The scarcity of cash persisted on Thursday across the country despite the new directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that banks should withdraw the old notes and dispense to customers to stimulate the economy.
But expectations are high that there would be cash today (Friday) as some banks on Thursday evening collected cash from the CBN.
Investigation showed that as at the close of work on Thursday, two banks had collected cash from the CBN. One of the banks collected N20 million to be distributed across its branches.
“We just received N20 million from the central bank now,” said a bank official at the headquarters of the bank who is not permitted to speak on the issue.
“We will commence the distribution of the money to all our branches across Lagos by tomorrow. The money is too small and won’t be enough to meet our customers’ needs,” he said.
There reports on Thursday that the CBN had instructed deposit money banks to immediately collect the old naira notes they deposited in its branches to ease the cash crunch across the country.
Our correspondent visited some bank branches and observed that they were not dispensing cash to customers. Some of the banks visited on Lagos Island include First Bank of Nigeria, GTBank, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, UBA, while others were on Ikorodu Road.
One of the Access Bank branches at Victoria Island said it had been dispensing cash since Tuesday but it was exhausted around 11am on Thursday.
One of the bank officials said there would likely be cash on Friday as the CBN had directed banks to come and collect money.
When contacted, Isa Abdulmumin, the CBN’s spokesman, who could not give direct response, said, “Please why not go round to monitor the situation in order to have an informed opinion about the disbursement.”
The CBN’s new directive came after the Nigeria Labour Congress directed all workers to picket all branch offices of the CBN nationwide starting next week over the current naira scarcity across the country.
Another bank official who spoke with BusinessDay on Thursday evening said there was no cash in his branch.
The newly redesigned naira notes are gradually phasing out as some traders and commercial drivers, among others are hoarding them.
Our correspondent was in a public bus from Ikeja to Ketu and the conductor was separating the old naira notes from the new ones.
When asked why he was doing that, he said he was saving the new notes as the CBN has failed to release more new notes to the banks.
“I am keeping all the new notes I have because CBN is not ready to release more new notes,” said the conductor who simply gave his name as Shola.
“Emefiele gave the signal during his recent address, when he said the cashless economy has come to stay (referring to Tuesday’s MPC meeting),” he said.
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A survey at popular markets in Lagos show that traders are also hoarding the new notes.
“I am keeping every new naira notes I get from customers and use only the old notes for transactions as we are not sure what will happen again,” said Aisha Bakare, a food provision seller at Mile 12 Market, Lagos.
“The CBN has not been able to print more notes; this shows that there is something they are not yet telling Nigerians. I am preparing myself for the unknown regarding this naira scarcity issue,” she said.
“We were told there will be money after the elections. The elections are over since Saturday and there is still no money in the banks. This shows that CBN is up to something,” she added.
Ademola Yusuf, a meat seller at Ketu Market, said most traders were hoarding the new notes, believing that the naira scarcity would not be over anytime soon as the apex bank has refused to pump more cash into the economy, especially the new notes.
“If you go to the banks today, none of them are dispensing the new notes anymore and this is because CBN did not provide them with it,” Yusuf said.
“Most traders, not just me, are keeping the new notes. If you notice it is getting scarce in the economy. This is because we are keeping them aside and spending the old notes only,” he added.