By Samuel Edu
Nigerians have expressed displeasure over what they referred to as “coordinated extortion” by POS operators and bank officials over the confusion surrounding the deadline of the old notes following the order of the Supreme Court which restrained the federal government from banning the old naira notes.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, old notes were meant to cease to be legal tender beginning from February 11 but the Supreme Court in its ruling on Wednesday February 8, suspended the deadline as a result of banks’ inability to disburse enough of the new notes.
Over the last few weeks, Nigerians have been spending hours and days on queues, ATM stands and within the banking halls, rushing to deposit the old notes without been able to withdraw enough of the new versions to meet their daily expenses.
This shortage has led to increased aggression and untold hardship for Nigerians most especially those who work in the informal economy and for citizens who live in rural areas.
Last month, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele said out of N3.23 trillion ($6.9 billion) in circulation as of October last year, only N500 billion was within the banking industry while the sum of N2.7 trillion ($5.8 billion) was held permanently in people’s homes.
Emefiele added that around N1.9 trillion (around $4 billion) have so far been returned to the banking system since the new notes were first introduced in November.
Nigeria’s largely informal economy depends mainly on cash, but the CBN is trying to encourage electronic banking, a policy considered premature by economic scholars.
Early Tuesday morning, customers besieged the office of the Central Bank in Akure the Ondo State capital with the hope of getting their old notes converted to the new currency.
However, their hope was dashed as they met CBN under lock and key with nobody ready to receive the old notes from the already frustrated customers as earlier announced.
Customers were however caught by surprise as they found an already stationed POS operator opposite the CBN for transaction.
Narrating his ordeal, one of the frustrated customers, Olawale Omoniyi said “CBN is not receiving the old currency from anybody, the only alternative you have is to go to the POS center over there and change your money at an exorbitant rate.
“This is just self-inflicted hardship caused by greedy politicians. It has been said that where two Elephants fight, the grass suffer for it, the news is everywhere on the internet that all the hardships we are facing today is as a result of the power tussle among the cabals ahead of the coming presidential election, we are only begging the government to please make life easy, this hardship is just too much and is becoming unbearable for the masses.”
Another customer who does not want his name mentioned said “earlier this morning, the 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 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.
“I see no reason why the new notes should not co-exist with the old notes at least for the next six months if the government is truly sincere, it just seems as if the government is essentially interested in making life difficult for the masses.”
Tope Adewale, said “till yesterday, some POS operators were still dispensing the old notes. I withdrew N20,000 yesterday and all of a sudden, I heard the old notes are no longer accepted, I had no alternative than to deposit the remaining N15,000 on me with charges of N3,000, this is unacceptable and so unfortunate.
“Why should banks still have the old notes in the ATM till yesterday since they know it will no longer be accepted from today. Today, I went to the same bank where I collected old notes yesterday and they told me they no longer accept it. The poor masses are always at the receiving end of the various unhealthy government’s policies.”
“Foluke Ademola said “the question that is begging for answer is where do these POS operators take this cash to after collecting it from customers with such huge charges?
“This implies that there is an already existing deal between POS operators and banks just to make life more difficult for the masses.
“This is an indication of the fact that everybody is interested in using the slightest opportunity to extort the other. POS operators in collaboration with bank officials are making life difficult for the masses. Anyway, we all understand that these are all political antics and we just hope that we will all scale through this.”
Tope Owolabi said “the people are found of blaming the government for every unfortunate situation. Is Buhari the one that gave POS operators the order to be charging N2,500 for N10,000 and N5,000 on N20,000. It is no longer news that POS operators are agents of bank officials particularly bank managers.
“Lot of persons have lost their loved ones to this crisis. Just last week, I lost my uncle just because we were unable to have access to cash and hospital refused to take transfer. They insisted that we have to pay a deposit before my uncle could be attended to, we were on this till my uncle breath his last.
“Truth be told, we all have contributed to this hardship we are experiencing as a nation and we are seriously affected except the political class who are the major cause of our woes. If we will see any meaningful change, it must all start with us as an individual. The government must as well learn to obey court ruling as it is being done in the developed world.”
Leave a Reply