The fresh move by some Deposit Money Banks to re-circulate old N500 and N1,000 notes suffered a setback on Tuesday as motorists, fuel stations, retailers, traders, and other categories of bank customers rejected the old currencies.
The development came about 48 hours after some commercial banks, particularly Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Sterling Bank, began the disbursements of the controversial N500 and N1,000 notes across their branches in major Nigerian cities.
Commercial banks’ decision to re-circulate the old notes followed last week’s Supreme Court order approving the use of old N1,000 and N500 and N200 notes as legal tender for 10 months.
The Supreme Court had last Friday ordered that the old naira notes should be allowed in circulation along with the new notes until December 31, 2023.
The court had said the Federal Government’s naira redesign policy contravened the 1999 Constitution.
However, findings by The PUNCH on Tuesday revealed that key bank customer groups had started rejecting the re-circulated old N500 and N1,000 notes.
Most of them hinged their arguments on the fact the CBN, the banking sector regulator, had yet to approve the use of the old notes as legal tender, except the old N200 note.
Oil marketers kick
Oil marketers, on Tuesday, refused to collect the old N500 and N1,000 notes from customers in Abuja, Nasarawa and Niger states, insisting that Deposit Money Banks had yet to instruct them to accept the old naira bills.
Some filling stations, particularly those operated by independent oil marketers, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, refused to accept the old naira notes on Tuesday despite the order of the Supreme Court and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
At the NNPC Limited’s retail outlet in Nyanya, a major border town between Abuja and Nasarawa State, attendants at the filling station said they had yet to receive instructions from their superiors as regards accepting the old notes.
Similarly, at Khalif filling station, operated by an independent marketer in Kubwa, Abuja, the attendants said they would not accept the old naira bills, but asked customers to pay using a Point of Sale Service machine or via bank transfers.
Aside from filling stations, it was also observed that most traders in the capital city and neighbouring states had yet to start accepting the old notes.
“We are waiting for the presidential directive. The President has not spoken. However, if the banks say we should collect the old notes, of course, we will accept the notes,” the Secretary, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, stated.
He added, “But as it is now, we have not got any official confirmation. We are only hearing it from people. Once the banks tell our members to accept it, then I can assure you that we will comply with ease.
“We are hearing that the banks have started giving out the old notes, but as for me, I’ve not set my eyes on the old N500 and N1,000 notes till this minute that I’m speaking to you. We are only hearing it.”
Shuaibu admitted that marketers were aware of the order of the Supreme Court, but insisted that it was a presidential directive to CBN that the old bills should be returned to the banks.
“Well, if they have agreed that the money should be used, as marketers we want the economy to move on smoothly and we are ready to cooperate. But as it is right now, I don’t think the banks have directed their customers to bring the old notes.
“I’ve not heard about such, and at the same time I’ve not seen it, because I don’t know where they are going to manufacture the money, for we were told that the presidential directive was that they should destroy the old notes,” the IPMAN official stated.
Lagos, Ogun motorists
Also, petrol stations and commercial buses in Lagos and Ogun states refused to accept the old naira notes as a medium of payment despite the Supreme Court order.
Findings showed that several petrol stations in Ogun and Lagos rejected the old N500 and N1000 notes from their customers while accepting only the old N200 notes, new notes, Point of Sale payments, and transfers.
The PUNCH observed several altercations between sales attendants at filling stations motorists over the old N500 and N1000 notes. Customers who had the old notes were left stranded by station attendants who refused to dispense petrol to those with the old notes.
Passengers were also left hanging at major bus stops across the two states, as most commercial bus drivers refused to accept the N500 and N1000 notes on the grounds that filling stations were yet to commence accepting the same from them when purchasing petrol for their businesses.
A commercial bus plying the Berger-Mowe axis rejected the old N500 and N1000 notes.
Also, several traders were yet to come to terms with accepting the old N500 and N1000 notes.
Checks by our correspondents around the Alagbole-Akute axis of Ogun State revealed that motorists, traders and supermarkets refused to accept the old naira notes due to the confusion surrounding the status of the old currency as a valid means of exchange.
A trader, who identified herself as Bukola Vivian, told our correspondent that the reason behind the rejection of the old naira notes is that Nigerians are more inclined to listening to the directives of the CBN, rather than court rulings.
She said, “Ever since this naira thing started, it is what CBN says that people have listened to, and now the CBN has not said the old notes should be accepted. If I collect old notes now, I can’t give it as change because other people will reject it.”
Speaking with The PUNCH, a Sales Manager at JustRite Superstores, Ojodu Abiodun, who did not want to be named, said the retail giant was also not accepting the old notes.
The source said, “The truth is that not many people have even brought the old notes. Many of the customers here are paying with their cards. We don’t know the status of the old notes for now, so it wouldn’t be wise to start accepting them from customers.”
Transport operators in the axis were not also accepting the old notes from their commuters, insisting that payments should either be done in new notes or via transfers.
