Naira scarcity to ease as banks open today, Sunday

The Central Bank of Nigeria on Friday directed all commercial banks to open for operation on Saturdays and Sundays as part of a coordinated effort to ease the circulation of banknotes of various denominations.

It also confirmed the evacuation of banknotes from its vaults to commercial banks across the country to address the hardship faced by millions of Nigerians as a result of the scarcity of the naira.

Following a meeting between the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and bank chief executive officers on Wednesday, the apex bank had on Thursday begun the disbursement of the old naira notes to the banks as part of efforts to end the currency scarcity in the country.

It was reported to have concluded plans to monitor compliance by the banks through a team of CBN officials to ensure proper disbursement of the old notes.

Delegates from the CBN also met with the Nigeria Labour Congress at the Labour House in Abuja on Thursday over the planned protest due to the scarcity of naira notes.

The union, through its President, Joe Ajaero, while lamenting that the situation had not improved despite the Supreme Court order that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain legal tender until December 31, 2023, said it would go ahead with the nationwide strike next Wednesday until the situation in the country normalised.

But according to a statement signed by the CBN Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department, Isa AbdulMumin, a substantial amount of money, in various denominations, had been received by the commercial banks for onward circulation to their respective customers as well as conduct physical operations in the banking halls through the weekends.

“The CBN had directed all banks to load their Automated Teller Machines as well as conduct physical operations in the banking halls through the weekends.

“Branches of commercial banks will operate on Saturdays and Sundays to attend to customers’ cash needs

“The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, would personally lead teams to monitor the level of compliance by the banks in various locations across the country,” part of the statement read.

Consequently, some deposit money banks on Friday issued statements informing their customers that they would be open for cash withdrawals and deposits tomorrow and on Sunday.

In separate tweets via their Twitter handles on Friday, Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Stanbic IBTC and Union Bank said their branches would be open from 9am to 4pm today and tomorrow.

An email by Sterling Bank to one of our correspondents on Friday read in part, “We are pleased to notify you that our branches will open for cash withdrawals and deposits on Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th March 2023, between 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Here are a few other things to note; old notes remain legal tender. The CBN portal is no longer required for the deposit of old notes.”

But employees of deposit money banks on Friday lamented the inadequate disbursement of the old naira notes by the apex bank.

The workers, under the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees and the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, said the short supply of cash to the banks was hampering their efforts to satisfy their customers’ needs by improving access to more cash in circulation, increasing withdrawals, and reducing the crowds of customers on the banks’ premises.

They also vowed to join the planned strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress and scheduled for next Wednesday, if the situation did not improve.

Speaking with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, the President of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees, Anthony Abakpa, said deposit money banks would not hesitate to serve their customers if they had enough cash.

 “In the last three weeks, some banks paid N5,000, N10,000, or N20,000 (to customers) across the counter but it’s not constant. So, they (CBN) should make it (cash) available so that if banks can pay N20,000 across the counter, people will be happy.

“It (cash) is still not enough. If nothing is done, we’ll be forced to go on strike. We’re in total support, 100 per cent,” Abakpa added.

The President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, Soji Oluwole, said the apex bank would have to be consistent in the release of funds to the banks for its new directive to have any positive impact.

Oluwole, said, “I heard what was released to banks in Lagos and Abuja. The truth of the matter is that what was released will not be enough.

“The challenges being faced now are not things that will disappear overnight. The first reason has to do with the ability of the public to trust the system. Everybody wants to grab as much as they can in case the crisis occurs again.

“If the availability is there, then we will probably see a gradual ease out next week or the following week.

“ASSBIFI is a part of the Trade Union Congress and we have our affiliate union, NUBIFIE, which is part of the NLC. There’s no way an NLC action will not affect the entire industry as it were. We have not received any directive from the TUC but once we do, we will carry it out.”

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