Long queues on Monday persisted at banks across the country as customers struggled to withdraw cash, despite the ruling by the Supreme Court that the old note denominations remain legal tender until December 31, this year.
A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain legal tender until December 31.
Our correspondents report that long queues were still witnessed yesterday at most bank branches in Abuja, Kano and Lagos.
It was also learnt that some cash-strapped customers bribed bank officials and security operatives to get cash.
A bank customer in Kano, Shuaibu Muhammad Haruna, who said he arrived at the bank around 6 am, was yet to gain access to the banking hall as of 2:15 pm.
He said the same thing happened to him last week, yet when it was his turn, the money was said to have been exhausted.
“No matter how long you stay in the queue, they will not give you more than N10,000. Some even give N5,000,” he said.
Another customer, Yusufa Usman, said “I had to transfer N11,000 to the security guard for him to withdraw N10,000 for me. This is what has been happening for almost two months now.”
A woman, who pleaded not to be named, said she was able to get money from the bank with some ease because she knew one of the staff.
“I came here around noon and didn’t spend two hours. I know one of the bank staff, when I called him, I accessed the bank without joining the queue,” she said.
Mujtafa Umar, a marketer at the Singer Market, said he visits banks regularly for transactions, but he has to find a means of doing his business as the banks are not accessible these days.
He said, “I went to GTB last week to withdraw N10,000, but despite enduring a long queue for hours, I came back empty-handed. That is why I decided to avoid banks until things changed. The banks are no longer easy to access.”
In Abuja, most of the banks visited by our reporter were flooded by customers. It was learnt that most of them were there to complain about failed transactions.
Many customers who were at their banks to make transactions were disappointed as they were denied access.
At the First Bank branch along Phase IV road in Kubwa, a few customers were arguing with bank officials, who insisted that the branch could not attend to them.
The story was similar at Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GTB and Stanbic IBTC Bank, all located in the area.
Narrating her experience at one of the banks, Abike Oladapo, said she was in the bank as early as 7am to complain about a failed transaction, but was surprised to see people already on the queue waiting for the bank to open for the day’s business.
She said: “At Zenith Bank Kubwa, they do give numbers. Last Friday, I was there before 7am and I was given number 15. I needed to see customer care because of the failed transaction that occurred in my account over a week now.
“I had calculated that I would be attended to before 9:30am but that wasn’t the case. I discovered something funny. The security guards at the gate were collecting ‘tips’ from people and letting them in. This happens at most banks. In the end, I gained entry into the banking hall in the afternoon. This is so unfair.”
Another customer, Jomoh Omeize, said he came to a branch of First Bank in the City Centre, but spent more than two hours under the sun without getting access to the banking hall.
He alleged that some bank officials were giving special treatment to some customers by allowing them to get into the hall with the help of security operatives attached to the bank.
He urged the apex bank to obey the Supreme Court ruling on the old naira notes to put an end to the crisis.
Adewale Akinjobi, who operates a Point of Sale (PoS) in the Ikeja area of Lagos, said gaining access to banking halls and getting cash has become a difficult task since the CBN announced the phasing out of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 currency notes.
He said to stay in business, PoS operators get to banks as early as 4:30am in some places while making friends with bank staff, starting with the security guards.
“Most Nigerians don’t know what we go through to get the little cash to stay in business. Sometimes, I will get to the bank as early as 4:30am to pick a number, which might be around number 20 by that time.
“To facilitate the process, we tip security guards who keep numbers for us. We also tip bank staff so that we can get as much as N20,000. We add all these to our charges,” he said.
A young entrepreneur, Oreoluwa Olatunji, narrated a horrible experience she had at one of the banks a week after the CBN phased out the old notes.
“I needed cash to pay for some items to make a cake for one of my customers who had already paid. So, I was desperate to get into the banking hall and when it became rowdy, we started pushing one another, only for one young man to whisper in my ear that my cloth was stained.
“I wasn’t expecting my menstrual cycle until the next day but I guess it came early because of the stress of trying to get into the bank as early as 5am and the rowdiness. I was embarrassed,” she said.
Banks pay old notes in Kano, Abuja, Ibadan
Checks yesterday at some commercial banks in Kano, Ibadan, Abuja and Lagos showed that Guaranty Trust Bank branches were disbursing old N500 and N1,000 notes.
However, some others, like Polaris Bank, Zenith Bank and First Bank in Abuja and other cities, were yet to commence compliance.
A staff of Polaris Bank who confided in our reporter said, “We are paying out the old N200 only, as we do not have any new directives on what to do yet.”
Sources at GTB, however, said they received a directive from their management to begin paying old notes in their vault. “The problem is that taking the old notes from customers will require the CBN form as we don’t have any directive in that regard.”
A bank customer in Ibadan who gave his name as Habeeb said, “GTB Bodija branch in Ibadan paid N500 old notes today. I can confirm that.’
Most banks shut in Lagos
It was learnt that most banks shut their offices while awaiting further directives from the CBN.
Our reporter observed that many customers who were at their banks to make transactions yesterday morning were disappointed as they were denied access.
A representative of one of the banks told Daily Trust that they decided to close their gates pending a directive from the CBN and the availability of cash.
“We are awaiting further directive from our regulator on the decision of the Supreme Court. We also need cash, either old or new notes to attend to customers.
“One of the major challenges we have faced in recent weeks is that most people have been making withdrawals with little or no deposits. So, we need cash from CBN to be able to meet the demand,” he said.
Another top bank official confirmed that their staff were in the banking hall, but they were preventing customers from accessing the premises to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
“We should be able to get clarification from the CBN very soon. We can’t act on our own without clarification. Don’t forget that the banks were not part of the suit,” he added.
Most banks visited yesterday at Agbara, in Ogun State, were yet to comply with the directive, as a crowd of angry customers were seen outside the premises of the banks.
Our correspondent, who visited FCMB on Bank Road, Agbara, could not gain access to the banking hall, as the security men said the bank was not attending to those who were there to withdraw cash.
“We are only attending to those doing transfers and those with complaints. There is no cash yet for withdrawal,” one of the security men said. It was the same story at GTB on the same road, as customers were not allowed in.
As of the time of this report, Daily Trust was unable to confirm if the CBN had officially issued a bank-wide circular instructing the deposit money banks to comply with the court order.
Economic experts have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, to obey the judgment on the validity of the old naira notes.
An economist, Paul Alake, has disclosed that there needs to be more clarity on how the old N500 and N1000 notes return into circulation.
He said the judgment would not be impactful if the old notes were not released by the CBN back into the banking system.
“If the money is not released in the financial sector by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the judgement may not have any effect,” he said.
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