SABIU MUHAMMED and EBENEZER ADUROKIYA, in the North and Niger Delta region, gauge the frenzy associated with the exchange of old naira notes with old ones amid CBN’s January 31 deadline.
Gift Preye left one of the riverine communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State in a hurry on a journey of about one and a half hours on speedboat. She sells crayfish, shrimps and other seafoods for customers from across the Niger Delta. Her rush stemmed from the information she got just last weekend that the Nigerian currency denominations of N200, N500 and N1000 have been redesigned! The information came courtesy of officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who were in Ogbe-Ijoh, Main Market and Igbudu markets on January 19 and 20 to sensitize traders on the need to return their old notes to the banks and exchange them for new ones.
Preye left Gbaramatu Kingdom with a sack of the old currencies, got to one of the banks at Main Market, Warri, deposited them and waited to withdraw a few new currencies before returning to the creeks. The CBN staff, on advocacy had, in their hurried sensitization via flyers and public address system, announced assuredly that by Monday January 23 unfailingly, commercial banks would have stocked their ATM outlets with new naira notes to dispense to customers. This promise hadn’t come to fruition as of Wednesday when this reporter caught up with Preye who’s currently distraught, fagged out and perhaps in a dilemma as to what next to do having waited fruitlessly to get some new notes before returning to the creeks to continue with her business. Preye had got the greatest shock of her life on Wednesday morning, barely five days to the January 31 deadline when she discovered that the withdrawal she was to make in replacement was to be paid in the old naira notes!
This is the situation of most barely literate folks living in the creeks of the Niger Delta whose mainstay of livelihood is petty trading in seafoods to train their children and wards in schools. Across the length and breadth of Warri creeks and uplands, it’s a dirge of agonies, woes, dilemma and confusion and frustration from commercial banks over the new naira notes debacle.
Our correspondent’s checks on traders showed a downturn commercial activities as folks are now skeptical and apprehensive on whether to continue their business transactions with the old naira notes or not. They are simply confused on how to handle the issue whether to stop transacting business with the old notes when they don’t have access to the new ones.
Mr Oris Erekefe trades in bathroom slippers at popular Igbudu market who still has in his possession no fewer than N50,000 notes in his possession for business transaction as of Thursday morning. According to Erekefe confessed to be in love with the new notes, “ever since the old naira notes were redesigned, I have never seen the new naira notes with my two eyes. I’m still using the old naira notes.”
“I like the new naira notes; I’m comfortable with it, but I still have up to about 50,000 naira in my shop of old naira notes. I don’t have the new naira notes as none of my customers have bought anything from me with them so, how can I stop using the ones I have? I can’t just carry all my money to bank and be waiting for them to give me new notes; what will I use to buy my personal needs if by Monday, the deadline comes. I don’t know what to do.”
Mrs Theresa sells ladies’ underwear in Warri. As of Wednesday that she went to bank to deposit all her old currencies in exchange for new ones. She was only able to return home with few new N200 notes in the midst of plenty old naira notes. She expressed her dilemma this: “I only have three 200 hundred naira notes of the new currency which I have kept aside, when I went to bank yesterday to deposit all my money thinking if I withdrew some, they would give me new currency notes, it was still the old currency notes.”
Mrs Victory Okoye is one of the folks gripped with anxiety and dilemma. Though the provisions store trader has dispensed with her old naira notes, she’s apprehensive on how to continue transaction for the weekend since deadline is Monday. “My problem now is what if my customers buy loads of provisions on Sunday with the old currency and you can’t take them to the bank because by Monday, they expire; what will I do?” She queried.
Mrs Okoye, while advocating for a shift in the deadline, she expressed a preference for the old naira notes which, according to her, “is very strong and fine.”
Our correspondent also approached a trader on household utensils such as plates, pots at Igbudu Market. Mr James Efemena said he heard of the Monday on Wednesday and has, since then, stopped collecting the old naira notes from his customers which, he added, has brought a huge decline to his daily sales.
Decrying the CBN policy, Mr Efemena, who said he’s finding it difficult to feed because of the lack of the new naira notes in his possession, declared: “This changing or naira notes, I don’t like it at all even if it must be changed, at least, we need time to handle things well. The Nigeria Federal Government is not trying at all, it should extend the date.”
Some residents in nearby Uvwie Local Government Area of the state also expressed their dissatisfaction over the non-availability of the new naira notes. Mr. Jonathan Nikoro wondered that with a few days to the expiration date of the old naira notes, banks were still paying customers with the old naira notes that were asked to be deposited in the banks by CBN.
Lamenting, Mr. Jonathan retorted: “if the banks are still paying customers with the old naira notes, how do we get the new note before the expiration date?”
Mrs. Mercy Efena’s most concern is a WhatsApp message being circulated that due to the non-availability of the new naira notes vis a vis the deadline, some organizations, such as churches no longer accept cash, except online transaction. In fact, she said some churches had announced that from Sunday January 29, members should no longer bring the old naira notes to the church as offerings.
All the respondents were unanimous in their request and passionate appeal that the CBN should, besides extending the deadline, put machinery in motion to make the new notes available to all Nigerians.
Meanwhile, as of last week Friday as earlier hinted, the CBN staff who were in Warri axis for sensitization in markets, had admonished the traders to, from Monday January 23, insist on the new naira when they go to banks for withdrawal.
