By Akinnodi Francis,
Naira scarcity is rearing its ugly head again across the country as bank customers are currently lamenting, an investigation by The Hope has shown.
Already commercial banks have limited cash withdrawals to maximum of N20,000 and N10,000 at the counters, the development which is giving customers serious concerns in the festive season.
In Ondo State, customers frowned at their inability to withdraw their desired sum from banks, saying the situation is negatively affecting not only their businesses but also their daily activities.
The cause of the naira scarcity is not immediately clear but the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) explained that the seeming cash scarcity in some locations is due largely to high volume withdrawals from the CBN branches by Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and panic withdrawals by customers from the Automated Teller Machines, ATMs).
The CBN, through its Director, Corporate Communications, Isa Abdulmumin, said, “While we note the concerns of Nigerians on the availability of cash for financial transactions, we wish to assure the public that there is sufficient stock of currency notes for economic activities in the country. The branches of the CBN across the country are also working to ensure the seamless circulation of cash in their respective states of operation.”
Reports from Osun and other States indicated that cash shortage is biting harder and it is causing serious panic among residents and customers alike.
In Akure, the Ondo State capital, Ore , Owo and other major towns in the state, customers expressed their displeasure over their inability to withdraw up to their expectations.
Our correspondents who visited some banks, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and Point Of Sales (PoS) centres across the state gathered that there were no usual queues on the counters and at the ATM due to scarcity of cash in banks, just as the POS operators complained about cash shortage.
A POS operator in Akure, Kayode Ajayi, confirmed that he ran out of cash, saying “we can’t pay huge amount to a customer. lf customers want to collect huge sum, they have to wait because we can’t pay immediately due to unavailability of cash. We give them cash in piecemeal. Maybe the federal government had mopped up cash from circulation.”
A check on some Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) on Tuesday showed that many of the machines have ran out of cash.
A resident of the state, Akinniyi Doris, said, “It has been difficult withdrawing huge volumes of money in banks and I hope they are not trying to withdraw the old currency from the circulation. We only plead that we should not experience the scarcity witnessed during the cash swap because many people lost their lives.”
A bank official who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said, the development is a routine that occurs yearly especially during the festive period.
“It is a routine for banks to run out of cash during the festive season, but all we be normal from December 31 through the new year. People now prefer to exchange money within themselves rather than coming to bank to deposit especially during festive season.
“There are rumours that the old Naira notes will be taken out of circulation before this year runs out, but I don’t see it happened. For the withdrawal limit in banks, is N500,000 per week for individual account, while for cooperate account is for N5 million naira”, the bank official said.
Residents of Osun State complained over shortage of cash at various commercial banks in the state capital.
Investigations revealed that most of the customers visited their banks on Monday with the high expectations that the apex bank would have made cash available for commercial banks to give to their customers.
The maximum most customers can withdraw over the counter has reduced to N20,000.
At some new generation Banks on Ogo-Oluwa, Osogbo, over-the-counter cash withdrawals by customers did not exceed N20,000, while it is pegged at N10,000 in some Banks.
Many customers considered the development as a way of making life more difficult for the people of the state.
A bank official who spoke unofficially at one of the new generation banks confirmed that the reduction in the withdrawal limit was as a result of “shortage of cash”.