Ahead of the January 31 deadline stipulated for the phasing out of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes, bank customers have started rushing to banks across the country to exchange their old notes for new ones, according to findings by The PUNCH.
This came as the Central Bank of Nigeria insisted on Tuesday that there was no going back on the stipulated deadline despite appeals by the National Assembly, key stakeholders and bank customers.
The CBN had repeatedly advised Nigerians to deposit their old notes, regardless of the amount, in banks before the fixed deadline.
Finding by The PUNCH on Tuesday showed there were queues of bank customers in Kano, Ondo, Osun, Borno, and Anambra, among others, seeking to exchange the old notes for the new naira bills ahead of the deadline.
Customers on Tuesday besieged various commercial banks in the ancient city of Kano to either get the new naira notes or deposit the old notes in order to beat the January 31 CBN deadline.
The customers, who were seen in long queues in most of the banks, lamented the failure of most of the banks to provide the new naira notes.
It was observed that while some ATM machines were operating, many were not functioning as they were deserted.
At Zoo road, Murtala Mohammed Way and Maiduguri road where there is a concentration of banks, very few of the ATM machines were dispensing the new naira notes.
It was gathered that in some banks, old notes were still being issued to customers withdrawing over the counter, as only some lucky customers were getting the new notes.
Some of the customers, who spoke to The PUNCH at First Bank on Zoo road branch, expressed great concern over the non-availability of the new notes and the refusal of the banks to give satisfactory explanations of the situation.
One of the customers, who simply gave his name as Lawan, said he left his house as early as 7 am in order to withdraw only N20,000 but ended up getting only N10,000 due to poor network.
“The only ATM machine dispensing new notes suddenly became faulty while I was trying to withdraw N20,000. So, I ended up withdrawing N10,000 after spending about three hours in the queue.
“None of the banks can explain the reasons behind all these happenings because to deposit the old notes or withdraw the new notes is a problem,” Lawan said.
Another customer, Adamu Abdullahi, who went to the bank to deposit his old naira notes said he spent more than four hours in the queue before he could deposit the money.
“I came here around 8:30 am but could not deposit the money until after 4 pm due to the long queue of customers,” he said.
As of the time of filing this story, many traders had stopped collecting the old naira notes due to the challenges bedevilling the entire process.
Also, there were long queues in several bank branches and ATM galleries in Sokoto on Tuesday as residents scrambled for the new naira notes.
Many banks in the state were forced to shut their gates as banking halls became full of customers seeking new notes.
The PUNCH reports that there were long queues of customers at branches of United Bank for Africa, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Zenith Bank Plc, Polaris Bank, and Access Bank Plc, among others.
A bank customer, Alhaji Aminu Maishanu, who narrated his experience to our correspondent, said he had spent over three hours in the queue to withdraw cash.
He, however, appealed to the management of banks in the state to ensure all their ATM machines were dispensing the new notes.
He said, “The reason why we spent much time here is that only one machine out of five is working. I don’t understand why they couldn’t load other machines to make things easy for customers.
“You people are campaigning that old naira notes will not be useful beyond this month and the new naira notes are not fully in circulation, how do you explain that?”
There were long queues of customers depositing old notes in many commercial bank branches visited in Osogbo, Osun State on Tuesday.
At banks located at Station Road, Gbongan/Osogbo and Alekuwodo areas of Osogbo, many bank customers spent a long period in queues to deposit their old notes.
Also, some of the customers rejected being paid over the counter with old notes, insisting on being paid with new notes. However, some of the ATMs in banks visited dispensed new notes.
A customer, Haruna Ibrahim, who spoke to The PUNCH at the First Bank branch in Igbona, Osogbo, said he spent close to two hours before he could deposit his old notes.
According to him, many people, especially petty traders were becoming increasingly conscious of the date when the old notes would cease to be recognised as legal tender and were trying to beat the deadline.
Commercial banks in Ondo State were filled with customers seeking to deposit old bills and withdraw new notes on Tuesday.
It was observed that most of the customers were market traders and farmers. Some of them travelled from their towns and villages, where there are no commercial banks, to Akure and other big towns. Some were said to be PoS operators.
One of the customers who travelled from Oba Akoko in the Akoko South-West Local Government, Mr Sunday Adeoye, lamented the lack of an adequate number of commercial banks in the Akoko area.
Adeoye said, “There are no banks in our area, some customers would travel from Ipesi Akoko, Igashi Akoko and Ikakumo to Ikare for new notes. This is too stressful and expensive, now that transport fare is too high due to fuel price hike and scarcity in Akokoland.”
Another customer, Alhaji Ismaila Musa, a farmer from the Eleyowo community in the Akure North Local Government, stated that the new notes were not yet circulating as expected.
He said, “We are calling on banks to follow the CBN directives and make the new notes available to all of us. We have to come to Akure to deposit the old notes and we have not seen the new notes in our area.”
Banks in the Maiduguri metropolis have been witnessing a more-than-usual build-up of fairly rowdy crowds as most customers rush to deposit their old naira notes while others struggle to withdraw the new notes.
At the Monday Market branch of Zenith Bank, the queues were so long that customers were only allowed into the banking hall in groups of 10 to 15.
“I tried to deposit N2m of the old notes yesterday, but I could not because of the crowd, coupled with the fact that counting a huge amount of cash seems so tedious for the bank staff, that they can only serve a relatively smaller number of depositors daily,” Mr Ahmed Hassan, who operates a corporate account with the bank, told The PUNCH.
“I have just been able to deposit the cash today (Tuesday) after spending three hours in the banking hall, not even in the queue outside,” he said.
The PUNCH observed that many depositors, who trooped to the banks to deposit the old notes on Monday, could not do so. Many of them complained that they might not be able to do it on Tuesday.
At the Jaiz Bank at Shehu Laminu Way, apart from the crowd of seemingly helpless depositors in the banking hall, the queue at the ATM featured occasional brawls by customers engaged in a struggle to withdraw the new notes.
“I wanted to withdraw N30,000 over-the-counter because the queue by the ATM was too long for me. We were later driven out by the bank workers. The officials told us that we should either accept old notes over-the-counter or endure the ATM queue and crowd to withdraw new notes,” a customer who would not mention his name told The PUNCH.
In five banks monitored by The PUNCH, the ATMs dispense new notes, with most of them being the N1,000 note.
However, several customers complained of the shortage of the N500 and the N200 notes.
Customers on Tuesday besieged banks across major cities of Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka to change their old naira notes.
Our correspondent who monitored the situation, observed that most ATM machines in Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi, were still dispensing the old notes as bank customers complain heavily.
At the motor parks and market places in Onitsha on Tuesday, a town crier went around announcing to the people that “with effect from Thursday(this week), old notes would no longer be accepted for transaction at the motor parks and marketplaces.
Some few days ago, traders at the Main Market, Onitsha, had complained to the officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria who visited the market for a sensitisation, how bank officials were selling and hoarding the new naira notes in Onitsha.