As the naira shortage continued, more banks began closing their branches.
Even on Wednesday there were still long queues outside the ATMs of many commercial banks in Lagos, Ogun, Abuja and elsewhere. As the February 10 deadline for the old N1000, N500 and N200 banknotes approaches, more Nigerians are frustrated that they cannot use cash for regular transactions. Subsequently, this led to protests and attacks on banks, which were condemned by the unions of the National Bank, insurance and financial institutions.
This comes after the Supreme Court ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to miss the February 10 deadline. Other branches of commercial banks in Lagos joined a long list of banks that closed operations on Wednesday due to a shortage of new and old banknotes.
According to the findings by The PUNCH, the Fidelity Bank on Isaac John Street, Ikeja, was opened but customers were prevented from entering. The ATMs on the bank premises did not work when our correspondent visited.
Similarly, the First Bank on Isaac John Street, Ikeja, Lagos, was shut down. Our correspondent reported that none of the ATMs was working during a visit on Wednesday afternoon.
Our correspondent reported a total shutdown of operations at the Zenith Bank located at Ajisafe Street, GRA, Ikeja. All the ATMs of the lending bank did not work.
Also, the Access Bank at Abule Onigbajo Street, Lagos, was not operating while customers were barred from entering the lender.
A customer with Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr Anthony Ifeanyi, said he was stranded at the Anthony area of Lagos when he tried making a withdrawal from the bank there on Wednesday.
Upon visiting the Guaranty Trust Bank and EcoBank at the University of Lagos, our correspondent observed a long queue of several students both at the ATM machines and inside the bank awaiting the dispensation of naira notes.
Getting inside the banking halls, the bank officials noted that they were still waiting for cash as well.
One of the officials said, “We have not cash yet.”
Our correspondent observed that all bank branches in the Redemption Camp and Mowe axis were shut down.
This came a day after several branches of GTBank, Unity Bank, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, Ecobank, UBA, FCMB and others were shut on Tuesday.
In Ogun State, our correspondent visited two banks along the Alagbole-Akute axis.
At the First City Monument Bank along the Alagbole-Akute road, our correspondent observed that the bank did not open for business.
When our correspondent inquired from the security guard why the bank did not open during conventional working hours, the security guard said the closure was as a result of “the issue on the ground.”
Outside the bank, a small crowd of weary customers sat on stone slabs, ostensibly waiting for the ATMs to start dispensing cash.
A customer, who identified herself as Jane-Frances told our correspondent that she and other commuters had been waiting outside the bank for over two hours.
She said, “The security told us they would load the machine soon, but we have been waiting for more than two hours. I’ve visited all the banks on this road, and none of the ATMs is dispensing cash. Some of them didn’t even open today.”
Our correspondent then proceeded to First Bank, still along the Alagbole-Akute road, where he met another crowd of commuters expressing their frustration with regard to their inability to withdraw cash from the bank’s ATMs.
However, despite opening the banking hall to customers, the bank did not attend to any cash-related requests over the counter as the bank’s personnel disclosed to our correspondent that it did not have any cash.
Elsewhere, it was also gathered that Sterling Bank some of its branches following viral reports that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission had on Tuesday discovered the sum of N258m inside the bank’s regional headquarters in Abuja.
However, in a rebuttal published on the bank’s social media handles on Wednesday, Sterling Bank denied any wrongdoing in the debacle that led to the arrest of its branch managers.
Long queues were seen at ATM stands and banking halls in the capital city as customers, PoS operators endured the hot weather in order to perform financial transactions.
At banks located in Wuse 2 which include United Bank of Africa, Providus Bank and Standard Chartered Bank, only customers at Providus and Standard Chartered Bank were allowed to make a maximum withdrawal of N10,000 OTC.
Findings showed that the Zenith Bank branch at Wuse market was shut down over attacks by angry Nigerians on Monday due to the ongoing naira scarcity.
