•It is sanctionable for any bank to dispense old notes via ATMs
•Buhari holds meeting with Emefiele
As the window for the phasing out of the old notes closes, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has stepped up an aggressive awareness programme to sensitise the public on the security and other issues about the new notes, visiting markets across the country.
The apex bank also urged Nigerians to reject old notes from the banks henceforth.
This comes as President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, met with the Governor of the apex bank Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In the past few days, officials of the apex bank have visited markets in Lagos, Kebbi, Abia, Nasarawa, Cross River, Rivers, Plateau, Kogi and other states where they engaged market women on the issues, assuring them that the naira redesign is aimed at combating counterfeiting. They have also urged their banks to deposit the old naira they have kept, assuring them that the current scarcity of the new notes would be over soon.
At one of the campaigns at Birnin Kebbi Central Market, the State Director National Orientation Agency (NOA), the CBN controller, leaders of market associations and other stakeholders were present to field questions.
Kebbi State Controller of CBN, Dantsofo Mannir Abdullahi, urged the people of the state and other relevant stakeholders to return all the old notes to banks to meet the CBN deadline scheduled for January 31.
“You see the CBN Act of 2007 (as amended) vests in the Bank the responsibility to issue and manage the country’s legal tender currencies, such as naira, kobo and eNaira” he said.
He also encouraged those who do not have bank accounts to visit banks of their choice to open accounts. He said they could also approach the nearest CBN-authorised agent to make their deposits.
At Calabar, the bank has taken the sensitisation to markets and streets where it threatened to sanction banks that are still dispensing old notes at the automated teller machines (ATM).
Branch Manager, Glory Iniunan, said: “What we are here for is to sensitise the people on the acceptance, the deadline of the redesign naira notes. To let them know that as of 31st of January, the old notes will cease to be legal tender. Anybody that has the old notes should take them to the bank before January 31st 2023 to get the new notes.”
She said CBN has started a spot check on banks across the state, threatening to sanction any bank found dispensing the old notes.
“You can still collect the old notes over the counter and use them but return them to banks before 31st of this month. By then, they must have received enough new notes to give to you in exchange. So for now, the ATMs are dispensing new notes. It is a sanctionable offence for you to dispense old notes, and all the banks know this,” she said.
Speaking in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, the Deputy Director (Currency Operation) of the bank, Dr. Rekiyat Yusuf, said that any ATM found to still have old notes would be shut and appropriate sanctions taken applied to the operating bank.
There is no reason banks should still be stocking their ATMs with old notes, she insisted, adding that the apex banks have made enough redesigned notes available for dispensing to members of the public.
In Lafia, Nasarawa State, the Director of Security Services, Atiku Mohammed, called on residents to reject old naira notes from banks going forward.
“When you go to any bank and you are issued the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes, do not collect because you will be collecting tissue paper that will not be accepted from the 31st of January. We will sanction any bank in Nasarawa State and elsewhere that is found guilty of dispensing the old naira notes at ATMs or across the counter,” he said.
Following complaints raised by residents and traders at the sensitisation meeting, the CBN boss visited five commercial banks in the state capital. At one of the banks visited for on-the-spot assessment, the branch manager fled upon sighting the CBN officials.
In Jos, Plateau State, officials of the bank went out for situation assessment. The team lead and Director, Payment System Management Department of the CBN, Musa Jimoh, said banks that reneged and issued old notes after their monitoring would be severely sanctioned.
“We have announced that if you have old notes, come to the commercial banks and the old notes will be changed to new notes for you. That is why we went round banks to make sure that only new naira notes are being dispensed,” he said.
In Porrt Harcourt, Rivers State, the CBN Branch Controller, Maxwell Okafor, said the deadline would not be extended. He advised bank depositors to return old notes while the window was still open.
Chairman of the Ariaria Market Traders Association, Aba, Abia State, Emeka Igara, yesterday commended the CBN for the sensitisation visit, saying the education would facilitate acceptance of the new banknotes.
While the regulator continues to threaten banks dispensing old banknotes, The Guardian investigation revealed that most ATM and counter transactions are still in old notes. Bankers continue to complain about the scarcity of new banknotes.