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New Naira notes

State governments and the police commands have begun clamping down on traders and supermarkets accused of rejecting the old naira notes.

Findings by The PUNCH on Sunday indicated that the authorities in Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bayels, Zamfara and Kwara states had issued directives to security agencies to deal with anyone who turned down the old N1000, N500 and N200 notes.

The development was sequel to the confusion caused by the failure of the Central Bank of Nigeria to issue directives to commercial banks on the extension or otherwise of the February 10 deadline for the currency swap following last Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling restraining the FG from enforcing the time limit earlier fixed by the apex bank.

This is as the Catholic Bishops declared the CBN policy as disastrous, stressing that it hasd turned Nigerians to beggars

On Sunday, the Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje directed the acting Chairman of Kano State Consumer Protection Council, Dr Baffa Dan’agundi to shut down Wellcare supermarket for rejecting the old naira notes in violation of the directive of the state government that the currency remains legal tender.

The chairman of the council made the disclosure shortly after shutting down the supermarket, stating that legal action will also be taken against Wellcare Alliance Limited, the owners of WellCare supermarket.

He warned other businesses in Kano that the state government had not banned the use of old naira notes.

He threatened that any shop owner caught rejecting the old notes would be dealt with decisively, according to the dictates of the law.

Meanwhile, the management of Wellcare Alliance Limited has written an apology letter to Ganduje, seeking his immediate intervention to re-open the supermarket.

The letter was titled, ‘A plea for an immediate intervention to re-open Wellcare Alliance Limited and an apology letter.’

It read in part, “Sir, Wellcare has always had an outstanding reputation in the market within the state and beyond, equally has abided by every rule and regulation which directly affects the company or a regulator without hesitation.

“Due to the Federal Government policy on the new naira notes, we gave wrong instructions to our staff that from the 10th day of February 2023 that only the new approved naira notes are to be in circulation.

“On an expansive investigation with our bankers, they declined to receive old naira notes on our behalf, unknown to all parties that the state has a policy that the old notes are to be in circulation. On this basis, we sincerely apologize for our actions and deeply regret any inconvenience this may have caused the state.

“We humbly plead that our business should be re-opened for deserving members of the public as we undertake to receive old notes as valid tender till when the state issues an otherwise directive. Please, do accept our regards and sincere apologies.”

Katsina warns traders

In the same vein, the Katsina state government has warned banks and traders in the state not to reject the old naira notes until the Supreme Court gives a final verdict on the issue.

The state government gave the warning in a statement on Sunday issued by the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, Abdulkarim Sirika.

The government said it had come to its notice that banks and traders in the state were rejecting the old notes from residents, a development it said had led to severe hardships for the people.

The statement read: ‘’It has come to the notice of the state government under the able leadership of the Governor of Katsina State, Rtd Hon. Aminu Bello Masari that banks and marketers are no longer accepting the old naira notes.

“In view of this, His Excellency, the governor has directed that marketers and banks should continue accepting the old naira notes from now to the 15th February 2023 pending the final verdict of the Supreme Court on the matter.”

Meanwhile, Katsina residents have continued to bear the hardship imposed by the non-availability of the new naira notes.

Many ATM points in the state were not dispensing the new notes over the weekend while the few PoS operators still operating charged higher commissions ranging from N150 to N300 per every N1,000 withdrawal.

In Sokoto, the state police command has vowed to deal with anyone rejecting the old notes.

The command’s Public Relations Officer, Sanusi Abubakar, who stated that the force has not received any complaint, however, called on residents to report anyone rejecting the old naira notes to the law enforcement agents in the state.

Abubakar said, ‘’I’m sure you know we can only react if there is a complaint against anyone rejecting the notes but so far, we have not gotten any report of such in the state. I can assure you that we are on top of the situation and we will do the needful if such a report is made.’’

Also speaking on the issue, the Kwara State Police Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi, asserted that the police had been given a directive to arrest any individual who sells or buys naira notes in the state.

Responding to an inquiry from The PUNCH, Okasanmi said, “There is a government directive to arrest anyone who messes up the naira notes, buy or sell the notes, but we have not been able to catch anyone in Kwara state. I want to advise people to abide by the government directive on both old and new naira notes so that they would not run foul of the law.’’

To mitigate the difficulties facing the residents, the state government disclosed that it has arranged palliatives to cushion the effects of the fuel scarcity and the currency scarcity in the state.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye, explained in a statement on Sunday that the palliatives would include cash transfer to widows, pensioners, transporters, marketers, smallholder farmers, and other vulnerable people.

He added that the programme would be carried out by the Kwara State Social Investment Programme for proper coordination and accountability.

He added that the governor had directed KWASSIP to work out the details and deploy the modest support as soon as possible.

The CPS also said that the government would soon deploy free buses along specific students’ routes in the state.

