The crisis surrounding the naira redesign worsened on Tuesday as the Central Bank of Nigeria failed to clarify the legal tender status of the old notes.
The development created more confusion across the country amid the refusal by banks, filling stations, and traders to accept the old currencies.
This happened as a shortage of new notes persisted in states and the Federal Capital Territory.
However, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on Tuesday ruled out further extension of the deadline stipulated for the phasing out of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.
Emefiele made the disclosure during a meeting with members of the diplomatic community in Abuja.
He spoke against the backdrop of concerns generated by a Supreme Court order suspending the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a suit by some state governors slated for hearing on February 15 (today).
Amid Nigerians’ belief that the old notes would remain legal tender until the determination of the Supreme Court suit, the CBN governor told members of the diplomatic community that the apex bank would not extend the deadline.
Emefiele was however silent on the legal tender status of the old naira notes.
He said, “No doubt there are pockets of pressure in some areas. The CBN is working hard to shift pressure, and resources to those areas in order to ease the tension. The situation is substantially calming down since the commencement of over-the-counter payments to complement ATM disbursements and the use of super-agents. There is, therefore, no need to consider any shift from the deadline of February 10.”
Meanwhile, massive protests erupted in some parts of the country on Tuesday as commercial banks, filling stations and traders rejected the old notes from customers.
Hundreds of angry citizens who took part in the protests in Abeokuta, Sango-Ota, Ogun State and Akure in Ondo State kicked against the decision of the CBN to withdraw the old notes despite failing to provide the new notes in sufficient quantity.
However, a group in Abuja held a street demonstration in support of the CBN policy. The protesters, however, incurred the anger of street urchins, who attacked.
The protests occurred just as Emefiele announced during a meeting with the members of the diplomatic corps in Abuja on Tuesday that the extension of the February 10 deadline for the currency swap was no longer necessary.
He refused to extend the deadline less than 24 hours before the hearing of the suit filed by Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo and other states against the CBN demonetisation policy.
The Attorneys-General of the applicant states were expected to storm Abuja as the Supreme Court begins hearing the case on Wednesday (today).
But smarting from the hardship inflicted by the cash shortage, Ondo residents stormed the state branch of the CBN in the Alagbaka area of Akure to express their anger over their inability to swap the old naira notes for the new ones.
One of the protesters, who identified himself as Adeyemi said, “I collected old N1000 notes from my bank’s ATM in Alagbaka this morning but sadly the bank officials refused to collect old notes in the banking hall. In fact, I am confused. This is a bad situation in our country.”
Another protester said they were directed to the CBN to exchange their old notes by the commercial banks.
But contrary to an earlier directive by the apex bank, its officials in Akure refused to collect old naira notes from residents.
A CBN official explained that the apex bank could not help them.
“I don’t know why the people are coming to the CBN. They should rather direct their grievances to their commercial banks, not to us here. We don’t have any directives to attend to customers. But I know very soon this issue will be resolved,” he stated.
But as the number of protesters grew, the policemen drafted to the scene ordered them to leave the vicinity.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, scores of retail fish sellers under the aegis of the Association of Fish Sellers, also protested the rejection of the old naira notes which had affected their business.
Some demonstrators also shut down the busy Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway in the Sango-Ota area.
The fish sellers lamented their inability to carry out transactions with the old naira notes due to the CBN cashless policy, stating that many businesses had shut down.
They added that both the banks and the wholesalers had refused to accept the old notes for transactions.
Speaking on behalf of the fish traders, Mrs Rasheedat Oyebola noted that their business might collapse due to the rejection of the old notes by the banks and cold room operators.