BANKS PUSH OUT DIRTY, MUTILATED NOTES AS NEW NAIRA SCARCITY PERSISTS
Bank workers and customers have lamented the quality of the old naira notes reintroduced into circulation by the Central Bank of Nigeria amidst the gradual disappearance of the new notes.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that bank tellers, who pay cash to customers, and workers in bulk rooms, who collect large cash deposits from depositors, were apprehensive that the dirty and mutilated notes could spread diseases.
A teller at a new generation bank in the Ibafo area of Ogun State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that handling dirty notes was a source of concern to her and her colleagues, especially those in the bulk room.
She stated, “The fear of contracting diseases is real. Following the re-circulation of the old notes, the N1,000, N500 and N200 that we are being supplied to pay to customers are mostly dirty and mouldy. Some of the bundles smell bad and we have returned to wearing nose masks to safeguard our health.
“Last week, two of our colleagues in the bulk room started coughing and the situation degenerated to the extent that the branch manager asked them to stay away from work so that they could be treated. The affected workers complained of being exposed to mouldy and smelling notes, which they had to sort out.
“What we now do is covering our mouths and noses with face masks. We also keep hand sanitizers in strategic locations. The condition of the old notes makes many people sick and even customers are complaining, but they can’t reject the dirty notes because of the naira scarcity of the past three months.”
A trader in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos, Alhaji Sarafadeen Akanbi, who withdrew N500,000 from over the counter on Thursday, complained bitterly when the cash was handed over to him.
He said, “I urgently need the cash and that’s why I came here. I exploited my relationship with the bank employees, starting from the branch manager, as a highly valuable customer to withdraw N500,000. Though the bank limited other customers to N20,000, I was given the privilege of withdrawing that much.
“However, I was shocked when I was paid in dirty, smelling and mutilated notes. I complained to the manager and he said I could fill the deposit slip and my account would be credited with the amount if I felt dissatisfied as that was what was available. When I decided to sort out the money, I didn’t get up to N150,000 worth of manageable notes and I had to return the rest as the people I want to pay will not accept them from me.”
Many bank customers were still unable to make withdrawals in many branches in parts of Lagos and Ogun states on Friday as some of the lenders claimed that the cash supplied them had been exhausted.
At the Ibafo branches of UBA, Access Bank and First Bank, long queues of customers were seen at Automated Teller Machine galleries, while those who wanted to get into the banking halls besieged the gates.
Those who succeeded in making withdrawals lamented that the old notes were dirty and could spread diseases.
A security guard at the UBA branch informed the restless crowd that only those who wanted to make deposits and sort out failed transactions would be allowed in as the cash for over-the-counter withdrawals had been exhausted.
When one of our correspondents managed to gain access into the banking hall, a senior official of the bank said only N2m was made available for over-the-counter payment and that the amount was exhausted before noon.
The official said, “I am tired of the situation as we face serious pressure from customers, who are desperate to make withdrawals. When we opened in the morning, we were paying each customer N10,000 over the counter and through the ATMs, but when we realised that the money would soon get exhausted, we limited what each customer could get to N5,000.
“However, many customers are not having that as they claim that the CBN has allowed them to withdraw up to N500,000 weekly. While this is true, we can only pay out what we get.”
Asked if new notes were being mixed with the old notes, the banker said, “Where are the new notes? I haven’t seen the new notes in almost a month. They are not being supplied and the few ones paid out before the Supreme Court ordered the CBN to re-circulate the old notes are not coming back into the banking system.”
The branch manager of a Tier-1 bank on Victoria Island, Lagos, told Saturday PUNCH, “Customers can withdraw any amount up to the N500,000 limit set by the CBN for individuals and N5m for corporate bodies from our branch and many other branches on the island. A lot of customers from the Mainland have been coming here to make withdrawals.
“We have not received new notes for over two weeks. I don’t think the new notes are being printed currently. The availability of the old notes is dependent on how much each bank was able to return to the CBN before the deadline, as each bank is being given a percentage of the deposits.
“The payment of mutilated notes to some customers is meant to discourage those of them who insist on making withdrawals of huge amounts as that is against the spirit of the cashless transaction. Such notes can only be paid over the counter as they can’t be loaded in ATMs because they jam the machines and cause all sort of problems.”
Several calls to the CBN spokesman, Isa Abdulmumin, on Friday were unanswered as his phone rang out. Messages sent to him on WhatsApp also received no response.
However, Saturday PUNCH gathered that the apex bank had exhausted the new notes printed and had not been able to take delivery of more new notes and was only peppering over the cracks with the re-circulation of the old notes.
Saturday PUNCH had reported in February that the CBN might contract the printing of the redesigned N1,000, N500 and N200 notes to foreign contractors as acute scarcity resulted in violent protests occasioned by vandalism of bank facilities.
Sources had said the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc, which is responsible for the printing of the naira, appeared to lack the capacity to meet the demand for the new notes.
