The Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria may have had good intentions for redesigning the higher denominations of the country’s banknotes, but it is increasingly becoming clearer that they were not prepared for the outcome so far.

As the deadline given by the CBN for the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes to cease to be legal tenders approached, scarcity of cash in circulation had become a major problem. The cash crunch persists and has brought untold hardship on citizens and led to civil unrest in some parts of the country.

In Benin City, Edo State capital, in the early hours of Tuesday, youths under the umbrella of Edo Civil Society Organization (EDOCSO) and some residents in Benin staged a peaceful protest during which they blocked the entrance of the Benin branch of CBN, demanding cash freedom from CBN, its agents, as well as all commercial banks in the state.

Although the protest attracted a large crowd of people, no incident of violence was recorded. But the same cannot be said for a few other states where protests were held.

States like Oyo and Ogun recorded a lot of violence, and there was even an incident in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital, where someone sustained a gunshot injury.

There have been reports of banks that have had their ATM galleries vandalized, and banks besieged by angry mob, resulting in bank staff having to flee for their own safety through unconventional alternative routes.

The progressive discontent, anger and frustration over the new naira notes policy, fuel scarcity and general economic hardship have continued to inflame tension in the country.

The situation, as we witness daily, is recurrently finding expression in random attacks on banks, riots, demonstrations and other forms of civil disturbances across the country.

The dimension of these violent turbulences in the coming days and weeks may not be easy to ascertain especially as mischief makers may attempt to take advantage of the situation to foment chaos in order to perpetrate criminal activities.

We should not become victims of misplaced aggression by our actions, utterances or activities.

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The following tips may be helpful to us and our families.

While in public places for transactions or services such as banks, ATM centres, POS stands, petrol stations, leisure centres, drinking joints, etc, please avoid:
– inflammatory remarks and utterances
– aggressive conducts that may result in fights
– political statements
– discussions with ethnic or religious bias, and
– wearing of materials with insignia of political parties.

On the road while driving:
– be mindful of aggressive drivers because a lot of people are troubled
– do not be drawn into road rage even when you feel compelled to respond
– avoid altercations over brushes or accidents that your insurance could easily cover
– look out for bike riders of all categories because they are highly irritable and could easily start mob action
– obey instructions at police and other security checkpoints; armed security personnel are also apprehensive for their lives at this point in time
– avoid “my big car syndrome” because that is the surest way to get into big trouble.

In a market setup (supermarkets and conventional markets);

Now that the CBN’s deadline has elapsed with no clarity on the status of the old notes, be careful how you offer the old notes for goods purchased or reject it as change in transactions. It would be better to have a clear understanding before transactions rather than have a fight over enforcement of legal tender regime.

As much as possible, use electronic transfers or POS for your transactions. Do not berate sellers especially petty traders over hikes in prices of goods and services as that may attract undesirable outcome.

In general terms:

– Maintain low profile in your neighbourhood.
– Avoid flaunting bundles of the new naira notes.
– In the office, do not hold yourself out to clients and customers as ultimate authority to avoid direct consequences.
– Avoid unnecessary travels and conserve funds as much as possible.
– Do not be tempted to store fuel in an unsafe place due to the ongoing fuel scarcity.
– Always keep abreast with current news on security occurrences within and around your neighbourhood.

Please be properly guided.