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As the lingering scarcity of both old and new naira notes continues to cripple economic activities nationwide and inflict enormous pains on Nigerians, an aide to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has revealed that his principal was misled by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Ajuri Ngelale, in an interview monitored on TVC News, described as false the report by the CBN that it had supplied all bank branches in the country with sufficient amounts of the new notes.

Prior to the extension of the deadline for the exchange of old naira notes from January 31 to February 10, the President had defended the CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, for adopting unorthodox economic models that put people at the heart of the apex bank’s policies. “Because the governor follows a model outside of the economic orthodoxy, he is labelled political, but the orthodoxy has proved wrong time and again,” Buhari said.

Owing to the naira redesign and the renewed cashless policy of the CBN, the non-availability of both the old and newly designed naira notes at all channels, including banking halls, Automated Teller Machine points and Point of Sale terminal operators across the country, has subjected majority of Nigerians to serious hardship, with many finding it difficult to access cash to buy basic things or transport themselves from one place to the other.

In what many have described as unprecedented in the history of the country, Nigerians now pay exorbitant charges to get the naira notes from PoS operators. As of Saturday afternoon, in some parts of Lagos, N5,000 old notes attracted N1,000 commission while N6,000 new notes attracted as much as N2,000 commission.

In the interview however, Ngelale said, “They (Nigerians) feel that the Federal Government of Nigeria is unintentionally or intentionally impoverishing them overnight. That is the perception they have, whether it is right or wrong.

“What we are working to do is to ensure that Mr President is given effective and true information and that the report that was given by the CBN that they have supplied all bank branches in the country with sufficient amounts of the new naira notes is absolutely false and it is evidential at this point.

“Mr President, being the pro-people defender and defender of the masses that he has always been and an upholder of social justice, did the right thing when intelligence reached him that he was getting false intelligence from the CBN, which was to extend the deadline from January 31 to February 10.

“Now, clearly, with the adjustments in the deadline, it was also announced that other agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission are also actively involved in the oversight of the distribution of the new naira notes to banking branches across the country as well as rural areas with cash swops with the over 30,000 super agents that are being sent out.

“So, there is an extra level of oversight and monitoring that is being done now and added to the process.”

He said the President would defend the masses no matter whose ox is gored, adding that he wouldn’t be opposed to an extension if it became necessary.

He added, “If he gets any intelligence that during the length of this 10-day window that the wrong things have been done or the right things have not been done and that the new naira notes have not been distributed among the people, Mr President has that option on the table of extending that deadline and that will be left to his discretion. Certainly, it is going to be based on what he sees happening across the country in the course of these seven days.

“We are heartened by the new information we received from the CBN that now over-the-counter collections of the new naira notes will now be made available to banking customers.”

Even though the President on Friday asked for seven days to solve the naira scarcity, many Nigerians are apprehensive about the extent to which the crisis could have degenerated at the end of the seven days.

Bankers endangered – Unions

Meanwhile, as protests and anger continue to spread across the country over the scarce naira notes, coupled with pockets of attacks on banks and their staff members by furious customers, bank workers have expressed concerns over their safety.

The President, National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees, Anthony Abakpa, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday said bankers were stressed due to the situation, noting that their work had become hectic.

He added, “Honestly, the situation is hectic, it is not a healthy environment at all. Even as a bank staff and an individual, the masses are angry because there is no cash available and their money is in the bank. The situation is worrisome.

“We will continue to engage and ensure that the safety of every individual working in the bank and insurance sector is upheld, and that is our demand.”

Similarly, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions called on security agencies to ensure the safety and security of bank workers and property.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that ASSBIFI President, Mr Olusoji Oluwole, in a statement on Saturday condemned recent attacks on some financial institutions, saying such endanger the lives of bank workers.

Oluwole stated, “We strongly condemn this act which is borne out of the propaganda against banks as the sole cause of the inability of the public to have access to cash across the country. We have seen a few videos of bank branches allegedly hoarding cash in their vaults.

