Nigerians that it was focused and committed to mitigating the issues around the cash scarcity.

It had also, amid reports that the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company did not have enough capacity to print the required volumes of the new naira notes, clarified that there was no shortage of materials for minting new notes.

“We equally like to allay the fears around the shortage of materials for printing the new naira notes, which the CBN has also discredited,” Opara said in a statement.

“This has also been debunked by the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting (NSPM) Company, which described the story as false, baseless, and misleading.
NSPM has assured that it has made adequate arrangements to continuously produce redesigned naira notes as well as other denominations,” he said.

These assurances have, however, not translated into availability of the new naira notes as the cash squeeze continues to bite less than a week to Nigeria’s presidential election.