The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has instructed commercial banks to immediately collect the old naira notes they deposited in its branches to ease the cash crunch across the country.
Recall that the apex bank had mopped up the old N1, 000, N500 and N200 notes in response to the introduction of new ones as part of the cashless policy of the federal government.
At the height of pressure from various stakeholders for the CBN to relax its stance on the cashless policy to ease the pains Nigerians are going through, CBN governor Godwin Emefiele had claimed that all the old notes withdrawn from circulation had been destroyed.
And despite the Supreme Court judgement that directed the old and new notes be used together up till December 31, the money in circulation remained scanty as Nigerians struggled to live a normal life.
ABN TV had reported that despite the announcement by the CBN to banks to issue and collect the old banknotes in response to the Supreme Court judgement and a statement from the presidency, credible sources said the financial institutions soon ran out of cash after they issued what remained in their vaults as there was no new flow from the apex bank.
Banks to get supply from today
But credible sources at the CBN told one of our correspondents last night that starting today, the commercial banks were free to withdraw the old notes they kept at the apex bank.
Even though the sources did not explain how much the banks could withdraw from what they deposited, one of them said the plan was to make “enough funds” available before the end of the week to stimulate the economy.
“The CBN said banks have been instructed to collect the old naira notes they deposited and that before the end of the week, the country would be awash with naira notes,” he said.
This latest move and instruction from the apex bank came hours after the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) directed all workers to picket all branch offices of the CBN nationwide starting next week over the current naira scarcity in the country.
Old, new notes remain elusive
ABN TV reports that despite the claim by CBN that cash in circulation was up to N1 trillion, investigation revealed that the scarcity of cash has continued to bite the citizenry amidst last-minute preparations for this year’s Ramadan season.
Checks at Zenith, FCMB and Jaiz Bank branches in Abuja showed that they were out of cash in the banking hall and at their respective ATMs.
In Lagos, while most of the banks were still not dispensing, those that dispensed only paid a maximum of N5,000 to customers, which is barely enough to carry out any transaction.
In addition, many small business owners in major cities are also not collecting transfers insisting on cash payment.
Our correspondents report that the situation is worse in villages where most people are unbanked, and alternative sources of payment are not available.
“I was to buy bread and other food items from a shop yesterday but the person told me frankly that she was not collecting transfers. The excuse she gave was that her boss who was to confirm the payment was not around,” a Lagos resident said.
An investigation by ABN TV showed that many small businesses have continued to groan over declining sales due to cash scarcity.
Checks at some markets in Lagos indicated that the cash crunch is affecting shopping in preparation for Ramadan and other daily shopping routines nationwide.