“While we do not hold brief for these isolated cases or condone any verified bad behaviour, we expect the same sources of these videos to also project the many locations that have continued to provide cash to customers or have empty vaults due to the unavailability of cash. Unfortunately, we do not deem it security conscious for us to share videos or pictures of our vaults with the public as professionals.”

He said bank workers had in the past few weeks worked tirelessly, every day for long hours against the prescribed work hours, noting that such sacrifice was to ensure customers were able to deposit their old currency notes and make the new ones available for withdrawals at Automated Teller Machines.

He added, “This exercise has taken its toll on their health, work-life balance, and families while being faced daily with the fear of physical assaults by irate customers. While we assure the public of our commitment to ensure their pain is ameliorated, we appeal for calm and understanding at this time as we call on the security agencies to ensure the safety and security of our lives and bank property.”

NLC forecloses strike

The Nigeria Labour Congress has ruled out the possibility of embarking on strike action to compel the government to find urgent solutions to the dual crisis of naira and petrol scarcity.

It said going on strike when general elections were a couple of days away could present the union as insensitive, heat up the polity and cause problems. It said Nigerians should rather make use of their permanent voter cards to elect the leaders they believe could make their lives better.

Independent of the naira notes scarcity, the prolonged fuel scarcity, which begun last year, has subjected commuters, business owners and individuals to untold misery, with people spending hours in queues, while a litre of petrol sells for about N500 in some places as against the N185 control price.

 But, reacting to the dual impact of the scarcity, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said, “We cannot go on strike on the eve of an election; we also cannot join retrogressive forces. We can use the power of the ballot and our PVCs to bring about a system that will make everybody happy. But if there is a call to go on strike on the eve of elections, I am not sure it is a better option.

“Things will not get better, people should be ready; we cannot change a system through lamentation. Lamentation has not changed any system. What will change the system is for the people to be wise, because this same issue we are talking about, either the fuel or the economy, has been around for the past 30 years.”

He said since the advent of democracy, promises were made but not fulfilled but that it was fruitless to dwell on that.

“Our suggestion is that all of us must work together to hold people in government at all levels accountable and this is important; from the president to the governors, National Assembly members and others,” he stated. “Everybody must be seen to be improving the system, not improving themselves.

“We cannot go on strike on the eve of the election. Have you ever seen that on the eve of elections, the NLC mobilised (people) to go on strike? So, if there is a problem now and the election did not hold, won’t you come back to say the same NLC made the election not to hold. Which is a better option? Is it to use your PVC to elect people who will change the narrative or we continue to lament?”

Civil servants stranded

The National President, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Tommy Etim, has lamented that some workers have been unable to go to work because they do not have cash for transportation.

In an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, Etim, who doubles as the Vice-President of the Trade Union Congress, noted that the only condition for the Central Bank of Nigeria’s February 10 deadline to stand was for there to be enough new notes in circulation.

He stated, “The policy is a good one but unfortunately, it is not working as planned. Now, it is not even politicians who are suffering, it is the poor masses. From the socio-economic outlook, the informal sector is bearing the brunt. A lot of workers don’t even have money to go to the office, how will productivity come to place? If there is no productivity, how will the economy grow? A civil servant cannot pay taxi N200 with bank transfer because drivers only believe in the cash they see with their hands.

‘Military operations affected’

Similarly, the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Army, Ali Ndume, has raised the alarm that the naira scarcity, occasioned by the naira redesign and the cashless policy of the CBN, is affecting military operations, especially at the battlefield.

He told journalists in Maiduguri on Saturday, “Naira redesign and the CBN’s cashless policy are gravely affecting the strategic operations of troops at battlefields across the country. Troops find it difficult to survive at the battlefields because they lack access to cash to buy their daily, basic needs in the remote communities across terrains of insecurity in the country.

