Frustration Over New Naira Notes - NEW TELEGRAPH
Currency redesign O n October 26, 2022, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced plans to redesign the naira, the national currency of the country. Emefiele said the redesign had become necessary to enable the apex bank control money supply and aid security agencies in tackling illicit financial flows, fight corruption, improve the economy and shore up the value of the currency. According to him, the new notes will be effective from December 15, 2022. President Muhamnadu Buhari unveiled the new currency notes on Wednesday November 22, 2022 at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Aso Rock, Abuja. However, due to protests from a cross section of the public about the suddenness of the policy, the CBN shifted the date for its commencement but set new limits for withdrawals for both individuals and corporate entities. Deadline As the January 31 deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the submission of the old naira notes approaches, many families and businesses in the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) have become somewhat unease. Walking along the street, sitting down at any social rendezvous and even in public transportation vehicles, the dominant topic of discussion hovers around how citizens can exchange their old 1,000, 500 and 200 naira notes for the newly designed ones. Residents were damn worried that less than a week to the deadline, the redesigned naira notes have remain a scarce commodity. The banks were still stuffing their Automated Teller Machines ( ATMs) with the old naira notes to the frustration and disappointment of their customers. Strangely, the ongoing sensitization of the public about the new policy, appear to some people, like water being poured down on a smooth rock. Many citizens are even complacent, because of their belief that the CBN would be pressurised to push forward the deadline. Whether their dreams will eventually turn to reality, only time holds the answer.
However, some families and businesses have taken some seemingly proactive measures to avoid being caught in the ‘ eleventh hour rush ‘. A common step is the deliberate attempt to reduce the volume of cash withdrawals from the banks since the ATMs dispense only old notes. This is in partial compliance with the cash withdrawal limits imposed by the CBN some weeks ago. Fast food/ grocery shops Last week, findings revealed that some popular supermarkets, grocery shops and fast food centres have decided not to wait for the official deadline for the take off of the new notes. They have adorned their vicinities with conspicuous notices about the new notes and have adjusted their own deadline for acceptance of old notes.
Most noticeable was the notice displayed at a Chicken Republic outlet which read thus : ” Important Notice Dear customers, in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria directive, Chicken Republic will stop collection of old Naira notes ( N200, N500 and N1000) from the 26th of January, 2023. We will accept New notes and all existing electronic payment means. Thanks for your understanding. Chicken Republic Management”. One of the mega conglomerate shops in the Federal Capital Territory, H-MEDIX Pharmacy and Stores, also displayed similar notice, informing its numerous customers that 27 January will be the deadline for acceptance of the old notes in all its outlets. Inside Abuja gathered that the fears of these organisations stem from the fact that since 27th January falls on a Friday the beginning of a weekend, there may be a mad rush in the banks after the weekend. Some business owners noted that Nigerians have the attitude of waiting for the last minute before complying with government policies. An anonymous supervisor at one of the Chicken Republic outlets, disclosed that the management of the organisation did not want to get involved in the last minute rush syndrome. PoS operators A POS operator at Asokoro Village, Celine Taakar, did not show any sign of fear over availability of the new naira notes, but expressed concerns about the withdrawal limit. She explained that profit in the business was determined by the number of transactions carried out through their platforms. To her, placing a limit on how many times and how much a customer withdraws from POS, was a big blow to the business. The debate No doubt, the redesigned naira notes and other allied policies have elicited debates and divergent opinions from a cross section of the populace. While some have applauded the CBN, saying it acted timely to save the country from both social and economic implosion triggered by financial corruption, others have argued that the policy was politically motivated to witch-hunt politicians. Alphonsus Chikezie, an employee of one of the top banks operating in Suleja Niger state, said that the policy was well thought out for the good of the country’s economy. He however, said that the implementation of the policy may not be without some peculiar teething problems. He however , stressed the need for the apex bank to ensure availability of the new notes from February 1, as well as embark on aggressive sensiti-
zation at rural areas, each time there is a new monetary initiative. According to him, from his personal experience as a banker, many people in rural areas were not adequately informed about the development and may lose their hard earned money after the January 31 deadline. Chikezie equally called on Point of Sale ( POS) operators to take advantage of all alternative routes available for their business. “The new policy will fly. Most banks have the money and are also loading the ATM with it. The regulations only said the new notes should not be paid over the counter until 1st February. “Banks that do not have the new notes in their ATM are being penalized . The policy has come to stay. But does it have its teething periods, it has . Will be good for the economy, yes it will. “The POS operators have their own challenges, because they have a minimum of N500,000 to withdraw in cash, but they can opt for a company account, where they can withdraw up to N5m in a day. They also have their platforms to do electronic transfer. “CBN need to take its sensitization to interiorw areas, because most people do not know anything about the policy. I visited one village in Niger state, when I was addressing some of them , they were not even aware of the new naira notes. Some of them said they still hide their money inside boxes. I told them that it was very risky, because after January 31, it will all be worthless. “CBN also needs to make the notes more available, because after the deadline when customers will be withdrawing it from the counter, POS and other channels, you may be shocked that it will be very scarce,” he said.