The shortage of Naira notes has created concerns in Akwa Ibom State, despite the Central Bank of Nigeria’s assurance that the old notes would remain valid past the December 31 deadline.
Reports reveal that residents, notably traders and filling station owners in the state, continue to stockpile the new notes due to lingering uncertainty following the Supreme Court’s directive that the old notes would lose their validity by December 31.
The Federal government, represented by the Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, appealed to the Supreme Court to reconsider the deadline, citing the current economic volatility. Fagbemi emphasized that adhering strictly to the deadline would risk plunging the country back into the economic crisis experienced during the former CBN governor Godwin Emefiele’s cashless policy era.
“The enforcement of the deadline for the validity of the old 200, 500, and 1000 naira notes, as ordered by this honorable court, could lead to another national economic and financial crisis,” Fagbemi stated, urging for a continued acceptance of both old and new currencies as legal tender until necessary structures are in place.
Despite this appeal, apprehension prevails among some Akwa Ibom residents, leading to panic withdrawals. Several traders, who previously profited from the cashless policy by selling cash to Point Of Sales (POS) operators, have resumed hoarding cash.
Visits to various commercial banks in Uyo revealed limitations on cash withdrawals, with most banks restricting over-the-counter withdrawals to a maximum of N20,000 due to the scarcity of physical cash.
Koko Akpan, a bank customer, expressed frustration after attempting to withdraw N150,000 and N140,000 from two separate banks to purchase food items but was only able to obtain N20,000 from each bank.
“I usually don’t withdraw more than N10,000 whenever I visit the bank or ATM. But when I needed a larger sum for my sisters’ items, the banks didn’t have the money,” Akpan shared.
A bank staff member, speaking anonymously, highlighted the cash scarcity attributed to reduced customer deposits, stating that while they struggle to meet demands, the maximum they could dispense is N50,000.
During a radio program on Comfort FM in Uyo, a caller named Idongesit criticized the CBN’s failure to ensure adequate cash supply and condemned individuals hoarding cash, causing distress to the masses.
Meanwhile, POS operators in other localities revealed buying cash from traders in Uyo at discounted rates to sustain their businesses, as they face similar withdrawal limitations of N20,000 from banks.
Amidst the uncertainties, a trader in Itam Market advised caution: “Nigeria is uncertain; anything might happen by December. I segregate old from new notes after sales, keeping the new ones. Let’s wait and see.”
The situation reflects a mix of concerns, from cash scarcity impacting daily transactions to anxieties stemming from conflicting directives, leaving both traders and residents apprehensive about the impending deadline.