“Now, a soldier stays for hours in the ATM or POS queues just to access the stipend, when he should be discharging his duties at the battlefield. This situation has dampened the morale of the troops at the battlefield.”

He said terrorists had said they were already in possession of the new notes, which undermines part of the objectives of the policy to block terror financing. He called on the Federal Government and the CBN to make arrangements for troops to access cash easily, given the critical nature of their duties.

Police seek calm

Following the violence and protests that erupted in states like Ondo, Oyo, Delta, Enugu and some other parts of the country, the Nigeria Police Force has urged citizens to eschew violence.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said, “We appeal to our people to be patient and eschew violence as the government and all relevant agencies and stakeholders are working on how to resolve this problem.

“We also urge bank customers affected by the naira scarcity to be patient, and those attacking bank facilities should desist from such. It is illegal. Nigerians should be patient and not resort to violence. No one asked people not to protest; they could have held their protests with decorum and maturity without resorting to violence or attacking a police station.”

He said the violence in Ibadan on Friday would have escalated but for the timely intervention of the police.

Patrol in Kwara

The Kwara State Police Commissioner, Paul Odama, has ordered an aggressive patrol of banks across the state to prevent hoodlums from fomenting trouble as a result of the naira scarcity.

The spokesperson for the command, SP Okasanmi Ajayi, said in a statement, “Intelligence available to the command indicates that hoodlums have perfected plans to replicate the lawlessness that was unleashed on some banks in some states.

“The command wishes to assure the good people of Kwara State of its capacity to deal ruthlessly with any law-breaker. Anyone arrested would meet heavy consequences. Criminals are therefore advised to shelve any such dastardly idea. Consequently, the Commissioner of Police, Paul Odama, has ordered aggressive patrol of banks and other financial facilities across the state.”

PoS operators lament

The General Secretary, Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Mr Odion Andrew, has also lamented that many of his members have not started receiving funds from the banks to cushion the New Naira note crisis.

Odion told Sunday PUNCH that the cash swop directed by the CBN suffered setbacks because it had refused to recognise many of its members.

“These agents, Mobile Money Operators and Microfinance Banks, compiled lists and sent them to the CBN. You can imagine over 1.4 million agents; the CBN said it has over 30,000 MMOs on its list and there are just a few of our members there.”

When our correspondent asked why PoS operators were charging higher rates for withdrawals, he said they were responding to the factors of demand and supply, adding that since the PoS operators were not recognised by the CBN, the association could not regulate them.

Makinde’s free buses

To ease the pain of commuting in the state on account of the naira and fuel scarcity, Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, has announced the provision of free transportation on designated routes.

According to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Taiwo Adisa, the governor announced this in a statewide broadcast aired on the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State on Friday night.

The governor, who frowned at the resort to violence by protesters earlier on Friday, said people have the right and even responsibility to protest when they have reservations about certain things but that they must be conscious that a peaceful protest could turn violent and lead to the loss of lives and property.

“I urge all law-abiding citizens and residents of the state to go about their lawful activities. All our security agencies are on high alert, and so peaceful residents have no cause to fear. As a palliative measure, I have directed that the Omituntun Mass Transit Buses be deployed to more routes within the state for free.”

Police nab dealers

Meanwhile, the Enugu State police command said it arrested 39-year-old Joseph Chinenye and 29-year-old Onyeka Ezeja for possessing, transacting and selling 180 pieces of counterfeited new N1,000 notes.

The Police PRO in the state, DSP Daniel Ndukwe, in a statement on Friday night, said, “The suspects claimed to have secured the counterfeited naira notes from an unidentified woman in Benin, Edo State. In addition, they confessed to attempting to sell the naira notes to a PoS operator, who rejected them.”

He asked residents of the state to be vigilant, noting that the duo would be arraigned in court upon conclusion of investigation into the case.

Wike fumes

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Saturday urged Nigerians not to vote for any candidate supporting the manner in which the currency redesign policy is being implemented.