To douse the tension created by the scarcity of the notes, the National Council of State had advised the apex bank to print more naira notes or re-circulate the old notes, which it mopped up from circulation, in order to ease the pressure on hapless Nigerians, who had been suffering from the scarcity of the new notes.
‘Embrace digital channels’
Meanwhile, the CBN has urged Nigerians to embrace alternative payment channels such as eNaira, USSD codes and other Internet banking facilities in line with its cashless policy.
The apex bank said the idea became necessary as the country was gradually marching towards the alternative payments policy regime, which is the trend all over the world.
Abdulmumin made the call during the CBN’s Special Day at the ongoing 34th Enugu International Trade Fair in Enugu on Friday, according to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria.
He added that the country could not afford to be left behind in the global financial ecosystem but rather embrace digital payment channels.
Abdulmumin, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Communication Department, CBN, Mr Imoh Esu, said the apex bank had continued to seek creative ways to ensure that Nigeria took full advantage of opportunities and benefits of digital payment channels.
This, he said, led to the launch of the eNaira in October 2021 aimed at broadening the payment possibilities of Nigerians and fostering digital financial inclusion, with potential for fast-tracking inter-governmental and social transfers.
He stated, “Similarly, the CBN in collaboration with the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System, recently launched the National Domestic Card Scheme – the first in Africa.
“This is expected to not only lower operating costs for banks, but reduce the huge foreign exchange costs associated with operating foreign card schemes.”
On the recent redesign of some denominations of the naira, Abdulmumin reiterated that the policy, which was approved by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was in the overall interest of the country and the economy, in addition to aligning with the international best practices.
According to him, overall, the policy has started strengthening macroeconomic fundamentals, moderating inflation and up-scaling the financial inclusion rate.
“It has also led to relative stability in the exchange rate and supported the efforts of the security agencies in combating banditry and ransom-taking in the country,” he added.
Earlier in his welcome address, the President, Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Mr Jasper Nduagwuike, lauded the various intervention schemes of the CBN in supporting and encouraging the growth of businesses in various sectors of the economy.
NNPC Welcomes FG’s Decision To Remove Fuel Subsidy
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited has welcomed the decision of the President Ahmed Bola Tinubu-controlled Federal Government to remove fuel subsidy.
In a press conference in Abuja on Monday, Mele Kyari, the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the corporation charged with harnessing Nigeria’s oil and gas reserves, said the corporation was pleased with the decision of President Tinubu to remove the fuel subsidy.
“We welcome the decision of Mr. President to announce that the subsidy on PMS is over, and this has really been a major challenge for NNPC’s continued operations. We have been funding subsidy from the cash flow of the NNPC since the government is unable to defer the cost of subsidy that is due to the corporation,” Kyari said.
Burdened by the financial cost of importing fuel, Kyari said that the removal of this subsidy will free up funds to make it more commercially viable and do great work for the country.
“And we believe that this will be able to free resources for the NNPC to continue to do the great works that this company will do for our country, and it will allow us to function as a very commercial entity, and we welcome this development,” he said.
The Group Chief Executive Officer has assured Nigerians of the supply of petroleum products, informing Nigerians of an abundance of the products, particularly “Petroleum Motor Spirit product in our country, and there is no reason to panic.”
He urged Nigerians not to engage in panic buying as there would be no potential changes in the prices of petroleum products.
He promised that normalcy in the supply chain would be restored as soon as possible.
Refinery: We’ll Ask Dangote To Sell Forex At Good Rate — Emefiele
…Says CBN, govt helped him build a refinery
…Raises interest rate to 18.5 %lAs NACCIMA, IPMAN, and others react
With the Dangote Refinery set to deliver its first products in July, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said yesterday that the refinery would be persuaded to sell foreign exchange earnings to banks at a good rate.
Speaking at the end of the 291st Monetary Policy Committee, MPC, meeting in Abuja, Emefiele said his team would engage the promoter of the refinery, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to ensure that Nigerians benefitted from the venture, adding that the CBN, the Federal Government and, indeed, the country helped him set up the refinery.
The CBN boss expressed optimism that the refinery would ease the foreign exchange scarcity in the country, noting that with local refining, about 20 per cent cost of the total cost of importing petroleum products could be saved, thereby reducing prices in the long run. He, however, said it was time to exit the fuel subsidy regime.
His words: “By the time the Dangote Refinery comes on stream, the price at which it (fuel) will be dispensed will be lower than what it is when we spend dollars to import because there will be no freight cost, no storage and all other logistics expenses.
“So we will be lucky to be having about 20 per cent savings from refining locally, rather than importing.
“But the important thing is that we have reached a point, whether we like it or not when we must exit subsidy.
“Dangote Refinery coming at this time gives us the confidence that even if we exit subsidy, the products will be available. And eventually, the interplay of market forces will also moderate the prices to a level that will help the country.
“So we are expecting that, no doubt, by the time he produces for domestic consumption, the excess will be exported by the numbers that he talked about, which we agree with.
‘’We should be able to save, conservatively, close to about $5 billion to $10 billion in foreign exchange that will come into the country.
