The new naira redesign policy of changing Nigeria naira notes had left people with more pain than joy. Lagos(ians) being the commercial centre of the nation is bearing the hardship more than many other states. Any policy that undermined a possible near total collapse of economy like that of Lagos is on a path of grave concern.
Leaders in Nigeria continue to make governance look like a joke. Sometime with good intention, they tried hard to heal a disease with wrong prescriptions and methods. It appears governance in Nigeria is tilted towards cutting off a head as a remedy for headache.
The writer in this past five days had been monitoring and following up with this policy deadline and can also see imminent collapse of economic activities as well as survival of the fittest if care is not taken. Even with the new extension of deadline to February 10. 2023 the system is overlooking fundamental.
From Wednesday, I made it a point of duty to drive round Ikeja and some other parts of Lagos to assess banks and various bank’s ’s customers’ as well as commercial activities’ readiness to switch to the use of the newly redesigned naira notes and what I found out gave a lot of reasons to be concerned. In many of the banks’ branches, the ATMs are empty. The frustration I encountered to get cash to refill our household gas as well as fuel for the car left me with more bitter memory. That is just one person out of about 25 million residents in the state.
Banks’ customers and bankers are frustrated.
Early morning Wednesday 25th January, 2022 I started my journey from ketu through Ojota to Maryland enroute Ikeja as well as drove through major streets in Ikeja, only few banks ATMs had cash to dispense. In some of these few, ATMs dispensed old naira notes and people had to collect this because of certain urgencies or the other they needed to attend to.
The urge to reject old notes were still very minimal as many knew the deadline was still close to a week. Where you have ATMs dispensing new naira notes the queues were long. Along Aromoire and Adeniyi Jones axis we only say only one bank with new notes but it may take like 30 minutes before it could become your turn.
The above journey ended the early morning drive for the day around 11am. Around 2pm to 4pm same day, I drove through Oba-Akran towards Ogba road and back to Obafemi Awolowo way and the frustration continued. At some of the branches where I went, the story remained same. I interacted with some bank officials and the response were almost same.
“The new Naira notes are not available and there is a penalty for loading ATMs with old naira notes’ so say two different bank officials at different branches I spoke to on the ground of anonymity.
Obviously by Thursday 26th, the need to refill my car petrol tank had become urgent. I took off from Ojota through Oregun road onward Ikeja from around 8am. I only saw confused faces of both bank’s customers and bank security staff along the way.
Only on Adeniyi -Jones axis was I lucky to find a bank’s ATM that was dispensing new naira note but for the queue I could not wait. I did spoke to two or three customers who were on their way to work but needed cash and had to wait.
“The frustration one encounters in this country is huge, you will have to labour to get money, labour to get it bank from a system that should offer you peace of mind” so say Mr. Ayoola who seemed to be talking to himself until the writer woke him up to reality.
I talked to an elderly woman, who looked tired and worn-out about her experience along Awolowo way. She told me, “I am concerned that Nigerian could get to this stage. Our government seems to be more interested in punishing the masses”” She went further to say “Ideally, the process should have taken nothing less than six months given Nigeria’s capacity to handle this surge for now”
Because of other official needs, I went to the office and resumed the search for naira between 2pm-4pm again. The story was not different driving through Simbiat Abiola way by Computer village, enroute Ojota through Awolowo way and then through Oregun road. I veered off towards Billings Way and down Doherty road towards Oyeleke and Kaffi street. By Kaffi, one of the newly licensed banks ATM was dispensing new naira notes Despite the queues I had to wait for about 45 minutes before it was my turn as the need to get household items and fuel for the car had become urgent.
While waiting, I heard a lot of lamentations, expression of anger by average Nigerians. One of the bank’s customers said “I would have preferred to go and do my transaction on the counter but the bank only have old notes to give on the counter. Only ATM has new notes.
Another customer in another area said, because of non-availability of new naira notes, said “On the counter a maximum of ten thousand naira could only be given to one customer.” I also monitored conversations on the social media, the story is same from Abule Egba, Egbeda, Agege motor road, Obalende, Victoria Island, Ikotun, Ikorodu, Lekki. Ajah etc. Owolabi Sorungbe, who lives in Abule Egba, Sango axis did say “same for my area, from Abule Egba down to Toll Gate along Sango Ota, no ATM is dispensing,” Bank officials as well as customers are both confused..Meanwhile by Friday the challenges of Lagosians not wanting to collect new notes had escalated.
Now that deadline has been extended till February 10.
Just a few hours again, The Central Bank of Nigeria announced deadline extension to February 10. The question is not about the extension. Do we have the capacity to produce enough naira notes that can meet basic needs of the average citizen? The ‘big boys’ will always have their ways. Millions have been committed to this project.
The new naira production had been flawed with like of quality control as we have many new naira notes not properly cut etc. There has been ongoing cry of hoarding and saboteurs in the distribution channels among others. Does the CBN has the liver to implement necessary recommendations made by ICAN among many other financial professionals had suggested?
It is true this policy has the Presidency’s backing but does Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company which is already overwhelmed with the challenges of replacing damaged currency in the system, has the capacity to produce and distribute enough new naira notes that about 123 Million active Nigerian bank customers need despite the extension? We can only wait.