Speaking at Opobo during the state chapter of the PDP’s campaign rally, he stated, “The primary target of this policy is to provoke Nigerians to embark on civil disturbance which they will capitalise on to say they cannot conduct election and push for enthronement of an interim government.

“No matter the provocation, I urge everyone to be calm. This election must hold because nothing will stop an Opobo man from becoming governor.” The governorship candidate of the PDP, Siminialayi Fubara, is from Opobo.

He also asked a former Minister of Transportation, Dr Abiye Sekibo, whom he had been at loggerheads with to explain why former President Olusegun Obasanjo sacked him from his cabinet.

Zulum threatens banks

The Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum, has warned that any commercial bank that refuses to dispense the new naira notes will have its land revoked by the state government.

He issued the warning on Friday afternoon in Maiduguri, the state capital, after visiting some banks to assess the difficulties residents have while trying to access the new notes.

He stated, “Any bank in Borno State that is not willing to ensure their ATMs are fully dispensing new naira notes to ease the suffering of our people, we will withdraw their land title immediately.

“We will only spare banks with genuine constraints that are verifiable. The new naira note and even the old ones are not available and that is adversely affecting commercial activities in the state and people are suffering.”

Zulum said he was unhappy seeing hundreds of people queuing at a bank, with only one out of 10 ATMs dispensing cash. He lamented that the state government had just released salaries of about N5bn but the banks were not paying customers.

He stated, “We don’t have any problem with the CBN policy or the withdrawal limit, they said individuals can only withdraw N20,000, but why can’t everyone have access to that N20,000? Yesterday, I was in Gubio with a population of over 70,000 people but it was impossible to source N100,000 in the entire local government, either new or old notes.”

The governor had last week directed the state’s ministry of finance to fast-track the establishment of the branches of Borno’s existing microfinance bank across all the 27 LGAs.

Small businesses lament

The National President, Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, Dr Femi Egbesola, told one of our correspondents in an interview that the dual impact of the fuel and naira scarcity was killing businesses and making it impossible for some MSMEs owners to meet their loan repayment obligations to banks.

He stated, “Some businesses that are cash-dependent are constrained because there is no cash anywhere, while PoS operators who have it charge up to 20 per cent of the amount you want to withdraw.

“If you go to some areas, you realise that quite a number of shops are closed. Some of them don’t even have cash for transportation to their workplace. People’s livelihoods are also being affected, except the select few who are rich. If nothing is done about it, it could lead to agitations because people are frustrated. Even online banking is sometimes hampered by network problems.

“On fuel scarcity, many businesses can’t operate because electricity is not stable, there are long queues at filling stations and they sell at exorbitant prices. Just this morning, some of the banks called me saying that our members are not meeting their loan repayment obligations. How will they be able to when their business is not running?”

Yusuf laments impact

Similarly, an economist and Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, said the naira scarcity could end up pushing many small business owners out of operations because the working capital of many MSMEs and the money of those who should patronise them were already trapped in the banks.

He added, “Many businesses have been paralysed as a result of this. Also, in the ECOWAS sub-region, naira is a dominant currency and the bulk of the trade in the sub-region is informal and they deal in cash. Now, there is no cash to do the trade. The PUNCH reported during the week that many border communities are now trading in CFA franc because the naira is not available.”

He however pointed out that the withdrawal of the old notes and replacement of the new notes should have been gradual. “I hope they will allow more time, because there is nowhere in the world where you print all the currency at the same time. It is gradual. The shock on the system is too much.”

Obi seeks understanding

The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has called for calm on account of the hardship caused by the naira and fuel scarcity.

Obi who spoke in Lagos on Saturday said, “The currency redesign is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is an exercise that comes with some inconvenience and pain but it has significant long-term economic and social benefits.

“Even though there are improvements that can be made, I urge Nigerians to bear with the CBN and the Federal Government with the hope that the general populace will harvest the gains that will come with the reforms. We equally implore the CBN and the banks to expedite efforts to make the new currency available.”

