Naira Scarcity Persists Despite Supreme Court Order

Supreme Court: Old Naira Notes Remain Legal Tender Till Dec 31
Supreme Court: Old Naira Notes Remain Legal Tender Till Dec 31

Despite the Supreme Court’s order restraining the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from going ahead with the enforcement of its 10 February deadline for the use of the old naira note, many Nigerians on Thursday besieged commercial banks and ATM points nationwide amid scarcity of the old and new naira notes.

BrandSpur Nigeria recalls that the Supreme Court had on Wednesday ordered the CBN not to put an end to the use of old naira notes on 10 February as earlier announced.

A seven-member panel of the court, led by John Okoro, gave the order of interim injunction amid acute scarcity of the newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 currency notes.

The court gave the order temporarily based on an application filed by three northern states being controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC)––Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara States.

Last December, the CBN introduced the new notes amid efforts to fight corruption, terrorism, counterfeiting and related crimes. However, Nigerians have had a hard time getting the new notes amid scarcity and rising tension across the country.

The frustration has led to protests in parts of the country with angry Nigerians vandalizing ATMs and banks.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court’s interim order generated heated debates among Nigerians as many envisaged that the development would ease the tension and restore normalcy.
But things got worse for many Nigerians on Thursday as banks were shut down in many parts of the country.

Queues Remain

A PREMIUM TIMES reporter noted that in many parts of the Federal Capital Territory, economic activities were disrupted in markets, restaurants, banks, and major sales outlets Thursday. Banks and ATMs were equally besieged by frustrated Nigerians who struggled to stay in long queues for hours to make transactions.

“People have money and are still suffering, no money, no market,” said Shade Folaniyi, a 40-year-old frozen food seller in Garki market.

As early as 5 a.m., Ms Folaniyi said she left her house to queue at the bank in order to withdraw money but she had to leave the queue around 11 am after her efforts yielded no result.

“I don’t even have money for transport and the POS boy who charges us exorbitantly has not opened for like two days now.

“The ATM didn’t start dispensing until 10 a.m., and people even came shunting the line. I just had to leave, it is so frustrating,” she said.

While residents like Ms Folaniyi have not been successful at withdrawing money from the banks despite waiting for several hours, other residents who waited in some other banks and were able to get cash described the experience as ‘stressful’.

Judith Oyeobere, an online business owner in Kuje, Abuja, narrated how she successfully withdrew money Thursday after hours of being on the queue.

“I spent more than four hours at the bank and at the end of the day, you need to see the wretched N50 notes they gave me; they were really dirty and mostly damaged.

A trader at Apo market who identified himself simply as ‘Papa’ lamented that despite the poor sales recorded at the market; he had had to decline the old notes because of the uncertainty surrounding the policy.

“Though since this new naira note problem started, it has really affected my market patronage, any of the notes we see, we collect but no one here (market) can tell if the deadline is still not tomorrow.

“I cannot lock my shop to go and queue at the bank tomorrow so I have painfully declined a few old notes today,” he said.

Enugu, Lagos

In Enugu, southeastern Nigeria, a resident told PREMIUM TIMES that the situation was not better as they stood endlessly before making N1,000 withdrawals from the ATMs.

“We queued up early in the morning before the bankers came, they came and loaded the ATM, after which they all came out to withdraw with different cards.

“They now went to reprogramme the machine that when we were allowed to go in, we could only withdraw N1,000 per card,” Anita James, an Enugu resident, said.

In Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the nation, business owners and traders lamented poor sales as residents complained of the worsening state of affairs in the country.

Adeolu Sam, a resident, told this newspaper that the situation was frustrating for him on Thursday as most banks were shut and their ATMs were not in operation.

“Today, from Adeola Odeku all the way to Ikoyi, I trekked and was not able to get even N1,000 from any ATM,” he lamented.

“They were all shut down, the banks. The ATMs were on but had no cash at all. This is very frustrating.”

Ogun State

In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, banks were shut Thursday, afraid of attacks by residents after similar incidents on Wednesday. This left residents, including students, stranded with no cash to transact their day to day operations.

During a visit to a campus of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), our reporter observed that attendance by students was scanty.

The Mass Communication department of the school which is usually bustling had very few people.

A student of the department, Abimbola Sadia, said students were already returning to their homes as it had become difficult to feed on campus.

“Many of my friends have gone back to their houses, there is no money to feed. While many of us have money in our bank account and could not withdraw, others do not have money anywhere.

“For me, I only have N2,500 and I came to school today to submit an assignment and I am going straight to Lagos from here. Let me go to my parents, they will feed me.”

In the midst of the uncertainty, especially since the Supreme Court gave its order Wednesday, the CBN has failed to speak on the next course of action.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Osita Nwanisobi, the spokesperson of the apex bank, Thursday evening, he declined to comment on the position of the bank.

Meanwhile, Nigerians continue to face hardship as the effect of the cash crunch and fuel crisis bites harder amid rising tension.