By Adekola Afolabi, Kayode Olabanji, Jimoh Ahmed,
Adedotun Aderoboye & Kayode Afolabi
Disappointments, anguish, anger and frustration have continued to trail the battle to spend or change old naira notes by residents in Ondo state, following their rejection by commercial banks and traders.
The residents who yesterday took the battle to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the state to deposit the old notes were barred from entering the bank premises by armed policemen.
At the time of filling this report, armed policemen in large numbers condoned the vast expanse of land, housing the Akure branch of the apex bank.
They have besieged many of the banks with long queues as early as 7.am on Tuesday to deposit their old naira notes, while hundreds of others thronged the banks and ATM points as early as 5.am to make withdrawal, all to no avail.
The confusion has left many people hopeless and frustrated as both the commercial banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, rejected the old naira notes from them.
Amidst the confusion, some PoS operators were seen by our reporter around the banks collecting old naira notes from some people on the condition that they will pay N2,500 over every N10,000 exchanged.
A customer who does not want his name mentioned said “earlier this morning, a POS operator was collecting old notes and issuing the new notes in cash but now, there is no more cash on ground, you will give them cash of old notes, they will then transfer the money into your account.
“If you are depositing N10,000 old notes, the charge is N2,500 while for N20,000, the charge is N5,000. There is no other name for this than what can be called a coordinated extortion and fraud.
The Hope gathered that in Alagbaka, Akure, the commercial nerve center of banking activities in the state capital, although the banks have now opened for banking transactions after days of closure, there is still no respite for customers.
Other customers lamented that commercial banks refused to collect their old naira notes from them, but instead, directed them to the CBN to deposit.
Recall that the CBN had directed that old N200, N500 and N1000 Notes to cease to be legal tenders from February 10, 2023.
But before the February 10 deadline, Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara States approached the Supreme Court to restrain the CBN from going ahead with the deadline.
The Court granted their prayer and adjourned the case till February 15.
Some bank customers including Mrs Aina Babalola and Mr Adedeji Olawale, who narrated their experience, said they had come to their respective banks with the hope of depositing their old naira notes following the Supreme Court ruling restraining the CBN from going ahead with the deadline.
They said they were, however, surprised when their banks refused to collect the money but directed them to take it to the CBN.
The CBN also refused to collect the money from them.
There has been silence on the part of the apex bank since the court gave its ruling.
The development has further thrown Nigerians into confusion on the state of the old notes, which were widely rejected across the country.
In Ondo town, the confusion about the acceptance of old naira notes as legal tender was created by the banks in the community when they reportedly began stopping customers from depositing old naira notes into their accounts.
When our reporter visited banks across the community, customers were seen within their premises trying to deposit their old naira notes and withdraw the new version. Bank personnel who interacted with our reporter at the banks visited confirmed that they no longer accept the deposit of old naira notes due to CBN deadline.
According to some residents who spoke with our reporter in Ondo, the situation is not only confusing but also compounding their financial problems as they cannot spend their old naira notes while also not having the new ones.
A civil servant, Mr. Olugbenga Fasakin said “I don’t understand why the banks decided to reject the old notes now. I thought there is a court order stopping them from doing so. These are the same banks that will not give people new naira notes. What do they want us to spend now? How do they want us to survive? These same banks were still giving people old notes last week. Where do they want us to take the old notes to? Is this not wickedness?”
A trader, Mrs. Oni Mercy said “everything was going on smoothly yesterday morning until my neighbour’s daughter who works in one of the banks in Ondo called her mother and told her to stop accepting old notes because banks have stopped accepting them. I didn’t know that the news was everywhere already. Since then, everything just changed. Nobody wants to accept old notes. I have finished spending all my new notes. I have also stopped accepting the old notes because I want to reduce my loss if the deadline does not change.”
A commercial driver, Mr. Eniola Akinnawo said “I don’t know what to do right now. I have lot of old naira notes with me already and passengers are still giving me more old notes. How will I feed my family if I sit down at home? Some filling station are not even collecting old notes again. The government should do something about this because we no longer understand what they are doing.”
Report from Ondo North Senatorial district said economic activities of Akokoland were grounded due to closure of banks for the fifth day running in Ikare and the rejection of old naira notes by the people and even the filling stations.
The university town of Akungba and the adjoining markets witnessed mass rejection of old notes by market women, shop and commercial centre owners and commercial motorcyclists.
The development has gone a long way to dislocate the economy thereby putting citizens in unnecessary hardship.
Similarly, in Owo, the markets were empty as most traders did not show up while some of those who came to sell were not receiving the old notes, claiming they were in a fix.
Situation reports from, Oka, Isua, Ose indicated the same story.
Speaking on the development, a resident of Owo, Mr Owamoyo Tolani Okolo, queried why commercial banks would have to do what they did.
Owamoyo who said he had to trek from Upenmen to Ikare junction, wondered how many people will have to pass through the same harrowing experience like him.
According to him, he had N1,700 of the old notes with him and no one was ready to take them.
Another Nigerian, Adekunle Adedayo, while relating his experience said he withdrew old notes from the ATM on Sunday and the same bank which has the ATM refused to take them on Monday.
Meanwhile, an Akungba Akoko community leader, Tijani Ganiyu, has appealed to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, to make it mandatory for Ondo state residents not to reject old notes since the Supreme Court has asked that the deadline should be set aside pending the determination of the case challenging the naira redesign.
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