Customers demand sanction

Some bank customers in Sango-Ota, Ogun State, have asked the central bank to sanction Deposit Money Banks that are not paying the N20,000 maximum limit to customers over the counter.

The customers, who spoke with NAN in separate interviews on Friday, said the scarcity had almost paralysed their business and economic activities.

One of them, Mr Joseph Ogunyemi, said he wanted to withdraw N20,000 from the counter but he only got N5,000, adding that the apex bank should impose stiffer sanctions on any bank that disregards its directive.

Another customer, Kunle Lawal, also said he visited the bank to withdraw N20,000 but only got N5,000. “It is really unfortunate that we found ourselves in such a situation but I believe the regulator should be able to put them in check,” he said.

Nigerians angry –Expert

A security expert, Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive, has advised the Federal Government to resolve the lingering crisis to avoid escalated negative reactions from the public.

He added, “Nigerians are going through a lot this period; there is fuel scarcity, naira scarcity, power supply problem and rising inflation and people are not happy. It is similar to what happened during the #EndSARS protest and people stormed the street. If actions are not taken to improve on the current situation, more people will move to the street to protest.”

‘Emefiele should resign’

The North-Central Youth Stakeholders Forum has threatened to embark on protest if the naira scarcity exceeds February 5.

The group in a statement by its Chairman, Mohammed Mohammed, faulted the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, for saying the deadline should not be extended.

It also called for Emefiele’s immediate resignation as the governor of the CBN.

Obas demand solution

Yoruba traditional rulers, under the aegis of the Yoruba Obas Forum, have appealed to the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to naira and petrol scarcity.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the forum, which has members across the South-West and some North-Central states, in a communiqué at the end of their executive meeting in Osogbo, Osun State capital, frowned at the hardships brought about by the scarcity.

The communiqué, signed by the forum’s president, the Molokun of Atijere, Oba Samuel Adeoye; and the administrator, the Elerinmo of Erinmo, Oba Michael Ajayi, partly read, “The current situation has forced traders to increase the prices of their products, it has also affected commercial transportation of goods and forced most traders to lock their shops.”

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African Development Bank (AfDB) said it invested about US$ 5.2 billion in supporting and strengthening water and sanitation resilience for almost 97 million Africans in 10 years.

A statement issued on AfDB’s website said the bank, since 2015, had invested an average of US$ 900 million yearly to support water and sanitation.

It said, “massive investments in integrated water development and management are central to achieving sustainable water, food and energy security while assuring green and inclusive growth.

“In 2022, our water and sanitation portfolio of US$ 473 million provided water access to an estimated 6.8 million people and jobs to over 24,000 people in Africa,’’ it said.

Why we’re empowering 2.5m SMEs in Africa —Stride ERP

The statement said within AfDB’s High five strategic priorities; water security underpinned food and energy security, industrialisation, regional integration and improved African quality of life.

It said AfDB’s Water Policy was built on a vision to improve Africa’s water security and transform water assets to foster sustainable, green and inclusive socio-economic growth and development.

According to the statement, water is an essential resource with direct impact on Africa’s economic potential, and inadequate access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene services reduces economic opportunities.

It said one in three Africans were affected by water scarcity.

It quoted the 2022 WHO/UNICEF JMP report as saying 411 million people in Africa lack basic drinking water services.

The statement further said that 779 million people lacked basic sanitation services, and 839 million lacked basic hygiene.

It said climate change causes water scarcity and drought, leading to projected water scarcity for close to 230 million Africans.

“And as many as 460 million Africans will live in areas where water demand periodically exceeds the available supply by 2025.

“This also impacts food and energy security as the continent’s population grows. Water access remains a matter of concern, and efficiency in water use is now a crucial issue,” it said.

According to the statement, the theme of World Water Day 2023, ‘Accelerating change’, is a wake-up call to do even more to solve water and sanitation crises.

