January 10, (THEWILL) – The cash withdrawal limit imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) kicked off across the country yesterday, Monday, January 9, 2022, with Lagos residents expressing mixed reactions.
The apex bank had notified the public of its determination to strictly enforce the sluggish cashless policy which was introduced about a decade ago, but has not been implemented in the desired direction.
The process which followed the Naira redesign policy announced on October 26, 2022, have seen series of policy measures taken by the CBN to actualise the drive towards a far-reaching cashless policy.
THEWILL findings revealed that the chaos and confusion predicted by experts to follow the Naira redesign and cash withdrawal limit during the Christmas and New Year celebrations were not noticed in Lagos.
Although some banks had a large number of customers in a sitting queue under the booths and extended balconies erected in the bank premises, the environment was devoid of chaos and confusion.
“It is the same size of customers we have on Mondays and you can see that everything is going normally. There is no chaos here and no need to create confusion because we have not seen the chaos that people predicted initially,” a female member of staff told THEWILL at the Dopemu Branch of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Agege, Lagos.
Many Automated Teller Machines (ATM) were seen dispensing both the new and old currencies yesterday (Monday) and today when THEWILL visited branches of Access Bank, First Bank, Keystone Bank, GT Bank, Polaris Bank, Zenith Bank, Sterling Bank, Union Bank and FCMB in the central business district of Akowonjo in the Alimosho local government area, popularly called “Roundabout”.
A trader at the popular Aluminum Village, Dopemu, Jideofor Nkemdirim, said he was not bothered about whether the ATM dispensed the old or new Naira notes as the old note remains a legal tender till the end of January.
“I don’t know why people are worrying themselves. The government has told us that both the old and new naira notes are legal tender until the end of this month (January). It is a gradual process. The banks cannot give what they do not have because nobody is going to eat the notes,” Jideofor told this NEWSPAPER at the Dopemu branch of Fidelity Bank.
“In fact, anyone who has the old Naira notes and does not want them, should bring them to me. Let me help them to spend it, because my pocket still tolerates the old Naira,” Jideofor added.
Reactions from other parts of Lagos showed that bank users were going about the new arrangement with ease, and in an orderly manner that does not show any sign of chaos and confusion that had been predicted by analysts.
However, some residents complained about network challenges and the slow pace of attending to customers in some bank branches as most people now embrace the cashless option.
“Network challenge was not created by cashless policy. It happens at this time of the year when the weather is in the harmattan mode and the air haze increases, just like it affects air flights,” a female member of staff at UBA on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja, said on point of anonymity.
Findings by THEWILL revealed that bank customers at Festac, Amuwo Odofin local government, ushered in the cash limit scenario without complaints.
At the UBA and Ecobank branches, residents approached the banks early on Monday to be attended to in time before the rush that was expected to follow the commencement of the cash restriction policy.
Udeme Ekere, a PoS operator, said that business had increased since the weekend with many people preferring to patronise the alternative payment outlets (PoS) than queuing at the banks.
“Business has increased since the weekend. I pray that God will help me to cope because the customer surge is much,” the 28-year-old mobile money operator from Akwa Ibom, said. Asked if she now makes more commission than before, she shook her head, smiled and said “I don’t know o”.
A secondary school teacher at Ogba, Helen Adepoju, knocked CBN for starting what it was not ready to accomplish. She said a policy that was unveiled since October ought not be struggling at this time because, “nobody forced the Central Bank to embark on Naira redesign and its cashless policy.”
“Why whet our appetite over the new naira notes when they are not ready,” Adepoju asked in a voice that suggested disappointment and despair.
“It’s about three months now that the announcement was made and we are yet to see the new Naira notes rolling out of the ATMs. Instead, what we see is old, dirty, tattered, ruffled and torn Naira notes. I do not think the government was ready when it started this process,” said Adedpoju, who would not disclose the school where she teaches for fear of being taken away.
At the Union Bank in Obalende and at Moloney Street in the area, customers were being attended to by the bank officials. The Security guards helped to maintain the queue at the ATM galleries and attend to those who had problems while using the ATM terminals.
At Zenith Bank in Alagbado and Stanbic Bank ATM gallery at Baale Animasaun Road, Alakuko Alagbado in Ifako Ijaiye local government area, the ATMs dispensed only old Naira notes which some customers complained about.
Philo Adeyemi, a shop owner, was angry that the ATMs were still displaying old Naira notes on the second day of the cash withdrawal limit (Tuesday). “I will not make huge withdrawals because I don’t want any old Naira notes to end in my hands and become an antiquity. I bet you, there will be a huge rush towards the end of January because there are many people who still have large amount of money in the old Naira notes in their houses.”
Contrary to CBN’s earlier circular that banks should load their ATMs with N200 and other lower denominations only, THEWILL findings showed that the ATMs now dispense both N500 and N1000 Naira notes.
An official of First Bank on Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja, who would not want to disclosed his name, said the banks are now allowed to load their ATMs with higher denominations (N500 and N1,000). Asked if there was a CBN instruction to that effect, he said “we are allowed to pay higher denominations through ATM, but the new notes only”.
The CBN had, in its earlier circular restricted cash holding and capped maximum denominations payable at ATMs at N200. It also pegged individuals’ and corporate entities’ weekly cash withdrawal limits at N100, 000 and N500,000 respectively.
This has been revised to N500,000 and N5 million respectively following outcry from members of the public, especially, agent banking and mobile money operators who claimed the original cash restriction scenario would ground their businesses.