• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Cash outside banks drop by N190bn in one month

Explainer: How to prepare for naira devaluation and what it means for Nigerians

The currency outside the banking sector declined by 6.69 percent to N2.65 trillion in November 2022 from N2.84 trillion in October 2022, when the naira redesign was announced, according to data from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Between the end of October 2022 and the end of November, currency in circulation reduced by 3.95 percent from N3.29 trillion to N3.16 trillion.

There are a lot of complaints and dissatisfaction expressed by Nigerians who have not been able to access the redesigned naira notes since it was rolled out on December 15, 2022.

Visits to some bank branches on Friday revealed that lenders were still paying heavily with old naira notes, 25 days to the deadline for the return of old banknotes.

After receiving a letter from their head offices, some banks immediately stopped over-the-counter disbursement of the new naira notes.

“Stop paying with new naira, there is a letter from the head of operation that we should load the ATM with new and old notes. The order is from the CBN and it says effective immediately,” a tier two bank branch manager told one of the cashiers.

Read also: Nigeria’s yawning deficit signals further breach of CBN Act

The manager said there was not enough new naira as the branch received N10 million pack and has since then been rationing it among customers. She told the customer that the ATMs will start dispensing the new note on Monday.

“We do not have the new notes. You can check next week,” one of the cashiers in a bank hall at Iganmu, Lagos said.

Ayodeji Ebo, managing director/CBO, Optimus by Afrinvest, explained that the delay may be due to logistics as it takes a longer time for full replacement to happen.

“I am sure the CBN will assess the situation at the end of this month and determine if to shift the cut-off date,” he said.

However, the CBN said there will be no timeline extension. “So customers are advised to ensure they deposit all the N200, N500 and N1,000 Banknotes in their possession before the deadline of January 31, 2023.”

Aba residents received the directive of the CBN to commercial banks to start loading ATMs with new notes with mixed feelings. Some see it as a good development, while some are indifferent.

Thompson Ezikiell, a media representative, based in Aba, noted that the new notes are currently not available and wondered how that would be possible in a few days. “If you go to the bank and request for N10,000, they will give you N8,000 of the old notes and N2,000 of the new notes, Ezikiell said.

Ken Anyanwu, national secretary, Association of Leather and Allied Industrialists of Nigeria (ALAIN) said it will be a welcome development, because the expiration date for the withdrawal of the old notes is near.

He however stated that commercial banks are still paying out old notes. “I withdrew N100,000 a few days ago and all the cash was still the same old notes”.

Investigation further showed that there is slow pace in the return of old notes into the banking system by customers, as the deadline draws close. In addition, many of the bank branches do not operate on Saturday to accept old notes deposits, as directed by the CBN.

The apex bank ordered the printing of 500 million pieces of new naira notes in the first contract of the redesign project, which rolled out on December 15, 2022, Aisha Ahmad, CBN, deputy governor in charge of financial system stability, told House of Representatives hearing on implementation of CBN cashless policy and the new withdrawal limits, on December 22, 2022.

The CBN on October 26, 2022 announced that higher denominations of the Naira including N200, N500 and N1,000 would be redesigned and introduced into the economy from December 15, 2022 while commercial banks were directed to return existing denominations to the CBN.

The new naira became a legal tender on December 15, 2022, after it was unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 23, this year.

Further to the launch of the redesigned naira notes, the CBN reviewed the cash withdrawal limit for individuals to N500,000 from N100,000 and that of corporate organisations to N5 million from N3 million.

The CBN also ordered banks to load only N200 notes and lower denominations into their ATMs. But a visit to some of the banks’ ATMs showed that the lenders are yet to configure their ATM machines to dispense lower denominations.