The Central Bank of Nigeria began distributing old naira notes to Deposit Money Banks on Thursday as government authorities stepped up efforts to end the crippling currency shortage that has affected millions of bank customers across the country.
Following a meeting between the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and bank CEOs on Wednesday, the central bank instructed DMBs to collect old N1,000, N500, and N200 notes from its offices across the country for subsequent disbursement to customers.
Our correspondents discovered on Thursday that commercial banks obtained obsolete naira notes from CBN offices across the country.
Multiple bank sources, including CEOs and top executives, have confirmed to The PUNCH that the central bank has released old notes to other banks.
“I can confirm that we received old notes from the CBN today,” the chief executive officer of a commercial bank told The PUNCH under the condition of anonymity.
In addition, a general manager of a bank of tier 2 told one of our correspondents that the institution received some old currency from the central bank on Thursday.
“The CBN has begun issuing us obsolete currency.” Thursday, a senior official of a midsize bank confirmed to one of our correspondents that it will take some time for the currency to circulate.
However, senior bank officials estimated that it would take approximately two weeks for the situation to return to normal, adding that bank lines may not be eliminated until later next week.
In addition, they anticipate paying N500,000 per customer by next week.
“The situation will not immediately return to normal. On Friday, the effect will begin to be felt. Overall, things should return to normal within one to two weeks,” a senior bank executive told The PUNCH, despite not being authorized to discuss the matter.
The bank employees’ union concurred that the situation may not normalize immediately.
In addition, the National President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance, and Financial Institutions, Mr. Olusoji Oluwole, stated, “Until recently, the amount of old currency released to banks was minimal. This, coupled with customers’ panic withdrawals and the CBN’s restriction of daily withdrawal limits, has caused continued rationing. However, with yesterday’s announcement by the CBN to inject more cash into the system, we expect the pressure to subside by next week if the CBN keeps its word.”
However, The PUNCH’s investigation revealed that only a handful of banks began disbursements on Thursday. Several bank branches reportedly received the funds from the CBN very late. Consequently, they were unable to begin the distribution.
However, the CBN has reportedly finalized plans to dispatch a team of officials to monitor banks’ compliance.
It was reported that apex bank officials would monitor banks in Lagos, Abuja, and other cities in order to ensure the proper distribution of the CBN’s old notes.
According to reports, senior bank officials were instructed to ensure the swift recirculation of the old naira notes, hence the monitoring effort.
NLC meets CBN
Thursday, delegates from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) met with the Nigeria Labour Congress to discuss the planned protest against the shortage of naira notes in the country.
Joe Ajaero, president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, and a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) attended the meeting, which took place at the Labour House in Abuja.
This was disclosed on the congress’s official Facebook page. The post stated, “Congress President Joe Ajaero received in audience a Central Bank of Nigeria delegation led by the deputy governor.”
The NLC announced that it would begin a nationwide strike on Wednesday of the following week due to the cash shortage in the country. Ajaero issued the order during a press briefing in Abuja.
When asked by one of our correspondents on Thursday evening whether the strike would continue despite the meeting with CBN officials, Ajaero stated, “The strike will continue until the country’s situation normalizes.”
In the meantime, a reliable source with knowledge of the meeting reported that the CBN said it had disbursed N20 billion to banks nationwide, with banks in Lagos receiving N4 billion and those in Abuja receiving N2 billion.
Our correspondent was also informed that the CBN promised to continue disbursing additional funds to banks in order to alleviate the cash shortage caused by the CBN’s re-design of the naira.
“We are not going to rely on what they told us they are pushing; we all go to banks,” said the source. This evening, the director of operations came to meet with us. In response to our complaints and ultimatum, they have redoubled their efforts, they said. Today, they reported releasing approximately N2 billion to banks in Abuja and N4 billion to banks in Lagos. Today, they released no less than N20 billion across the country. They intend to do so consistently over a period of time to ensure relief.
