The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
No fewer than 135 Nigerians recently queued in front of First Bank branch at Ilaje, Bariga, within the popular Abule Market roundabout, in Lagos State, to withdraw cash after the general election break but the bank said there is no cash.
As gathered, the queue had lasted for 3 (three) days, which began since Monday, 27 February; two days after election, in which people far from other areas and neighborhoods, such as: Ladilak, Palm groove, Onipan, Ifako, Bajulaiye and others, were all standing on the queue while others seated by the road side, waiting to get cash.
This cash scarcity in the country presently has become a serious distress for many to talk about, which emanated as a result of the Naira notes redesign (N200, N500, N1,000) by the Central Bank of Nigeria, along with its policy that no old notes should be collected, as such seize to be a legal tender for transaction nationwide, which has however made everyone go to the Bank to get the new notes.
Speaking to Mrs. Omolara (not real name); an elderly woman in her 60s, “most of us here have been on this queue and in front of this First Bank gate since 6:00am in the morning waiting if they will give us cash, and we have been coming here since Monday last week immediately after the election because we believe that after the whole process, they will start giving us money because they said they wanted to use it for bribe that was why the old notes was stopped and the new ones was brought,” she said.
Omolara added, “many of us here on this queue are residence in this area of the market and most of us are mainly traders, like old women especially, youths working everyday before they eat and others who have shops and warehouses where they sell their goods, including Point of Sales (POS) agents on the queue to get cash for their business”.
ANOTHER TURN IN THE BANK
She also disclosed, “I heard that some cash was brought yesterday around 4:00pm in the afternoon which those (staff) who work in the Bank would inform their own people, who will come and enter the Bank as staff in disguise, instead of waiting till morning for everyone to collect it at the same time”, she said.
Among the crowd, an elderly man in his 40s who was also part of the queue raised alarm to the security guard through his voice, “this is almost 10am and I have been waiting here for almost 4 (four) hours. Why is it like this. Why is it too difficult to collect my own money? Is it a crime that I am saving my money in your Bank now?”
Furthermore, he said, “we are more than 100 people standing on the queue since morning but no one have come to answer us nor allow us into the Bank premises to collect cash,” threatening that, “in fact, after I finish collecting all my money in this Bank I will close down this account and go to another Bank”, he said, lamenting that the Bank which was assumed to be the First has now appeared be the Last, as he went back to join the queue at the gate.
However, report from others waiting for cash has it that, most of the money which was brought to the Bank are usually sold to the POS agents instead of giving the customers their money, and in turn, these POS agents, who are now with their own discretion, started adding extra charges to what their usual service fee was before the election, as a result of how they got it too.
Others customers present also lament that an Headquarter of First Bank situated at Sabo area of Lagos, the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) there has been dispensing cash to those with ATM cards while others who do not have the ATM cards went directly into the Bank to collect cash; no matter how little it was, but wondered why the First Bank in Bariga has refused to do the same.
Meanwhile, a security guard amongst the 3 (three) who were present, came out to respond to the crowd due to the agitation at the gate, “the cash which was brought 2-days ago being on Tuesday, was also not much and those who were present at the morning the money was brought finished it, because it was scars”.
This distress of cash scarcity at all commercial Banks in Nigeria is not peculiar to First Bank customers alone, but has also spread across all other commercial Banks in the country, thus, other bank users have complained equally complained of the no cash palaver; neither do they have access to the new Naira notes nor the old ones either.
MISCHIEF BY POS AGENTS
Due to the desperate need of cash by Nigerians over its scarcity of the new notes hence the rejection of the old notes, some Nigerians who are into POS business have taken advantage of the cash dilemma, of either customers collect money from them bearing the high charges or go to their respective Banks and wait in queue, most times in vain.
Since the era of no cash, POS agents have charged N300 for N1,000; N300 for N3,000, N1,000 for 5,000, while others even charge for more cumbersome amount, which most Nigerians have raised alarm due to the distress it brought.
RATIONALE BEHIND CHANGE OF NAIRA NOTE
Data have shown that a large Volume of bank note (N200, N500 and N1,000) is being hoarded by the public which has led to a shortage of unclean bank notes. Also, the increase in the rate of counterfeiting of the Naira notes in the country and the long span of redesignation of naira notes, which according to best practice, should be undertaken every 5 to 8 years, which was long over due.
BENEFITS OF NAIRA NOTES REDESIGN
These new notes will help the CBN check counterfeiting as well as to strengthen the economy, reduce the expenditure on cash management, promote financial institution as well as enhance the CBN visibility of the money supply in the country.
VALIDITY OF OLD NAIRA NOTES
Shortly after a seven-man panel at the Supreme Court on Friday, 3 March, led by John Okoro, in one accord directing the CBN to continue accepting the old naira notes from Nigerians, and according to the court, “It is not in doubt that the President refused to comply with the order of the court that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 naira notes should continue to be legal tender”, therefore extends the validity of the till 31 December, 2023.
Owing to the new order by the Supreme Court for all old Naira notes to continue being a legal tender, Nigerians are however thrown in mixed feelings if the CBN being the currency regulator, would comply to the new order of the Apex Court, as well as hoping that they would start receiving cash from their various Banks so as to continue their various businesses.