Devastated by high cost of petrol which affected their means of livelihood terribly, Rivers people have transferred their aggression on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over its policy on old Naira notes.
They had expressed their anger in a public opinion poll conducted during the weekend on the scarcity of the new naira notes and the suffering they were encountering in their bid to deposit the old naira notes in the banks.
Many of the respondents told National Network that the banks were making it difficult for them to deposit the old notes amid long queues in banking halls.
They also lamented the unavailability of the new naira notes, stressing that each time they go to the banks to withdraw money from their accounts, the banks had paid them old naira notes.
“The policy has affected my business in a very big way. I go to bank in the morning to deposit money, I will stay there for six hours without any results because of long queues. I have had to come back the next day, still without depositing the money. Meanwhile, those days I was not in my shop, I lost many customers which had terrible consequences on my business,” Nkwo Amah, a cosmetics seller lamented.
It was different tale of woes for Barinee, a POS operator who said the banks could not issue them the new notes, neither would customers accept the old ones. He told National Network that he went out of business temporarily as a result of not having the new naira notes to dispense. He alleged that banks were issuing the new notes to ‘big men’ who greased their palms. He called on the CBN officials to monitor commercial banks thoroughly if they wanted the exercise to work effectively.
The desperation to exchange the old naira notes for the new ones became pronounced as the 31st January the CBN gave for the return of the old naira notes to banks approaches.
The apex bank had redesigned the money in October last year, saying it would push the new notes into circulation in December of the same year, advising Nigerians to endeavour to deposit their old notes in exchange for the redesigned ones by 31st January.
However, as the expiration date approached, Nigerians who could not adhere to the earlier CBN directive invaded the banks in a last desperate effort to deposit their monies, resulting in the long queue that was witnessed in banking halls across the country.
As the suffering becomes too much, some prominent Nigerians intervened by asking the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele to extend the deadline, resulting in the new deadline of February 10, 2023, the apex bank had now given.
The extension did not however impress Nigerians, particularly, Rivers people who were insisting that the problem is not with extension of the deadline, but the unavailability of the new naira notes, which they asked the CBN to address.
The apex bank had however, stated that it had distributed enough of the new notes to commercial banks in Rivers State, and urged Rivers residents to go to the banks to deposit their monies in exchange for the new notes.
The latest lamentations from Rivers people now was that, the banks were rationing the new notes they were paying to them in exchange for what they deposited.
For instance, Nkechi Nwauba, one of the complainants said she wanted to exchange N20,000 old naira notes for the new ones, but that she was given only N10,000, which she said was not enough for what she wanted to do with the money.
More worrisome to them, was that despite that the CBN had assured that the new notes had been loaded into the commercial banks ATM Machines, they were able to collect only N20,000 at a time from the ATMs, a situation which they lamented was affecting their power of purchase.
“I had programmed what to buy with money, only for ATM to disburse N20,000 to me. What do I do with N20,000 when I had planned to buy something of N50,000,” Grace Ufomba, a house wife queried.
The CBN had however, assured that the February 10 deadline is enough for Nigerians to take their old notes to the banks in exchange for the new ones, saying they had put machinery in motion to monitor how the commercial banks are handling the situation.