Our correspondent also observed that N20,000 was paid in N50 notes to customers at Access Bank and Wema Bank in the same area.
When our correspondent visited the Guaranty Trust Bank at Central Business Area and Wuse 2 there was a large crowd at the ATM machine, however, the bank was not paying the new notes over the counter.
Similarly at the United Bank of Africa, our correspondent saw a large crowd at the ATM machine.
PoS agents lament
Also, several Point of Sales agents did not have cash on Wednesday. Upon a request on the amount they charge for N5000, they noted that it was N1000.
Speaking with our correspondent, a PoS operator, who preferred to be referred to as Mercy said she was able to get some new notes would be sold at a high rate.
Another PoS operator, Bisi disclosed that he was out of cash and therefore would be unable to carry out the normal transaction.
Other operators within the Lotto Mowe axis revealed that they had to source for cash from market women.
A PoS operator who refused to disclose her name said, “ I charge N700 per N5000. I don’t even have enough cash because all the banks are closed and I had to get cash from traders in the market. All the banks in the camp have shut down also in Mowe.”
A PoS operator at Idimu road, Lagos, who simply gave her name as Mummy Ire, said she did not have any cash for her business.
She said that the Access Bank she visited on Ikotun road was neither paying neither was the ATM dispensing cash on Wednesday.
“My brother I don’t have any cash with me here. I visited Access Bank to make some withdrawals, they were not paying and the ATMs there were not dispensing cash. I don’t know where this will be taking us to.”
In an exclusive interview with the National President of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank, Victor Olojo, he noted that it had not been easy on agents
He said, “Agents have to travel miles and go through long processes to get funds as the banks are not giving agents money. The reality is that cash right now is a scarce commodity, and agents do not have direct access to it.”
According to the president, the deadline stipulated by the CBN is not feasible.
“With what we have seen on the ground by our own estimation, except something happens, that deadline is feasible because the entire old notes cannot be mopped out by February 10, and this will trigger lots of problems as we are already seeing.
“I believe that an assessment will be done by February 10, and the CBN also has their ears on the street. So, if it is not favourable by then, the regulatory body would not go ahead. The banks are suffering from this shortage already. If the CBN goes on with the deadline stipulated, it would not be a good move.”
He added, “Banks should also be made to pay more over the counter with strict measures like supervision by the CBN most importantly, the alternative channels should also be strengthened because trust needs to be built.”
Bank workers threatened
The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees has threatened to withdraw their services of its members nationwide following attacks on some commercial banks.
It also said it would not stop the withdrawal until the attacks on its workers were addressed, and security ensured.
NUBIFIE’s general secretary, Mohammed Sheikh, in a statement on Wednesday, expressed dismay over recent attacks on bank workers without proper protection by security agencies.
The union also faulted the security agencies for not offering enough protection to commercial banks in light of recent attacks by disgruntled and frustrated members of the public.
Sheikh further appealed to the federal government, CBN and various stakeholders to strive and end the hardship brought as a result of the change of cash withdrawal policy.
He also asked Nigerians, unable to access their funds deposited in banks to bear with the situation.
“We, therefore, call on the Central Bank of Nigeria to review the cash withdrawal policy, which has affected the business of over 200,000 Point of Sales businesses in Nigeria,” Sheikh said.
In view of the apex bank’s efforts to mop up excess liquidity, the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise has said that the N2.6tn currency in circulation is not too much for the Nigerian economy.
The Chief Executive officer of the CPPE, Dr Muda Yusuf, made this known in a statement on, Tuesday the restraining order of the supreme court on the timeline for the currency swap.
Yusuf said, “we affirm our position that N2.6tn currency in circulation is not too much for the Nigerian economy with a GDP of about N250tn. “
He stated that any attempt to arbitrarily cut it will create a crisis, noting that “It is unacceptable that citizens are denied access to their cash deposited for purposes of cash swap. This could undermine the confidence of the citizens in the banking system and pose a major risk to the financial inclusion objective of the CBN.”