The team leader and representative of CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, Deputy Director of Finance, Mr Sunny Amorighoye Daibo, while fielding questions from journalists, had emphasised that beginning from last Monday, January 23, commercial banks would willy nilly begin to give out the new naira notes to customers in all their outlets. He had urged the traders to insist on collecting the new naira notes whenever they were in banks for cash withdrawal.
However checks by our correspondent on Wednesday, two days after the Monday Mr Daibo said the new notes would be available at cash outlets, revealed that most banks are yet to comply even as they still flood their ATM outlets with the old naira notes and even being given to customers across the counters.
Commercial banks such as Fidelity Bank located at Estate, Okumagba Avenue, Warri, has its
ATM machine not dispensing either old or new naira notes. The cashiers were, however, seen accepting old naira notes from customers as deposits.
At Sterling Bank along Warri/Sapele Road road, directly opposite Sacred Heart Catholic Church, near Igbo Market in Warri, the cashiers were seen still dishing out old naira notes to their customers while the banks ATM machine were not dispensing either old or new notes as of Wednesday. The same situation was observed at
United Bank of Africa (UBA), at Main Market where their ATMs do not dispense cash, but the bank cashiers pay customers in old denomination of N50 and N100 which were not affected by the naira redesign policy.
Similarly, a micro finance bank, Amju Unique Microfinace at Warri/Sapele Road, was still dispensing the old naira notes as of Wednesday afternoon.
As if anticipating a flagrant disobedience to the directive by the commercial banks, a former Director of Administration and Assistant General Manager in the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Ltd and member of the Olu of Warri Advisory Council, Chief Mene, who’s the Ogwa-Olusan of Warri Kingdom, had charged the CBN to apply sanctions against erring banks during a courtesy visit by the CBN officials to the palace last week Friday January 20.
“The Central Bank has the stick, they have the power to penalize the banks for violating any policy that has to do with their banking operations. I don’t know if they are doing it or not, but the result is what we see.
“They can tell you they’ve done it, but the effect is not there and because the effect is not there, that’s why I’m saying to them to do it because they have the power to do it,” he had noted.
With four days to deadline, it does not appear respite is in sight yet even with the second missionary journey of CBN staff to Warri, as Preye has remained stranded in Warri, perhaps, waiting for a apex bank’s eleventh-hour miracle.
Same in the North
A visit to most of the ATMs across Kaduna and its environs, as well as other states in the North like Kano, Sokoto, and Katsina, the ATM machines still dispense old naira notes. There are only a few banks that have new notes in their ATM machines. More so, it is only the new N1,000 notes. The N200, N500 were completely unavailable.
Investigation revealed that the situation is worse in the rural communities. Shedding more light on the plight of rural dwellers, a federal worker, Sani Umar, who resides in Birnin Yero, a suburb of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State lamented: “Majority of us have not seen the new currencies.”
According to him, “There is an acute absence of the new naira notes in his community as there are no banks in this community, as well as the surrounding villages.
He continued, “We have over 10 villages around our village, Tami, Kajinjiri, Jura,Kosau, Bagudu Cifatake and Bamburu. Most of them are still in custody of the old naira notes five days to the expiration of the CBN order.
“You can now see our plight. How can they beat the dateline? It means most of them will lose thousands of if not millions of naira. And these are small scale farmers. We just pray the CBN will extend the date of the collection of the old naira notes.”
Collaborating the above view, Mallam Nasir from Tami Village told the Nigerian Tribune that two days ago (Tuesday), CBN officials were in Birnin Yero to exchange old naira notes with new ones.
However, findings by the Nigerian Tribune revealed that when the apex bank officials came, they gave out only a maximum of N10,000 in new notes to each of the rural dwellers.
This development, it was gathered, did not go down well with the people.
Most of them thought the officials will be able to exchange all their old notes. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Thousands of rural dwellers who trooped to the CBN exchange point returned to their villages angry.
One of those affected, Haruna Suleiman, narrated how he came with N200,000, but was only given N10, 000. He said that this means if by January 31, 2023 there is no extension, the remaining N190, 000 will become a waste.
Umar added that apart from that, there were thousands of other people in the remote villages that were not even aware of the new naira notes. He said the awareness campaign by the apex bank was not really felt in the communities.
A resident of Jura, who pleaded for anonymity, remarked that he was not even aware that new currencies had been introduced. He also said that in his entire village, many residents were not aware of the new development.
Speaking in the same vein, one Mrs Berry, a resident of Zonkwa remarked that in her village in the southern part of the state, they have not seen the new naira notes.
According to her, “I only came in contact with the new currency when someone who came from Abuja gave me the new one thousand naira note.”
She revealed that like in the case of Birnin Yero, the surrounding villages around hers had no banks, and the only bank in Zonkwa had not started dispensing new notes.
“I wonder when the new naira notes will be available considering the fact that most of the rural dwellers are farmers.”
According to Anthony Samuel, another rural dweller, insisting on the January 31, 2023 deadline for the expiration of the old notes as a legal tender will be a catastrophic.
These rural community dwellers are not only asking for new naira notes to be made available to them, they are also calling for an extension of the January 31 deadline.
Samuel told the Nigerian Tribune that, “The present situation is not in favour of millions of us in the rural areas all over the region. We want the new naira notes to be available in every nook and cranny of every village, so that majority of us will have access to the currencies. The Federal Government should extend the dateline in the interest of the rural dwellers.”