“We instructed them to redouble their efforts to forestall our action. If they consistently pumped money, there would be no need for us to intervene. Are we simply seeking conflict? On Monday, we will also meet with the labor ministry.”
Bank queues persist
Despite the CBN’s latest directive regarding the release of old N1,000 and N500 notes, The PUCH discovered that banks were still rationing cash in their custody.
Our correspondents’ visits to various bank branches in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun State, and other major cities revealed that Nigerians continue to have difficulty accessing cash from banks.
At the Union Bank of Nigeria Plc branch in Mazamaza along the old Ojo Road in Lagos State, only cash was available over the counter, as the ATMs were not loaded.
The situation was identical at the First Bank of Nigeria branch located at the Mazamaza bus stop. Customers could only withdraw a small amount of cash at the counter.
Thursday at 3:45 p.m., customers of the branch of Access Bank Plc on the same road were unable to withdraw cash from ATMs or the teller window.
Our correspondent visited four banks in the Ojodu-Berger region of Lagos State. At the First Bank branch on Ogunnusi Road, a large crowd of customers was seen waiting to withdraw cash.
The personnel at the bank’s branches stated that only customers conducting foreign exchange transactions were being assisted. Upon further inquiry, our correspondent was informed that the bank would soon begin over-the-counter payments, but would only pay N5,000 per withdrawal to each customer.
The Union Bank and Ecobank locations in the area have closed their doors due to a lack of cash to distribute to customers.
The ATMs at the Guaranty Trust Bank in the Oke-Afa-Ejigbo neighborhood of Lagos State were not loaded. However, customers were being assisted within the bank’s lobby, with each receiving N20,000.
The Union Bank at Ikotun’s ATMs were not loaded. However, the company paid customers N20,000 in cash.
The FCMB branch in the Oke Afa-Ejigbo region has also closed its customer entrance. The bank was not servicing any customers.
Despite the apex bank’s directive, some banks in the Federal Capital Territory did not release cash to their customers.
When our correspondent visited the area on Thursday at 2:30 p.m., banks along the Abuja airport road claimed not to have received the old notes from the regulator.
However, bank officials were optimistic that the regulator would release additional funds to them on Friday (today).
Included among them are Stanbic IBTC, Zenith Bank, and GTBank.
However, a bank representative stated, “We did not receive allocation today, but we hope the issue will be resolved tomorrow.”
However, select customers at Zenith Bank,.Central Area were permitted to withdraw up to N50,000, with the bank promising to increase distribution on Friday (today).
An employee of United Bank of Africa’s Alagbako branch in the Akure region of Ondo State noted that the bank had begun receiving funds from CBN.
He stated, “We have begun receiving funds from the CBN, and our ATMs are also operational.”
“We have been paying over the counter; for example, today we still disbursed N20,000; however, tomorrow it may change to a higher amount.”
In the same vein, a Zenith Bank employee at the head office in Lagos noted that N10,000 was being paid over the counter.
He stated, “I’ve heard that the CBN has begun distributing old Naira notes to banks across the country, but I’m unsure if Zenith has received them yet.
We are currently paying 10,000 Naira to customers over the counter, and our ATMs are also paying.
An Access Bank employee who works in the Lagos headquarters stated that CBN had begun making payments to banks, albeit in small amounts.
He stated, “I am currently at the Idimu branch of Accsss bank in the Alimosho neighborhood of Lagos. CBN is not distributing as many old banknotes as they should be, so the supply is inadequate. However, this depends on the volume of each bank.”
According to him, the majority of banks still lack cash.
He added, “The majority of banks in the Alimosho neighborhood of Lagos have been unable to obtain cash from the CBN.”
“I believe the CBN is not giving out a lot of cash on purpose; either they do not have enough or they have reached the cash policy limit.” The situation has not improved, however.”
A First Bank employee working in the Akure branch of Ondo State told The PUNCH that they had not yet received any cash from the CBN.