Despite the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, waving aside the insinuation that there was shortage of new naira notes in circulation, most daily cash transactions in Benin City are done in old notes, confirming that the CBN authority was economic with the truth in February 2023 when it denied the rumours on new naira shortages.

Before the Supreme Court judgement early March which extended the validity of the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes till December 2023, traders received the new naira notes for payments for goods sold. That is not the case anymore.

From open markets to malls, canteens, motor parks, GSM village, and even among the operators of daily contributory saving schemes, the Nigerian Observer can now authoritatively reveal that new naira notes are very hard to come by in Benin City.

The preponderance of transactions in old naira notes comes at a time the currency in circulation witnessed a steep decline by the latest CBN data on money and credit statistics. In February 2023, the CBN data showed that the currency in circulation fell by 29.2 percent from N1.39 trillion in January 2023 to N982.09 billion in February 2023.

Denying the rumours on inadequate printing materials, the CBN through Osita Nwanisobi, director, corporate communications, said Nigeria had enough printing materials for the new naira redesign project.

He said: “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to a misleading report misquoting the Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, as attributing the current challenge in the distribution of the newly redesigned naira banknotes to a shortage of printing materials at the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc.

“We wish to state categorically that at no time did the CBN Governor disclose this during his presentation to the National Council of State at its meeting on Friday, February 10, 2023. For the records, what Mr. Emefiele told the meeting was that the NSPMC was working on printing all denominations of the naira to meet the transaction needs of Nigerians.”

In spite of the assurance, Nigerians, from traders to students, find it hard coming by the new naira notes, which are meant to replace the old notes by year end.

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The Nigerian Observer visited a number of places in Benin City for on-the-spot assessment of how much of the new naira notes are in circulation. The exercise took our team to the GSM Market along Airport Road, the Vegetables Market, canteens, and some transport companies whose daily activities involve heavy use of cash.

Ese John, a phone seller, in response to our enquiries, said payments are made more of the old notes than the new notes, especially in the last two weeks. According to him, out of every N10,000 he received from sales, it is either there are no new notes at all, or whenever new notes are among the cash handed over to him, may not be more than N2000.

Bolu, a mobile phone engineer, said he had not set his eyes on the new naira notes in the last three weeks, as all his customers paid for the services rendered with the old notes. He added that he was not bothered since the old notes are now acceptable nationwide.

Traders at the popular Vegetables market in Benin City said that almost all the transactions at the market are conducted in the old naira notes.

“Most of the traders in the market don’t see new naira notes. It is the old notes that customers bring to us”, Mama Bella, a trader at the market, said.

An accounts clerk with Bob IZUA Motors, who did not want her name in print, said travelers pay with the old notes, adding that it is on rare occasions that they see customers that will pay with new notes.

“You see, transport business follows the season of the year. Even when we get steady patronage, you may count up to N100,000 before seeing N2000 new notes,” she said.

A manager of daily contributory thrift saving scheme popularly called Ajo or Esusu said out of N100,000 she collects daily, new notes may be around three to five thousand naira.