Also, market women at Magboro, a community in Ogun State, rejected the new notes.
A trader who gave her name only as Iya Sola said, “I can’t collect the old notes because Buhari is yet to say anything. The last time they (Supreme Court) said we should collect it and we did, it was what Buhari said that was obeyed and I can’t run at a loss.”
Another market woman, Ireti Shobowale, said she was still awaiting the president’s directive to know whether to accept it or not.
Also, traders and motorists in the Federal Capital Territory rejected the old N500 and N1,000 notes from customers despite the Supreme Court’s order.
An Abuja taxi driver, Ndubuisi Egbo, said he rejected the old notes from two persons that boarded his vehicle because he was not sure anyone would accept it from him.
Similarly, a corn seller, who simply gave her name as Rose said until she would not accept the old notes unless the CBN gave a directive on the matter.
SMEs slam CBN
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium-scale Enterprises, Dr Adams Adebayo, lamented the situation.
He said, “It’s disheartening that despite the pronouncements of the Supreme Court on Friday 3rd of March, 2023, traders and the general public are still rejecting the old N500 and N1000. Many business operators especially filling stations are rejecting the old notes.
“Now, banks are issuing out old notes and the public are rejecting them because there wasn’t any pronouncements from the apex bank. It appears the banking system has orchestrated a total collapse of the economy with the attitude of sit down and look played by the apex bank.”
Banks ration cash
Meanwhile, banks on Tuesday continued to pay the old N500 and N1000 notes across their counters.
The PUNCH observed that GTB on Zaitech road in Oregun dispensed old N500 over-the-counter to their customers.
Also, a branch of Zenith Bank inside the RCCG Camp in Ogun State, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, disbursed a maximum of N5,000 to customers in old N500 notes.
Reacting, the President of the Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Dr Uju Ogubunka, said there were no viable reasons for traders and transporters to reject the old naira notes.
“They have nothing to be afraid of. If they are not convinced that they are not supposed to accept them, they can hand it over to those of us in need of it. Anyway, they should accept it, the highest court of the land has taken a position. If there was no case brought before the Supreme Court, they would not have decided on anything. But there was an issue and that issue affected all of us and they took a position. As far as I am concerned that decision is yes and amen.
“Thank God some banks have started dispensing it, if they are dispensing it that means they will accept it when you send it back to them. So if you go to the market and some people are not willing to accept it, return it to the bank you will not lose anything. “
However, The PUNCH observed several banks had yet to begin the disbursement of the old N500 and N100 notes.
This came as the scarcity of the new notes continued across the country, with heavy queues in bank branches in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun and other parts of the country.
Also, The PUNCH observed that several bank branches remained shut on Tuesday as many claimed lack of cash.
Also, our correspondents who visited bank branches in Mazamaza and Oshodi on Tuesday observed crowd of customers at the entrances of the banks.
At Fidelity Bank and Zenith Bank branches along Old Ojo Road, cash was not being dispensed and only those with transfer issues were given numbers and allowed into the banking hall.
A Fidelity Bank customer, Tanimola Sunday, said she went to get number as early as 6:49am and was given number 70, at the bank’s branch along Old Ojo Road.
She said, “I got there at 6:49am and met some people already waiting. When I asked for a number, I was given the number 70. I was shocked. My reason for going early had been defeated. I only want to complain about a transfer issue.”
PoS operators angry
The National President of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Victor Olojo, decried the CBN decision.
Olojo said, “AMMBAN is deeply disturbed by the issues surrounding the low acceptance of the old naira notes despite the ruling of the supreme court.
“This can be largely attributed to the silent posture of the CBN. The CBN is yet to give or issue a clear directive to FI’s in the country. Remember that the financial sector and currency matters is largely regulated and controlled by the CBN.
“So the CBN has to show respect for the Supreme Court ruling by issuing a directive to all FI’s to accept and issue out old notes, at the same time assure Nigerians that the old notes are well accepted as legal tenders until the time stipulated by the Supreme court.”
Meanwhile, along the Ojodu axis of Lagos, our correspondents observed crowds on several bank premises. Branches of Access Bank Plc, First Bank Plc, Union Bank Plc on the axis had long queues.
The President of the Road Transport Association of Nigeria, Dr. Musa Muhammad Maitakobi, declined to comment on why motorists were rejecting the old notes.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians slammed Point of Sale operators for extorting bank customers. They claimed that PoS agents were charging as high as N1,500 on N5,000 new notes.
A customer, identified as Mr Kunle Solola, there was a need for the CBN and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to go after fraudulent PoS agents extorting Nigerians.
Another bank customer, Kemi Adebola, said she had paid over N50,000 in charges to PoS operators in the past two weeks, insisting that the Federal Government could not afford to continue to allow PoS agents to extort in Nigerians.
“PoS agents and bank officials are into racketeering with the new notes. They sell new notes at exorbitant prices to helpless customers. This can’t continue,’’ he said.