… only N2000 was allowed per customer
It was about 11.30 am on Thursday, the usual busy banking hall of UBA branchs located at Ogudu GRA, Lagos, was literarily empty. There were about five customers in front of the Tellers with one of them actively sorting out some terribly looking old naira notes that were given to her .
Looking at the face of the customer while sorting the dirty N100 notes, one could see the frustration on her face. Definitely, she did not bargain for what she got at the banking hall, but she needed money and had to make do with what she got.
The N100 notes were looking like those ones exhumed from the ground and brought out for transactions when the condition such as the one Nigerians are passing through compelled the depositors of such money to do so.
This scene confirmed what someone I ran into at a pharmaceutical store at Alapere, in Lagos, showed me the several bundles of N20 notes he was given by a bank a few days ago. When he was asked what he was doing with the bundles, he said they were given to him at the bank, because it had no N100, N200, N500, and N1000 notes.
He left the bank with a bulging envelope that caught the attention of everyone he was approaching on the street and with all the inconveniences associated with carrying the money from one bus stop to another in Lagos.
Back to UBA. On further inquiry of what could be responsible for few people being at the banking hall, some officials of the bank said there was no money, and so the customers just don’t find it useful to be at the banking hall. The rather stay away in frustration, they said.
While a few of us that were in a different department of the bank were busy discussing the terrible financial situation that has hit us, suddenly a bullion van surfaced, and someone hinted us that if we want to withdraw money through the ATM we can do so. We rushed to the ATM, thinking that at least that would be a relief for some of us that were opportune to be around when the bullion van came. But to our utmost disappointment, after queuing for about 40 minutes, information came to us that the exercise was suspended.
In frustration, we went back to face the other transactions we had planned to do. The funny aspect of it was that both the customers and a sizeable number of the staff of the bank were struggling to get money from the ATM. When some of the staff were asked, why are they struggling with customers, they simply said, “we don’t have transport to go back home if we close from work. We are also Nigerians and have to eat”
After some time, the ATM became operational and we all trooped there again. By this time information had gone round the suburb of the bank that the ATM was dispensing, so the queue became longer than expected. Despite that, the ATM was dispensing everybody was disappointed because the bank asked one of its staff to stand by the ATM to monitor those that want to collect money. The essence of the staff being made to man the ATM was to make sure that no customer gets not more than N2000 of the new notes.
You can imagine a family man that was probably looking forward to withdraw N5000 and he was told that he could only withdraw N2000.
With the lack of fuel that has led to increase in transport fares, before the person gets home the money would have reduced to about N1500
N2000 can get you 10 litres of petrol to run your generators because the price of petrol ranges from 250 to 450 depending on which area of Nigeria you are.
If this was happening in Lagos you can imagine what will be the plight of our brothers and sisters in the rural areas where there are no banking facilities.
It must be understood that neither the new naira notes nor the old ones were available to give to customers even in the banks.
Those that operate POS capitalized on the situation to charge premium on even the old naira notes when they are approached for money. For them to give N5000 you must pay a premium of N500. When they are asked why they are doing that they will tell you they also pay premium on the money they are using to do business.
Those that have money now find POS operators as people they can do business with as they make money available to them at a premium.
Patience, a POS operator told Business Standards that she had to transverse the length and breadth of Anthony, Obanikoro, Ketu and Ojota in Lagos, all in an attempt to get either new or old notes. Unfortunately, she could only succeed in getting some old notes at a highly exorbitant price.
To compound the problems of the common man, the market women and men have refused to accept old notes. Some of them that have bank accounts would tell you to make transfer and you must wait until he or she gets the alert before you are allowed to take whatever you bought.
In all these, it is the common man that carries the burden, the people in the rural areas, those who earn daily living through manual labour, the farmers and artisans just to mention a few.
However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on Thursday, directed deposit money banks (DMBs) to commence the payment of the redesigned naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who gave the directive, urged Nigerians to exercise patience while assuring that the apex bank was working assiduously to address the challenge of queues at ATMs.
But there seems to be anxiety in the industry as CBN has commenced tracking of new notes in circulation that are being abused in parties and other social gatherings.
Hitherto, the new naira notes were not paid over the counter but can only be withdrawn from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
It is hoped that this would actually happen so that the common man in Nigeria would not die of starvation.