Days after the Supreme Court nullified the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Naira redesign policy, the apex bank has remained silent.
However, checks show that some commercial banks have started paying their customers old N500 and N1000 naira notes.
It went around major banks in the Nation’s capital and learnt that Guarantee Trust Bank Along Ahmadu Bello Way Area 11, Area 3, all in Garki, were paying customers N500 and N1000 notes.
When our correspondent visited the branch, Miss Chioma Okoro, a customer service officer at GTB, confirmed this development .
Mr Ibrahim Dauda, a staff, civil servant and commercial bank customer returning from the bank, said he was paid 10,000 in the denomination of old N500 notes.
“As you can see, I am just stepping out from my bank; they paid me old N500 notes, 10,000 to be precise. The same thing has been done to other customers. I do not know if traders or business owners will collect the money themselves but collecting this is better than nothing.
“The old and new notes are not available. In fact, for weeks, I have been buying Naira at the rate of 20 per cent for each N1000. The situation is terrible. The CBN should order all banks to do the same so that the currency would be readily available for Nigerians. We are tired of the mess called the cashless policy”, he stated.
But other banks said they only collect the old Naira notes from customers who have filled out the CBN’s cash swap form.
A top-tier commercial bank regional manager said the CBN has yet to give a directive on the Supreme Court’s verdict validating the old naira notes.
He revealed that the apex bank would be having a meeting with banks regarding the matter on March 20, 2023.
“Our branches are collecting the old notes from customers with CBN’s cash swap forms, but we are not paying customers with old N500 and N1000 notes, to my knowledge. From the information reaching me, CBN plans to meet with us by March 20”, he stated.
Meanwhile, there is palpable confusion as traders, business owners, and motorists in the nation’s capital have refused to collect the old naira notes.
Mr Idris Adamu, a business owner at Wuse market, said the old N500 and N1000 notes are not accepted.
“Nobody is accepting the old naira notes here. I can tell you this authoritatively. Do you expect us to collect it when banks are not accepting it?” he said.
Also, a taxi driver, Nasir Mohammed, who plies between Kubwa and Wuse Market axis, said drivers are not accepting the old notes.
Amid the confusion, the Central of Nigeria has refused to speak.
Texts, and calls made to the acting Director of Corporate Communication CBN, Dr Isa Abdulmumin, were not replied.
The Supreme Court had ordered the federal government to allow the old notes to coexist till December 31.
For weeks, Nigerians have been enslaved to the scarcity of the Naira. It has deteriorated to the extent that one has to buy the currency. Nigerians pay as high as 20 per cent to get N1000. Commercial Banks have become constant refugee camps crowded with customers needing cash.
Checks on Monday across major banks in the Federal Capital Territory found a crowd of customers lamenting the non-availability of cash.
The situation is the same nationwide, where customers spend the whole day in their banks without getting cash.
Also, Nigerians lamented that the poor performance of alternative banking platforms has made the matter worse.
Commercial banks, traders and the business community await a directive from the Central Bank and President Buhari Muhammadu on the next line of action, on whether to accept the old notes.
Speaking on the situation, Mr Patrick Oluefemi, a resident of Abuja said the Supreme Court verdict had not changed anything; he lamented that both the new and old currencies are not available.
He added that USSD and Internet banking are not helping the situation; several unsuccessful transactions and failed connections have been the order of the day.
“I have been at the bank since 5:00 am to withdraw cash, but nothing has changed. The bank told us to wait, and I have been unable to get cash.
“On Internet banking channels, it is not working at all. It is terrible. I have been trying to transfer N5000 through my bank’s App since Friday. Others have complained about failed transactions without refund”, he said.
Another resident, Bello Usman, disclosed that the validity of the Supreme Court verdict on the old Naira notes has yet to help the situation.
“I’ve gone round different branches of my bank, all crowded and filled with customers wanting to have cash. Since 8:00 am, I have been in town looking for where to get cash. The worst thing is that everyone, including the banks’ management, has remained silent.
In an interview on Friday, a financial expert, Gbolade Idakolo, said the CBN’s silence on the Supreme Court verdict has created anxiety amongst the populace and business community.
“The deliberate silence of the CBN and the President is causing anxiety amongst the populace because previous instructions by the CBN and the President are the actual instructions being carried out by banks.
“Despite the Supreme Court judgement, many businesses and traders have yet to start accepting the old notes because they await directives from the CBN or the President.
“The continued silence is unhealthy for the economy, which has witnessed tremendous losses in the past weeks. The President’s pronouncement is needed to calm the economy.
“It could lead to loss of investors’ confidence if they see the government as one that disobeys the ruling of the apex court in the land”, he said.
Also, an Accounting and Financial Development don at Lead City University, Ibadan, Prof Godwin Oyedokun, said the silence from the CBN is not surprising because the apex bank is trying to buy time at the detriment of Nigerians facing currency hardship.
He said, “The political twist to the naira redesign is the major problem.
“It will not be well with those who have induced the pain and hardship on Nigerians.
“I find it challenging to comprehend that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, surrounded by lawyers, disobeys court orders. It is appalling; I am unsure what legacy Buhari wants to pass to the next government.
“The silence of CBN is unsurprising because they are using it to buy time, perhaps after the governorship election.
“It is ridiculous, unnecessary and ungodly”, he said.
Legal luminaries have given ample explanation to the Supreme Court’s verdict.
On Monday, Emeka Etiaba, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, disclosed that the judgement is in order and suitable for the Nigerian people.
He stated that Buhari’s directive to the CBN would do the magic to assuage the crisis in due time.
As the crisis remains unsolved, Nigerians still wonder if CBN has lost its statutory function relating to monetary policy.