 It said: “We need collective and urgent action by governments, regional associations, and global development partners.

“We must also consider the complex interplay between water and energy supply and demand, food ecosystems.

“And the impacts of climate change to address the diverse needs and use of water, develop innovative ideas, and optimise finance in the water sector.”

It said towards 2030 and beyond, AfDB would continue to work with and support African countries to drive the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal six targets.

“It will do this through financing, sector reforms and governance, knowledge generation, partnerships and private sector engagement, environmental and social responsibility, and mitigating the impacts of climate change,” it said. (NAN)

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Crowd yet to thin at a bank’s ATM gallery after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) declared old naira notes legal tender …. yesterday. PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

• Business owners, traders defy CBN, reject old N500, N1,000

• CBN silent on returned banknotes, warehoused cash

• Residual notes amount to drop in ocean, analysts insist

• NIBSS: ePayment recorded series of failed transactions in February

• HURIWA charges CBN to disburse old, new notes to banks

The silence of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the trillions of naira it mopped from the financial system continues to cast doubt on the possibility of achieving sufficient naira circulation in the near term, after Monday night’s directive urging banks to comply with the Supreme Court ruling extending the validity of the old banknotes to December 31, 2023.

The statement came days after some banks had started issuing the old notes in their vaults. Some of the banks, The Guardian learnt had exhausted the residual notes in their possession before the CBN directive – a reason majority have none to give as at yesterday when the regulatory directive took effect.

Insider sources disclosed that some bank chiefs used the Supreme Court ruling to release the ‘stranded’ cash in their possession, while they rejected deposits of same old notes.

The Guardian was informed that bank chiefs were already worried about what to do with the notes they collected at the height of the crisis without a clear directive from the regulator.

“The issue was that some banks collected some deposits in old notes at the time CBN was not forthcoming with clear instructions on the proceeds. The court ruling provided an opportunity to dispose of the cash,” the source said.

The Guardian had, after the Supreme Court judgment, reported that CBN was still in possession of a reasonable volume of the old notes but would require sufficient time to sort it for distribution for onward re-issuance.

Apart from a viral and uncomfirmed YouTube video of supposed shred bags of naira, there is no official validation that a part or the entire volume sucked from the system had been destroyed.

The latest official statement of the apex bank on the issue vaguely said the old notes remained legal tenders alongside the new series. There was nothing in the statement that indicated how the bank intends to plug the hole to bring the situation to normalcy.

The CBN spokesperson, Dr. Isa Abdulmumin, was not forthcoming on the returned old notes and whether they would be re-issued in the meantime, as calls and messages were not attended to at press time.

Commercial banks, who have also been jolted by the recent bank failure in the United States, are mindful of a possible run on the banks as soon as substantial cash flows into the system. The lenders, it was learnt, are simulating different levels of scenarios of cash calls and strategising on how they could be prevented.

David Adonri, an economist and stockbroker, said the fear of bank run is real and that the only way it could be prevented is by issuing cash in excess of N3.2 trillion, the volume of currency in circulation before the naira redesign programme commenced.

“The way it is, whatever CBN issues going forward would amount to pouring water into a basket. People have suffered much, and they would go on a withdrawing spree, not to spend but to store in their houses. That would further hurt the circulation of whatever amount the banks give out,” Adonri noted.

A financial inclusion/wealth management expert, CEO of SD&D Capital Management Limited, Idakolo Gabriel Gbolade, said the naira crisis should not have reached an unbearable height before government’s intervention, adding that it is unthinkable for a democratically-elected government to watch its citizens suffer for months.

He explained that the scar of the crisis would be felt in the economy for a long time. “The state of the economy is worsening and is compounded by the delayed intervention towards implementing the Supreme Court’s ruling. The scarcity of new notes shouldn’t have reached an unbearable height before President Buhari and CBN’s response,” he stated.

