“Don’t wait till January 31, 2023, to deposit your old N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes with your bank or agent,” the Central Bank of Nigeria’s short messaging service text reminded this citizen among millions on Tuesday.
Many are heeding CBN’s warning as the final week of accepting the old banknotes as legal tender begins. However, there is one current challenge many stakeholders face.
The new banknotes which should serve as replacement for the old banknotes are low in supply.
FIJ visited 20 Automated Teller Machine (ATM) galleries belonging to different bank branches along the Ikeja and Yaba axis of Lagos and found 11 dispensing the new banknotes.
‘NO CASH DISPENSED? MAKE A TRANSFER ON OUR ATM’
FIJ was in Iyana Ipaja on Tuesday morning to confirm if the ATMs at the local bank branches were dispensing new banknotes.
The Ecobank branch located just before the roadside stalls had four ATMs running on power. A crowd converged on one of the ATMs rather than forming a queue. After a few minutes of trial and error, the man in front of the ATM received the message “Service Unavailable”.
Either none of the ATMs at the bank was stacked with cash at the start of business or the little amount loaded in the morning was already exhausted at 11 am.
The first of two Access Bank branches in Iyana Ipaja had three ATMs available in its gallery but only two could be used. By the time I got to one, it refused to dispense cash because it had run out of new banknotes.
All ATMs were dispensing new banknotes, but they were about to stop dispensing at midday.
The second Access Bank branch had one ATM available and that ATM had exhausted whatever volume of cash it had that morning.
“It’s not dispensing. There’s no money inside it,” a bank official told me.
The bank left a message for the customers who would meet its empty ATM:
“No cash dispensed? Don’t fret!!!
“You can quickly make a transfer on our ATMs… Thank you for your understanding.”
‘WE WILL SOON LOAD THE ATMs WITH CASH’
FIJ visited every ATM gallery in the banks along the long road of Isaac John Street, Ikeja. The first bank branch FIJ went to withdraw new banknotes was a Zenith Bank branch.
There were three ATMs functioning but they were unable to dispense cash. FIJ tried with all three ATMs after one of the four uniformed bank staff said “there is no cash”.
When we asked if there was going to be new naira notes in the ATMs, the officers answered in the affirmative.
“There was money inside the ATMs this morning; we just ran out of cash. We will soon load them with cash,” the bank security officer told FIJ.
The same thing happened at the ATM gallery in the First Bank branch next to the Zenith Bank branch.
There was no cash in the ATM and one of the bank officials advised this reporter to use another bank’s ATM.
‘THE NOTES IN THIS ATM AREN’T MANY, USE THE OTHER ONES’
Fidelity Bank on Isaac John Street was dispensing cash from at least three ATMs when FIJ got to its premises. All banknotes were the new bank notes.
FIJ used the first ATM with the shortest queue. This ATM dispensed the N200 denomination banknotes. Customers spent longer and took more naira bills at that ATM.
After a successful withdrawal an official of the bank told a man in uniform to direct customers to two other ATMs.
“The naira notes in this ATM aren’t many; let them use the other ones,” she said.
The ATM the bank official was talking about was dispensing N200 notes only. One of the other ATMs was dispensing N500 and the other, N1000.
‘NO CASH FOR STUDENTS IN YABA’
Yaba College of Technology, Nigeria’s oldest tertiary institution, situated in Lagos, has two banks on its campus. FIJ visited the institution to observe the circulation of new naira notes.
Both banks on campus did not have cash in the ATMs at 10 am. The students at the ATM gallery could only make money transfers or do transactions that did not involve banknotes.
Israel Olugbemiga, a student who also runs a business centre for paperwork, told FIJ that the new banknotes had been introduced but they were not in full circulation yet.
“We’ve seen the new banknotes, but they are not everywhere yet. When people pay for services, they bring the old naira notes to complement the few new notes they have,” Olugbemiga said on Tuesday.
“I will say that the new banknotes are about fifty percent in circulation when compared with the old ones. The banks on campus have started dispensing the new banknotes but, as you can confirm, their ATMs are not always stacked with cash.”
FIJ found that the students who wished to replace their old N200, N500 and N1000 notes with new notes usually went to banks located outside Yaba.
“You may have to go to Ikeja if you want to use ATMs that will give you cash today. We aren’t sure when these ATMs on campus will dispense cash,” Olugbemiga suggested.
‘WE ARE MAINTAINING THIS ATM’
On Isaac John Street, the number of banks with ATMs dispensing cash evened those with empty ATMs.
At the Polaris Bank branch, the bank did not not state whether the ATM was with cash or not. They simply told this reporter that the ATM was unavailable at the moment.
This bank branch had only one ATM available to customers. The ATM is fixed right outside the bank compound, just by the gate.
The ATM was open but a bank official came outside the bank just as this reporter approached the machine to use it.
“We are maintaining this ATM, I am working on it so you cannot make withdrawals right now,” she said.
There were crowds at the ATM galleries of other banks dispensing cash when FIJ got there.
OBVIOUS CASHLESS PLOY
The CBN has made it public knowledge that it intends to drive its cashless policy aggressively.
“It is in the public interest to promote an efficient payment system via the cashless policy which helps reduce the punitive costs of cash processing,” Aishah Ahmad, CBN Deputy Governor, said on December 22.
Ahmad was representing Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, to brief the House of Representatives plenary on CBN’s cashless policies.
CBN believes its cashless policy does not prohibit cash transactions above the prescribed limit. However, CBN encourages Nigerians to carry less cash to reduce cost of cash management and incidences of crime reliant on hard cash.
Emefiele has insisted that January 31 remains the deadline for accepting old banknotes as legal tender.
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