“Whether it comes to our reserves or not is not the point, it is the fact that the dollar is available and it will be sold in the domestic market so that customers of banks who need to import do not necessarily resort to CBN for dollars.
“They can go to their banks and Dangote will sell dollars to their banks and we are going to ensure that it is done at a good market rate.
“What I would have loved to say on Monday (at the Dangote Refinery Commissioning) which I didn’t say was that the CBN, the government and the country have helped Dangote to set up that refinery.
“He is a Nigerian; Nigerians must benefit from that venture and we are going to engage him and talk to him and I am sure that being the richest man in Africa, he is going to throw a few crumbs so that the price will be lowered.”
N8trn interventions in 5yrs
Meanwhile, Emefiele revealed that the CBN had given out about N8 trillion in interventions to the private sector in the last five years.
He said: “In the last four to five years, we have done about N8 trillion in interventions to the private sector of the economy. The loans have been granted for 10 years, with a two-year moratorium and at single digit”.
The CBN boss disclosed, however, that going forward, the apex bank would reduce its quasi-fiscal activities.
MPR jerked up to 18.5%
At yesterday’s meeting, the MPC raised the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to 18.5 per cent from 18 per cent.
Emefiele said the strategy, which started in May last year, had been working as it had moderated the rate of inflation in the economy.
He admitted that the interest rate hike was constraining credit to the real sectors of the economy but that it remained the best option in tackling inflation.
He stated: “The current trend in price development would continue to be monitored by the bank with greater collaboration with fiscal authority to address the drivers of inflation.”
Meanwhile, the committee voted to keep the asymmetric corridor at +100 and -700 basis points around the MPR.
It also retained the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 32.5 per cent and equally left the Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent.
We look forward to cost reduction — IPMAN
Reacting to the CBN’s declaration that Dangote would sell Dollars to banks at good rate, the National President of the Independent Petroleum Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo, could not be reached for comments, yesterday.
But National Operations Controller, IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, said: “Oil marketers are very happy about the Dangote Refinery. We were tied to the global market for several decades. Now, everyone will be free to patronise the refinery.
‘’We look forward to a significant cost reduction, apparently because freight and shipping costs will not apply anymore.
“With the coming onstream of the plant, the Federal Government will be encouraged to end fuel subsidy. This might be affordable to Nigerians, unlike what it could have been in the past.”
Dangote Refinery comes with multiplier effects — OGSPAN
Similarly, the National President, Oil and Gas Service Providers Association of Nigeria, OGSPAN, Mazi Colman Obasi, said: “On a serious note, Alhaji Aliko Dangote should be commended for making this gigantic investment.
“Every patriotic Nigerian and African should be proud of this refinery. It is very huge and it comes with a lot of multiplier effects for Nigeria.
“I completely agree with the CBN governor that it will culminate in the generation of additional foreign exchange into Nigeria as well as assist the nation to conserve foreign exchange currently expended on massive importation of petroleum products.
“As a major crude oil producer, Nigeria should not have been involved in the importation of petroleum products. ‘’The nation was compelled by circumstances to go into importation. I am happy that this big refinery will enable us reduce or completely stop dependence on the global market.”
CBN should merge forex rates — NACCIMA
Also commenting, Sola Obadimu, Director General, Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA, while acknowledging the capacity of Dangote Refinery to generate forex, said CBN should rather focus on merging forex rates.
He said: “Honestly, my take is that CBN should merge these forex rates to avoid whatever might be called ‘good’ or ‘bad’ rates. And that’s the responsibility of CBN – to determine the true value of the Naira. Various exchange rates are basic ingredients for grandiose corruption as we know it.
“Yes, this is a very commendable project that has the capacity to generate forex whenever it starts to export and the proceeds would be convertible to Naira.
“At present, exporters through official channels are complaining that conversion for forex generated from exports is only available to them at official rates which may be unfair, given the fact that they never get enough forex at official rates when they need it either for imported inputs or machinery/parts.
“That’s the danger of dual or multiple exchange rates, particularly when the gaps are too wide as we have it now. But then, the government now has some stakes in the project.
‘’So they may reach some agreements on that level. But it might be preferred to have policies that encourage export activities by all as much as possible.”
Cbn Raises Interest Rate To 18.5%; Highest In 22 Years
The Central Bank of Nigeria at its just concluded Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting raised its benchmark interest rate (MPR) by 50 basis points to 18.5 per cent, the country’s highest in 22 years.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, made this known during the post-MPC press conference on Wednesday.
In April 2023, headline inflation increased to 22.22 per cent from 22.04 per cent in the previous month, marking its highest level since September 2005.
This is the third time the Mr Emefiele led apex bank will be raising it’s interest rate in 2023.
Nigeria has struggled with a high rate of inflation as well as a declining exchange rate at both the parallel and official markets.
In April 2022, headline inflation reached its highest level in more than 17 years, eroding the purchasing power of the populace.
However, the apex bank has continued to increase the interest rate to combat the continued rising inflation.
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