Despite recent assurances by the Central Bank of Nigeria that there is enough naira in circulation, reports of scarcity have emerged across the country.
A survey on Wednesday, confirmed scarcity in some parts of Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Kwara, Gombe, Edo, Sokoto, and Ekiti States. Many bank customers and Point of Sales operators, who spoke to The PUNCH, lamented that it is becoming a challenge to access cash for their economic activities.
This is coming weeks after the apex bank affirmed that it has enough currency notes in the market and hence no need for panic withdrawals by members of the public.
In a circular titled ‘All Banknotes Issued by the CBN Remain Legal Tender,’ signed by Director, Corporate Communications, Isa AbdulMumin, the bank stated that it was aware of reported scarcity of cash across some major cities. It noted that there have also been concerns among some members of the public over the legality of old naira notes.
The bank said, “For the avoidance of doubt, while reiterating that there are sufficient banknotes across the country for all normal economic activity, we wish to state unambiguously that every banknote issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) remains legal tender and should not be rejected by anyone, as stipulated in Section 20(5) of the CBN Act, 2007.”
It cautioned members of the public to avoid panic withdrawals and stressed that it has enough currency notes to facilitate normal economic activities.
The concern from members of the public over the legality of old naira notes is connected to issues surrounding the naira redesign policy of the apex bank.
In October 2022, the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, announced a plan to redesign some naira denominations (N200, N500, and N1000 notes) and reduce currency circulation. He also stated that the old versions of the redesigned notes will lose their legal status by January 31, 2023.
The plan was met with resistance and state governments dragged the apex bank to the Supreme Court on February 3, requesting for an extension of the deadline. By March 2023, the apex court invalidated the new naira design policy and extended the validity of the notes until December 2023.
Recently, the CBN announced plans to extend the validity of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes indefinitely. The bank noted that it was working with relevant authorities to vacate the subsisting court ruling on the same subject. A recent report in local media confirmed that the CBN has filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking an extension for old naira notes to remain in circulation.
According to a report from the CBN, the currency in circulation increased by 3.75 per cent to N2.76tn in September 2023.
Naira scarcity resurfaces in Lagos
However, cash scarcity, a major downside of the CBN’s naira redesign policy, has begun to resurface. Visits to some banks on Wednesday revealed scanty banking halls and ATM galleries.
A customer, who gave his name as Ganiyu Tunde, at the Union Bank branch along Oshodi Expressway in Lagos claimed that banks were only dispensing N5,000 via ATMs to non-customers.
Bank customers of Union Bank were, however, able to get up to N20,000 at the ATM and inside the bank. The rows of ATMs at an Access Bank branch nearby were empty because there was no cash in them as of the time of filing this report. A banker who spoke to The PUNCH on the condition of anonymity blamed the cash scarcity on weak supply from the CBN.
The banker said, “It is the CBN that is responsible for this cash scarcity. We are not getting enough from them. They are just causing unnecessary suffering for the masses.”
A bank teller who works with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in their Palmgrove Branch, Lagos, affirmed to The PUNCH that customers are not allowed to withdraw more than N20,000.00 across the counter. According to the teller, the bank was experiencing a shortage of cash.
The PUNCH noticed that not all banks are experiencing shortages of cash. For instance, Union Bank’s Isolo branch showed no signs of scarcity. A staff member, who only gave her name as Ope, said, “You can withdraw money if you want. I have heard something like that, but we are dispensing funds.”
At Access Bank Oshodi branch, customers were observed withdrawing cash from ATMs outside the banking hall, with a bank staff member adding, “There is cash. Everybody is withdrawing.”
Scarcity hits Abuja, Kano, Kwara, Sokoto, Ekiti
A respondent in the Federal Capital Territory, Festus Okoromadu, was concerned that he could not withdraw at the First Bank branches in his area.