On a normal day, the delinquent soldiers who jumped the queue at an ATM machine dispensing new naira notes at the University of Benin would have got away with it. But on Thursday, students of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) descended on them in a fit of rage after they had reportedly beaten some students trying to record the incident and stopping the unbecoming conducts, in a video that went viral.
The UNIBEN incident didn’t lead to deaths, but the shortage of the new naira notes nationwide has already claimed a victim in Kaduna, following the death of a pregnant woman, whose husband was unable to get cash to pay the deposit for her in a hospital.
James Auta, the husband of the dead woman, said he had gone with his wife to the hospital at Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru LGA, Kaduna, five days ago, where the doctor asked him to deposit money before he could examine her. But after a series of attempts at banks and P. O. S. operators, he met a brick wall, and returned home with the wife, who was assisted by a nurse in their locality to deliver. Unfortunately, after a successful delivery, she bled to death.
Across Nigeria, the scarcity of the new naira notes is affecting businesses, causing pain, hunger, scuffles and needless deaths.
In Abuja, due to the scarcity of cash, transactions between individuals and businesses were becoming increasingly slower, with the fear that economic activities might grind to a halt if the scenario persists.
Following the Central Bank’s announcement on October 26, 2022, and the 45-day transition period to the new N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes, there has been a widespread cash shortage even before the deadline to January 31which led to a 10-day extension to February 10.
Roseline Jeremiah, a Nigerian who visited the Maraba Market in Abuja to restock on necessities, couldn’t do that. The POS could only accept a transfer and the only operator who had cash in hand insisted that she pay a N1,000 fee for N20,000.
Mama Fruits, a woman who sells fruit and vegetable salads at the market, on her part, has decided not to replenish her stock until she has cash. At the time of the visit, she had not seen alerts of transfers nor had they reflected in her bank account, after all of her customers claimed to be making transfers to her. “Aunty, when I finish this one, I won’t go to the market to refill until there is cash,” she said.
In Kaduna, since the deadline and eventual extension of date for the swapping of naira notes for the new ones, most Kaduna residents have been practically moving from pillar to pole in search of currency, either new or old, to no avail.
However, the few POS centres that operate, charge exorbitantly per each withdrawal, with N10,000 withdrawal attracting an extra charge of N1,500, just as N10,000 deposit is charged N500.
A resident, Mr. Saxone Johnson, told Saturday Sun: “How can I be buying my own money at a very high rate before I could feed my family, buy fuel, pay for goods and services. This government does not care for her citizens. People are suffering, even with their own money again. It is rather unfortunate.”
In the same vein, shortage of cash has sparked anger in Bayelsa State.
Already, in Sterling Bank, Isaac Boro branch, customers engaged in fisticuffs over disagreement on the formation of the queue at the bank’s ATM. Some of the banks, like First Bank, that were dispensing N100 and N50 notes a few days ago have also run out of cash.
“The situation is terrible. No bank has money to pay out. We called the CBN and we were told that it is only next week they are bringing in money to the state,” said a bank official in one of the new generation banks.
At Stanbic – IBTC and Fidelity Banks along Melford Okilo Road, some bank customers have turned the ATM gallery to temporary homes, as they wait, hoping that the bank officials would load the ATM machines.
Adamawa residents are also groaning over the scarcity of new naira notes. The famous Bank Road in Yola, Adamawa, had become a sight of pain, frustration and anger.
Ibrahim Usman, who was just passing through Yola from Jos, lamented, “This policy is wicked and anti-people. I just came to withdraw N10,000 from this POS, and the operator just informed me that I have to pay a hundred naira for every N1, 000. Why? I worked hard to make this money, why will someone just invent a policy that makes me lose money for no just cause?”
Another resident of Yola, Njamaina Ayuba, said: “Every bank you go to there are endless queues of people who have abandoned their daily activities to exchange their old notes for the newly redesigned notes.
“This is crazy, I have never seen anything like this. This is overheating the system, especially on the eve of a very important election in the country.”
In Osogbo, residents of Osun State have lamented that the stress of spending hours to get money was making people unproductive.
This newspaper gathered that people are now waking at midnight, like ghosts, to go and take tallies and return in the morning to queue on the Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Speaking with our correspondent, Olatoke Opeyemi, who said he picked up his number around 1 am, added: “I was given number 15, and the ATM has not been dispensing till now.”
Also, a businessman in Osogbo, Bamigbade Muhammed, said he was able to get number 3 because he went to the bank at midnight.
“We’re no longer productive. It doesn’t make sense. The hours that we need to be productive, that we use to do business, are being used to queue for money.
“If we queue here and still queue at the filling station, it doesn’t make sense at all. People are suffering, and the authorities should just find a way or means to reduce the suffering,” he pleaded.
In Kano, millions of residents, including traders, public servants, almajiri children and even street beggars, have taken to anger following their inability to access money from their banks as a result of the currency swap.
This ugly trend has led to black market transactions, whereby dealers take advantage of the desperate situation to sell new naira notes at exorbitant prices. It has also led to a spike in the cost of consumables and other services, in addition to an overall decline in transactions in the market, as reported by DESMOND MGBOH.
We also gathered that some political parties in the state, afraid of public anger and possible attacks, have shifted their rallies and political programmes to later dates.
In Rivers State, residents start queuing as early as 6 am at ATM machines. When our reporter visited one of the banks along the same Odual Road, Port Harcourt, a cashier told him that there was no cash, except N20.00 and N10.00 denominations, and the bank could only pay N5,000 cash maximum.
At POS centres, it is difficult to withdraw up to N10,000. And each N1,000 is charged N100. There is also scramble at any POS centres that have cash.
From Birnin Kebbi, long queues still persist in all the commercial banks as hundreds of customers are still unable to have access to new notes.
A customer, Malam Musa Gero from Kukaru, Gulma in Argungu Local Government Area of Kebbi State, lamented: “I have been here for over five hours waiting in the queue to deposit my money, as I am talking to you I am number 260 because the bank officials have written our names and issued numbers to all of us, so, we are still waiting.”
Speaking with this newspaper, a businessman, Abdullahi Jega, said, getting new notes from banks had become extremely difficult. He disclosed that, if he wanted the new notes of N20,000, he might end up getting N15,000 because the insider in the bank, or agent, would take 20% cut from the money.
The story is the same in Abia State, where traders, transporters, and everybody are groaning over cash scarcity.
For the teeming business community of Aba, the commercial nerve of Abia State, life was on edge, owing to the current squeeze in availability of cash to carry out their daily transactions.
Traders, transport operators, artisans and food vendors complain of ‘poor market,’ the Nigerian parlance for low or lack of patronage.
This newspaper gathered that the situation had even affected school attendance, with many parents that were yet to pay their children’s fees for the second term, which began soon after the New Year holidays, asking their wards to stay at home.
Report by: The Sun Newspaper
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