DATA obtained from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) indicates that the usage of e-payment gateways recorded a 41.29 per cent month-on-month increase. Cashless payment gateways were used 901.46 million times in February, up from 638 million in January.

Despite an increase in usage, the total value of cashless transactions fell in February, indicating that the number of failed transactions increased due to poor network infrastructure.

This is contrary to the expectation that the naira redesign policy will increase electronic transactions in the country.

Since 2020, NIBSS has not updated its efficiency platform portal, which displays the number of failed transitions and other data, making it difficult to report the number of failed transactions. As the major payment switch in the country, NIBSS records cashless transactions from the Nigeria Instant Payment System and Point of Sales terminals. In February, the total NIP (instant payments) fell to N36.79 trillion from N38.772 trillion in January.

Despite the scarcity of naira witnessed in February, data from NIBSS revealed that the value of PoS transactions grew from N807.16 billion in January to N883.45 billion in February.

Usage of mobile transfers, which serve as the primary payment gateway for many Nigerians, soared by 69.87 per cent from 108.14 million times in January to 183.69 million times in February.

While usage grew drastically, transaction value only grew marginally by 7.88 per cent from N2.37 trillion in January to N2.56 trillion in February. This mirrored the experience of many Nigerians in the month, who had to grapple with multiple failed mobile transactions.

MEANWHILE, it’s a slow compliance on the streets as business owners, traders and transporters in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), yesterday, defied CBN’s directive hours after the apex bank’s announcement.

It was gathered that residents of Abuja were still rejecting the old notes. Salisu Mohammed, a trader in the UTC Area market, confirmed that he rejected the old notes.

“No one is collecting the old N500 and N1,000 notes as I speak to you. If other traders do not collect the money, do you expect me to do so? I have rejected some customers today who came buying with old currencies,” he said.

Okechukwu Okereke, a taxi driver, said he is yet to come to terms with CBN’s announcement on acceptance of the old notes.

“As for me, I am not receiving the money. I heard depositing it at the bank is difficult, so what is the need? Only customers who have the new notes will board my vehicle,” he said.

Commercial banks in Utako, Jabi, Wuse and Abuja city centres were crowded with customers, as has been the case since the beginning of the naira crisis two months ago.

Prof Godwin Oyedokun, a lecturer of Accounting and Management at Leads University Ibadan, said Nigerians’ compliance with CBN’s decision might take some time, while Dr Muda Yusuf, Director, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), urged the apex bank to embark on massive awareness campaign on its latest directive.

RESIDENTS of Ilorin, Kwara State capital, reacted variously to Monday’s directive of the CBN. While majority described the directive as a good development, others said it will only impact positively if vigorous sensitisation and public enlightenment campaigns are carried out by CBN to restore confidence of the people who have been traumatised by the naira crisis.

Musa Ayinla, a lawyer, said the situation will improve if banks dispense enough old notes to cushion the effects of the hardship Nigerians have gone through over the naira scarcity. He further complained that Point of Sale (PoS) operators are not helping the situation with exorbitant charges they impose on cash withdrawals.

A retired civil servant, Shola Adeshina, who also described the announcement as a positive development, urged banks to make the old notes available if there are not enough new notes for circulation. He particularly sympathised with people in rural areas where there are no banking services, wondering about the negative effect of the crisis on rural economy.

In Ebonyi State, despite CBN’s directive, residents and business operators have refused to collect the old notes.

Check by The Guardian showed that apart from the difficulties in accessing both new and old notes, PoS agents were exchanging N1000 for either N1400 or N1500.

Traders in Makurdi and other parts of Benue State were still wary of accepting the old notes yesterday. At the Gboko rice mill, traders avoided the old notes like a pariah.

When The Guardian went round banks in Makurdi, crowd of desperate people laid siege to the gates of the banks.

THERE was relief in Rivers State as banks commenced across the counter payment of old notes to customers. Different branches of various banks were seen paying old notes to customers willing to accept them.

