Anger, frustration, tears as scarcity of new naira notes persist in Warri despite CBN directives
In this report, GbaramatuVoice writes that despite the recent Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directives to commercial banks to start paying the redesigned naira notes to customers over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000, customers continues to lament inability of commercial bank branches in Warri, Delta state, to adhere to this simple instruction.
Residents in Warri and its environs have continued to expressed frustration and anger as they spend hours on long queues without being able to withdraw cash via Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
Our correspondent who monitored the development at some banks around Airport Road, Effurun, and Udu axis, reported that people queued up for more than five hours to be able to withdraw as little as N3,000.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had ordered banks to load their ATMs with the new redesigned naira notes to ensure Nigerians have access to it.
The new redesigned naira notes comprising N200, N500 and N1000, became a legal tender on Dec. 15, 2022, after they were unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 23, 2022 in Abuja.
The CBN had earlier fixed January 31 as the deadline for the collection of old naira denominated notes, but later extended the time limit to Feb. 17.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the extension was to allow Nigerians that have naira legitimately earned and trapped, the opportunity to deposit their monies for exchange.
GbaramatuVoice gathered that the directive come on the heels of business grinding to a halt over the scarcity of the redesigned notes, having deposited old notes with the commercial banks
While CBN persistently assures Nigerians of its willingness to ensure the effective distribution of the newly introduced naira banknotes, customers continue to groan in pain as commercial banks in Warri and its environs starve customers of the new currency.
It is a statement of fact that chaos, anarchy and disorderliness reigned supreme in most of these Banks as aggrieved customers consistently protested banks nonpayment of the new naira notes to them as directed by the nation’s apex bank.
For instance, on Friday February 3, 2023, at about 11.20am, traders at the Warri Main Market in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta state, carried out a peaceful protest over the sale of the redesigned N1000, N500 and N200 currency notes in the market by people suspected to be agents of commercial banks in the area.
GbaramatuVoice team who were at the scene of the peaceful protest reports that traders about two thousand (2000) in their numbers besieged the Union Bank branch close to the market with chants of war, while some of the protesters set bonfire on the ever busy road that leads to the market.
The activities of the protesters grounded business transactions in the area while disrupting human and vehicular movement for over four (8) hours.
Speaking with GbaramatuVoice at the scene of the protest, one of the traders lamented that inability to have access to their money have adversely affected their business.
He lamented that most of them in the market have exhausted their sales but cannot re-stock as a result of unavailability and inaccessibility of cash.
Another trader, a female, also told GbaramatuVoice that they were particularly not happy that the redesigned note which they cannot find in banks, is being sold freely and at a very exorbitant rate in the open market.
She therefore, called on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s leadership to spread their supervisory tentacles on these banks in order to bring perpetrators to book.
In a similar style, on Saturday February 4, 2023, GbaramatuVoice crew visited the Premium Trust Bank branch along Airport road in Effurun, to ascertain the situation.
At the bank premises, the newspaper crew met a crowd of customers that throng the bank. Our reporter who arrived at the bank at around 9am, reliably gathered that despite it being a Saturday, many got to the bank as early as 6am.
Despite their huge number, customers were full of hope that the situation at Premium Trust is more orderly when compared with others.
Take as an illustration, a customer who spoke to GbaramatuVoice correspondent said that Premium Trust is the only Bank that is working well in Warri, he noted that if other banks within Warri and its environs could function like Premium Trust, things will be fine.
“This bank dey try because dem dey give their customers N20,000 and other banks ATM N10,000 at least if other banks are paying like the way Premium Trust Bank dey pay, things for dey easy for the country but in other banks they are paying N3,000 N2,000 N1500 and N1000.”
Supporting the above position, another customer among the crowd insisted that the bank is fine because the amount they pay in Premium Trust Bank is in total compliance with the CBN directives. Just yesterday, I went to the First Bank from morning till evening, I was given only N3000 and some said other banks N1000 some left without money.
Indeed, while it has become expedient that the management of Central Bank of Nigeria finds a lasting solution to the currency shortage in the country, one point those illicitly trading on the new naira notes must not fail to remember is that the act is punishable under the CBN Act, 2007. Section 21 of the CBN Act titled, ‘Tampering with or Trading in Naira,’ prohibits anyone from selling or buying Naira notes or coins.
According to Section 21, sub-section (4) of the Act, “It shall be an offence punishable under sub-section (1) for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank”.
In a related development, sub-section (1) provides that, “A person who tampers with a coin or note issued by the bank is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine, not less than N50,000 or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
In fact, in Section 21, sub-section (3), the Act provides that, “For the avoidance of doubt, spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and be punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section.”
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