Expediency Of Extending Deadline For Return Of Old N200, N500, And N1,000 Banknotes To Banks

By Isaac Asabor

It is sad to note that barely a few days before the deadline issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the return of the old N200, N500, and N1, 000 banknotes to the banks, following the currency redesign program, only a few bank customers were able to make withdrawals from various Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) of various commercial banks that are operational all over the nooks and crannies of the country going by reportages availed to the reading public by various newspapers across the country.

The situation, no doubt, has triggered mounting pressure on the leadership of the CBN to extend the January 31 deadline for the withdrawal of old naira notes.

However, Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, at the post-Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting briefing held on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, said that he did not see any need for a change in the deadline as there were no indications that customers had issues returning the old naira notes.

He said that the 100-day window for the return of old naira notes is more than enough to deposit all old naira notes in circulation to the banks, and claimed that he did not see any rush to deposit any money at the bank and as such there was no need to extend the deadline.

“I don’t have good news for those who want the deadline of the old naira to be changed because we will not move it.

“People are holding and vaulting the naira in their houses and they don’t have the license to do that, because they use it to speculate on the naira.

“We have pleaded with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC) not to harass anybody, and on my honor, they will not do that.”

He also mentioned that about N1.5 trillion currency outside circulation has found its way back into the banking system and that he expected more deposits as the deadline approaches.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is didactic to recall in this context that in my effort to withdraw money from UBA’s POS located at one of its branches on Joel Ogunaike Street at GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, on Tuesday, in order to facilitate my transport back to the office after gathering stories from the flag off of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), and the unveiling of its logo. The effort made to withdraw money from the ATM was frustrating as it was not loaded with money. Hence, I proceeded to Access Bank located on the same street where I had the same challenge, and then to GTB on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, beside Sheraton Hotel.

Still, in the same nexus, I went to the “Ikeja under bridge” axis and encountered the same challenge together with other bank customers.

As gathered, the banks deliberately decided not to load their ATMs with old banknotes as they have been warned by the CBN that they would be sanctioned for doing that. It will be recalled that the CBN had directed banks to load their ATMs with the redesigned naira notes, and that failure to comply with the directive will lead to N1m fine per day.

In fact, given the situation, not a few bank customers, particularly traders across the country have continued to lament the impact of the unavailability of new naira notes as well as the challenges they are facing in getting their old naira notes into the banking system even as the collection of old naira notes draws nearer.

As at yesterday, Tuesday, January 24, 2023, not a few Nigerians that interacted with this writer said they have not even sighted the new naira notes since its release.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to urge the leadership of the CBN to reconsider its position and extend the date of return of old banknotes to banks as a way of avoiding chaos, particularly across consumer markets.