“The governor has also directed the deployment of free buses along specific routes used by students and staff of tertiary institutions in the capital city where the effects of the fuel scarcity have been most pronounced. Further details of this palliative will be released by relevant government departments/committees”, the statement said.

To curb the rising tension over the scarcity of new naira notes, the Bayelsa State Police Command said it had beefed up security around banks and ATM  points.

The command warned miscreants against unlawful assembly and violence due to the new naira notes’ crisis.

This was contained in a statement issued by the spokesman for the command, Asinim Butswat.

Bayelsa police

He said, “The Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State Command, Ben Okolo, has charged Divisional Police Officers, Tactical Commanders, and other operatives to closely monitor banks and ATM points to forestall any breach of the peace.

“The command understands the plight of the masses and we are hopeful that the new measures introduced by the CBN will improve the circulation of the currency in the coming days.

“Miscreants, under any guise, are hereby warned to desist from carrying out any unlawful assembly to unleash violence in the state as the command will not allow any person(s) or group of persons to truncate the relative peace being enjoyed in the state.

“The command is appealing to members of the public to remain calm and go about their lawful and legitimate businesses as the command is poised to guarantee public safety and security.”

When asked if those rejecting old naira notes would be arrested, Butswat said the command did not receive such a directive.

“They (residents) should still accept it, because it’s still a legal tender,” he advised.

In a related development, the Zamfara state Anti-thuggery and Criminal Offences Committee has vowed to arrest anyone who refused to accept the old naira notes.

The committee chairman, Alhaji Bello Bakyasuwa, who monitored the filling stations and other business centres in Gusau, the capital city, said the old currency remained legal tender in the state as directed by Governor Bello Matawalle.

He vowed to arrest anyone who did not comply with the governor’s directive.

“My committee will instantly arrest any person who refuses to accept the old naira notes. My governor has given a directive for the arrest of those who do not accept the old naira notes as legal tender,’’ he declared.

At the NNPC Mega station along Gusau-Sokoto bypass, the chairman directed motorists to pay with either the old or new naira notes.

A motorist who gave his name as Alhaji Nasiru complained that he could not buy fuel at the station because the attendants rejected the old notes.

He, however, expressed delight with the Anti-thuggery committee which directed the fuel attendant to serve him.

At Abarunat filling station in Gusau, a fuel attendant identified as Mohammed Mustafa took to his heels on sighting the committee members because he was not allegedly collecting the old naira notes.

But he was arrested and brought to the station where he was directed to accept the old notes from the residents.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria on Sunday came hard on the CBN over its currency policy which it described as a disaster.

The organisation observed that Nigerians have continued to live in a gloomy atmosphere of fear on account of the insecurity in the country.

The Catholic Bishops called on candidates to be decent, respectable, peaceful and honest with Nigerians, rather than engage in mud-slinging, acrimony, arson, buying and selling of votes, threats, intimidation and violence.

The President of CBCN and Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji, stated these in his address delivered during the opening session of its 2023 First Plenary Assembly, which was held at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria Resource Centre, Durumi in Abuja, on Sunday.

The conference was themed, ‘Citizens’ participation in good governance.’

Ugorji called on politicians to focus on marketing their manifestos, insisting that the quest for votes should never be perceived as battlefield encounters or do-or -die affairs.

The cleric said, “Our collapsing national economy worsens the ugly situation. While the value of the naira continues to decline, the cost of basic commodities, including food items, continues to soar, with serious effects on the lives and livelihoods of our people.

“On account of long-persisting fuel scarcity, Nigerians spend endless hours in long queues under harsh weather conditions trying to buy fuel at exorbitant prices.

“The disastrous implementation of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cash swap policy, which resulted in a cash crunch, has added to the ordeal, anger and frustration of the masses.

“On account of the hard-biting economic conditions, many of our brothers and sisters are pauperized and go to bed without food. Many of them are resorting to crime and begging to survive. This situation is further compounded by the growing debt burden that is mortgaging our future and the future of generations coming after us. The future of the country looks bleak.”

The bishop further noted that insecurity had continued to haunt Nigeria as Boko Haram militia, Fulani herdsmen, bandits and gunmen continued to unleash terror in different parts of the country.

The CBCN President said hundreds of lives had been lost in very brutal circumstances, while many more had equally been maimed.

He noted, “Communities have been sacked and their inhabitants displaced on account of the activities of unidentified persons and some government security agents. Kidnapping for ransom is on the increase.

“Nowhere seems safe: highways, homes and even the sacred precincts of worshipping centres. Some of our church personnel have been victims of abduction and arson. Our people have continued to live in a gloomy atmosphere of fear and groan with anguished hearts. The government seems overwhelmed by the situation, despite its claim that it is on top of the matter. However, all hope is not lost.’’

He said the untold and undeserved suffering to which Nigerians have been subjected over the years was a good preparation for them to vote wisely in the coming election.

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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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