As cash flow improves in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Monday following a fresh directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to banks to collect the old Naira notes from its branches and dispense, the cash squeeze has not abated in the suburbs of Abuja.
Checks by Persecondnews revealed that while residents in the city capital have easy access to cash, those in the suburbs are yet to access cash without hassles due to long queues at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and banking halls.
The cash flow followed CBN’s evacuation of banknotes from its vaults to commercial banks across the country last week.
A statement by the Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department of the CBN, Dr Isa Abdulmumin, obtained by Persecondnews, said various denominations of banknotes had been received by commercial banks for onward circulation to their respective customers.
The naira redesign policy was unveiled by the CBN in October 2022, and the new notes released into circulation on December 15, 2022.
For over two months, Nigeria has been struggling with a shortage of cash since the CBN began to swap old Naira notes for the new, re-designed ones, leading to a shortfall in banknotes.
Amid the shortage, Nigerians have had to cope with no payments from banks ATMs, exorbitant charges from Point of Sale (PoS) agents, and failed online bank transactions.
On February 16, 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a broadcast sought to ease the scarcity by allowing old N200 bills to circulate until April 10, 2023.
Despite adjusting the initial deadline and allowing the N200 notes to circulate alongside the new notes as legal tender, scarcity of the Naira notes still persisted.
The Supreme Court had ruled that the old and new notes of N200, N500 and N1000 should remain legal tender till December 31, 2023.
A week after the Supreme Court’s judgment, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, directed commercial banks to dispense old naira notes and also receive same as deposits from customers, as they remain legal tender till December 31, 2023.
Visits by Persecondnews to some commercial banks in Kubwa and Karu, all suburbs in the FCT, revealed that although the apex bank injected cash into the economy, crowd at ATMs and commercial banking halls are yet to disappear, and PoS agents are still charging high commissions for withdrawals.
A customer at one of the commercial banks in Kubwa, who spoke with Persecondnews, said she had spent over two hours on the ATM queue waiting to withdraw money.
“I have been here since 8:20a.m, this is 10:40a.m and I’m yet to make any withdrawals. I thought that with the CBN directive there would be money everywhere and no more queues in the banks but I was wrong,” Lilian Agbese said.
Another customer, Elvis Chijoke, said he was discouraged by the long queue at first and sort to get money from a PoS agent, but was charged N200 for N5,000, instead of the usual N100.
He said: “I expected this cash scarcity to be over today. I never expected to see this crowd today. I just hope things would ease up before the week runs out, we are tired of this money issue. How can you have money in the bank and yet be broke?”
A businessman, Okey ThankGod, who was also found in the vicinity of the commercial bank, said he was there to resolve a reversal of a failed transaction he did three weeks ago.
“I am here to resolve a reversal of my money. I did a transfer about three weeks ago when I went to buy something, the transaction declined but I was deducted.
“I have called the customer care several time because I didn’t have time to come to the bank, but they just keep telling you to hold on while they connect you to a customer agent, not minding if your airtime is going,” ThankGod said.
A staff of Access bank, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that there were so much crowd at the bank due to the rush to get physical cash, adding that some are also there to resolve other issues which have lingered for long due to the cash crunch situation.
Also speaking, a PoS agent in Karu, Sunday Ekele, confirmed to Persecondnews that getting cash in the suburb is still a “little bit of a challenge”.
A visit to the Zuba motor park, by Persecondnews also saw some passengers doing cash transfers to the drivers, but on the condition of including extra charges for withdrawals.
“I tried to get cash from the ATM this morning at DeiDei, be there was so much crowd and I couldn’t see any PoS agent to get cash from.
“That is why I’m doing transfer to the driver. I added extra N200 for him as withdrawal charges for him,” a traveller, who simply gave her name as Hauwa said.