However, disbursement was still being rationed according to the discretion of officials of the various banks. None of the banks was paying the new notes along with the old.

At the Mile 1, Diobu, Port Harcourt area, a first generation bank was paying a maximum of N20,000 to each customer, while another bank paid maximum of N5,000. Others refused to disclose their limits, only offering to say that they were paying the old notes.

It was discovered that no Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) of any of the banks was dispensing cash. This now diverted the crowd that usually gather at the ATM points into the banking halls.

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has slammed CBN over its tardiness and insensitivity to the plight of millions of Nigerians, whose lives have been strangulated economically in the last three months due to the naira redesign policy.

HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said beyond CBN’s reluctant compliance notice with the Supreme Court order of March 3, Emefiele should immediately release old and new naira notes into circulation to ease the suffering of ordinary Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector and in rural areas, who have no idea of digital banking.

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The disparity in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, is to further widen due to the incomplete delivery of products to many filling stations, oil marketers stated on Tuesday.

Dealers under the aegis of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, said there had been a lopsided pattern in the distribution of PMS lately, stressing that this would cause scarcity and worsen the price disparity in retail outlets.

They told our correspondent that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, through its NNPC Retail subsidiary, had not been delivering the exact number of trucks of fuel that were meant for independent marketers.

“Here in Port Harcourt, for instance, we have Oando and NNPC Retail, and they have products in some private depots. Master Energy and Liquid Bulk also have products, but there is no volume for independent marketers,” the National Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, stated.

He added, “Independent marketers have no volume in all these depots and we have over 3,400 tickets lying and waiting at the NNPC Retail account. This new system is now making independent marketers beg for petroleum products from NNPC Retail.

“It is until NNPC Retail has finished loading products to its own outlets before it would now attend to independent marketers. It has made the independent marketers the third tier in terms of the bulk distribution of petroleum products, which is very incorrect.”

Independent marketers operate about 80 per cent of filling stations nationwide, both in villages and other remote areas, making them the largest downstream distributors of petrol.

Ukadike explained that the recent lopsidedness in products distribution by NNPC Retail “is the problem that leads to price disparity,” adding that “we are now forced to go and buy products from retail outlets and some of these tank farm owners at a very exorbitant price.”

Also commenting on the issue, the National President, IPMAN, Debo Ahmed, said the situation at private depots (coastal depots) was quite worrisome.

He said downstream oil sector operators “must do something now to restore the depleted faith of independent marketers, especially at the Port Harcourt coastal depots.”

Ahmed’s remarks, which was forwarded to our correspondent by the association’s PRO, read in part, “In the second week of February this year, a vessel discharged about 28 million litres (622 trucks) of PMS in TSL depot (Oando).

“A 162-trucks programme was released for IPMAN, which was about 7.3 million litres. Out of the 162-trucks programme given to us, we struggled to load less than 100 trucks. About 62 tickets are still there waiting for the next vessel.

“In the last week of February, another vessel discharged 13 million litres (288 trucks) of PMS at Liquid Bulk. Only a 56-trucks programme was released for IPMAN. We were all expecting the next programme, just to hear that the product finished last week.”

He also stated that last week, a vessel with 13 million litres (288 trucks) discharged at Master Energy.

“As at this moment, IPMAN has not received any programme for that product. Another vessel will discharge at TSL. IPMAN, what’s our fate?” the association’s president stated.

He added, “This is the right time to toss away the crutches of comfort and restore the hope and expectations of all independent marketers. Is important we start our protest as soon as possible.

“This is important so that Nigerias will know what is going on with us and the new retail. The lopsided distribution pattern will continue to cause scarcity and price disparity in retail outlets.”

When contacted for comments on the matter, the Chief Corporate Communications Officer, NNPCL, Garba-Deen Muhammad, requested that the enquiry be sent to him via WhatsApp. This was done, but he had yet to reply up till the time of filing this report.

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