ENUGU, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- Again, scarcity of Naira notes has hit Akwa Ibom State despite the position of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), that the old notes would remain valid beyond the 31 December deadline.
However, it was observed that residents, especially traders and filling station owners in the State, are still hoarding the new notes, which stems from the fear that the Supreme Court’s order that the old notes would cease to be valid by 31 December subsists.
The Federal Government of Nigeria through the Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, had approached the Supreme Court seeking the vacation of the deadline order, citing present economic volatility as reason.
Fagbemi prayed the court to allow both the old and new currency to continue to serve as a legal tender in the country, saying that any attempt to act otherwise would plunge the country back into the economic crisis experienced during the cashless policy era of the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele.
He said, “abiding by the deadline for the validity of the old 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes ordered by this honourable court will make the government of the federation to push the country into another national, economic and financial crisis which this honourable court sought to prevent in the first instance by its judgement in the afore-mentioned suit.
“The only way to save the nation from both of the above situations is to allow both the old and new notes to be used as legal tender until the required structures are put in place and proper consultation established.”
Some residents however, are already engaging in panic withdrawals in Akwa Ibom as they seem to take the federal government’s position on the deadline with a pinch of salt, Daily Post reports.
As a result of this, some traders who made so much profits during the cashless policy by selling cash to Point Of Sales (POS) operators have started hoarding cash.
Also, most of the commercial banks visited in Uyo metropolis do not pay more than N20,000 cash over the counter due to cash scarcity.
A bank customer, who gave his name as Koko Akpan, lamented how he went to two of his banks to withdraw N150, 000 and N140,000 respectively to purchase food stuff but none of the banks agreed to pay him such an amount.
Akpan said he ended up collecting N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira) from each of the banks
“I’m not aware of what is happening because I don’t even withdraw more than N10,000 anytime I go to the bank or ATM.
“But I was surprised when I went to the bank to withdraw the money my sisters sent to me to purchase some items for them and I discovered that there was no money in the bank.
“Those girls (cashiers) only paid me N40,000. I had to go to the POS where I got the balance after losing N3000 for charges,” he narrated to our correspondent.
A staff of one of the banks who pleaded anonymity lamented the paucity of cash in the banks due to decline in deposits by customers.
The staff said, “We don’t always have much cash because people no longer deposit much money. But we can still pay up to N50,000 to customers.”
Commenting on the issue, a caller in a phone in programme of Comfort FM in Uyo, Idongesit, regretted the inability of the CBN to make cash available and the “callousness” of some persons to hoard the cash, thereby bringing untold hardship to the masses.
He added, “My bank cannot pay more than N20,000 over the counter, when you ask them they said they don’t have money. I wonder what the CBN governor is doing.
“People in the legislature are aware of the issue; my question is- why didn’t they ask the CBN governor when they were screening him how he will address this issue?
“How do you pay the woman selling a bunch of plantain at the market?”
Meanwhile, some of the POS operators in other local governments of the State said they buy cash from traders in Uyo at a very low rate to keep their business afloat since they cannot withdraw more than N20,000 from the bank.
An operator identified as Udeme said he has two customers at Eniong market that sell cash to him three times in a week.
He said, “I don’t source money from the bank, I go inside the market and get the money. It is better for me that way.”
When asked how much he buys the cash, he said, “well, it’s not as before, like that cashless policy time. The amount is not much. I transfer N503,000 sometimes N504,000 to any of them and they will give me N500,000 cash.
“It is better for us that way because they will not stress themselves or waste their time going to the bank to deposit the cash.
“At the end of the day, they will still get small thing on top too. I am not the only one, so many of my colleagues go through it.”
Speaking with one of the traders in Itam Market, a popular market in Uyo, he said: “Nigeria is look me, I look you, anything goes! Are we sure that by December, they will not say that old naira is no longer valid?
“My advice to you is to keep the new notes till that time, let’s see what will happen.
“After the day’s sales, I separate the old from new notes, keep the new ones and give those that do POS the old ones for their business. I don’t sell to them but they buy beer for me. Some of my neighbours here sell to them but it can’t be like the other time,” he said.