The old notes are expected to be out of circulation by January 31 yet there is scarcity of the new notes as banks keep dispensing old notes to their customers.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that different stakeholders had been mounting pressure on the apex bank to extend the deadline in order to allow the new notes to circulate well and ensure the mop up of the old notes.
It was learnt that prominent among the stakeholders were managing directors of banks and their management teams, but a source close to the chief executive of a Tier-1 lender told one of our correspondents on Friday that the bank managing directors could not make the call for the deadline extension openly as the decision on the redesign of the naira had their approval.
The source stated, “It is tue that the bank MDs are not comfortable with the fact that the new notes are not circulating the way they had anticipated, but they can’t publicly ask for an extension of the deadline as they were part of the decision to redesign the currency and withdraw the old notes from circulation.
“However, because of the failure of the CBN to supply enough new notes and the pressure this is putting on their banks, the managing directors are lobbying the apex bank to consider the extension of the deadline through the backdoor via the auspices of the Bankers’ Committee. It is a sensitive issue.”
A senior CBN official on Friday confided in Saturday PUNCH that the apex bank might yield to the pressure for extension of the deadline.
According to him, a new date may be announced before or during the CBN Monetary Policy Committee meeting coming up on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.
He stated, “It is clear that the CBN has not supplied sufficient new currency notes to the banks. Even many of us in the CBN have not seen the new notes. The absence of the CBN governor has also clouded the issue and that is why no statement has been made regarding the extension of the deadline.
“From the look of things, most certainly, a new deadline may be announced before the end of the month or during the MPC meeting coming up between January 24 and 25.”
A bank manager in the Ikeja area of Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to talk to the media, stated, “We have been mandated to load all our machines with the redesigned naira notes, but we still don’t have much of the notes in circulation to load in all the machines across the country. What we have agreed is that at least one machine must be loaded in all locations with the new naira notes, because CBN officials have started moving around banks to confirm the level of compliance.
“Two of the CBN officials visited one of our branches today (Thursday) and asked questions if the bank ATMs were dispensing new notes; they also joined the custodians in the ATM room in loading the machines and confirmed that the new notes were being dispensed to customers; they went ahead to ask why some machines were still dispensing old notes and the response given was that the new notes supplied were not enough.
“They requested the evidence of cash supplied from our bullion team and ensured that the same was loaded in the ATMs as we have been mandated not to pay any single note across the counter.”
NUBIFIE seeks extension
Similarly, the National President, Nigeria Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, Anthony Abakpa, stressed the need for the CBN to extend the deadline.
He said, “We would have loved for an extension on the deadline that the CBN has issued for those who are underprivileged and those who live in rural areas where there are no banks and they have to travel a distance before they can carry out banking transactions even on the PoS. We will also love it if they can extend it for every individual to be able to deposit their old notes.
“We advise that there should be a little extension like a month so that everybody can deposit the old notes.”
He noted that to a large extent, most of the Automated Teller Machines in Lagos had started dispensing new notes.
However, when one of our correspondents informed him that ATMs in Abuja were dispensing old notes, Abakpa described the situation as abnormal and said NUBIFIE should be notified about such banks so that necessary action could be taken.
Customers lament scarcity
Findings by Saturday PUNCH showed that Deposit Money Banks had not received sufficient new naira notes to satisfy their customers.
Customers at the GTBank, Sauka branch in the Federal Capital Territory expressed dissatisfaction with the continued circulation of the old notes despite directives by the CBN to load the new notes in ATMs.
Our correspondents observed that customers, who as early as 9am on Friday, were in a queue but could only obtain the new notes, while many customers trooped into the banking halls to deposit old notes.
A customer, Mohammed AbdulKadiri, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, said he was expecting to withdraw the new notes but got dirty old notes when he visited the ATM gallery.
He said, “The current situation is disheartening, it has never been like this. Normally, when you want to produce new notes, on the day of launching, all the banks will have the new notes to give out. By now, I thought we would have more of the new notes in circulation, but unfortunately, I withdrew old notes today.
“Honestly, I still don’t know why they changed the notes. I feel more for traders in the markets because what this means is that by January 31, people will still be spending the old notes.”
When one of our correspondents sought an explanation, an official of the bank branch directed that all enquiries should be directed to the corporate communications team based in Lagos.
Another customer, who did not want her name in print, said it was frustrating as a merchant to deposit the old notes and still withdraw the old notes.