The Central Bank of Nigeria has ordered Deposit Money Banks not to pay customers making over-the-counter withdrawals of new naira notes again.
Instead, the apex bank directed the banks to load their Automated Teller Machines with only new notes to ensure that the currency circulates across the nation ahead of the January 31, 2023 deadline when the old notes will no longer be legal tender.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that the apex bank issued the directive to the banks on Wednesday and ordered that the implementation must begin immediately.
However, as of Friday, the banks had not been able to comply with the directive as they complained of inadequate supply of the new notes, prompting them to load their ATMs with the old notes.
A source in a Tier-1 bank, who informed one of our correspondents of the CBN directive on Thursday, said her lender on Thursday issued a memo in that respect to all the branch managers to enforce the CBN order.
The memo, which was titled., ‘Urgent update on currency redesign’ and signed by the Group Head, Retail Operation, stated, “The CBN has mandated that we immediately stop the Over-the-Counter payment of the new N200, N500 & N,1000 currency. Instead, all new notes should be loaded into the ATMs for customer withdrawals.
“This is effective immediately please.”
The source, who is a manager in one of the bank’s branches in Ikeja, Lagos, however, complained that the new notes were in short supply, hence the branch decided to load a mixture of the old and new N1,000 and N500 notes in the ATMs for customers to withdraw.
The source stated, “We got a memo from the head office this morning (Thursday) that we should stop dispensing new notes to customers who come to withdraw over the counter, but instead we should load the ATMs with the new notes. The correspondence from the head office said the directive was from the CBN and that we should implement it immediately.
“The directive has, however, thrown us into a dilemma as we are in short supply of the new notes and we can’t afford not to load the ATMs as there has been a surge in the number of customers coming to withdraw after the Yuletide holidays.
“Loading of ATMs is the responsibility of the banks. When our bank tested the ATMs, only one denomination of the new notes passed the test of dispensing seamlessly through our machines. The bank is working on reconfiguring the ATMs to be able to dispense the new notes. What we have done in my branch is to mix the few new N1,000 and N500 notes available with old ones so that desperate customers can make withdrawals and meet their immediate needs.
“If you observed, a lot of ATMs were inactive during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The idea was not to give out old notes, but unfortunately, the new ones are not in circulation. The banks have a mandate to evacuate N1bn old notes each to the CBN on a daily basis and our head office has set a strict vault limit or cash holding limit for each branch, which on no condition we must exceed.”
When contacted, the CBN spokesman, Osita Nwanisobi, did not respond to enquiries by Saturday PUNCH. As soon as one of our correspondents introduced himself and the topic, he went mute. Subsequent calls to his mobile line were not taken. Text and WhatsApp messages sent to his telephone were not replied to.
However, a senior official of the CBN, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment on the issue, confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that the apex bank indeed issued the directive to the banks.
He explained, “From this weekend, new notes will be available for disbursement to bank customers. We are pushing the N1,000 and N500 notes through the ATMs for now. The N200 will be available later.
“The aim is to check inflation and currency abuse. A research was conducted and it showed that the demand for the N1,000 and N500 is higher, hence the decision to start with them.”
When asked when the agent banking representatives, who dispense cash to customers through Point of Sale terminals, would have the new notes, he said the objective of setting them up was not to handle large volume transactions, adding that the operators were abusing the guideline.
A source in the corporate affairs department of a new generation bank told Saturday PUNCH, “Even before the CBN directive, our bank had been loading the ATMs with new notes. However, I must admit that the new notes are in short supply. What we do is to mix them up with old notes. For example, if you want to withdraw N10,000, you may get only two pieces of new N1,000. Some of our ATMs in the Oniru area of Victoria Island, Lagos, are dispensing only new notes.
“The configuration of the ATMs is an ongoing thing; yes, all the ATMs have not been fully configured. There are gaps from the regulator, which is the CBN, but we will obey the directive within the limit of what we have. Customers are depositing old notes in huge volumes. The CBN has stopped the supply of the notes that will soon cease to be legal tenders to the banks.
“I am sure that before January 31, the new notes would have spread to different parts of the country. Though I work in a bank, I have not seen the new N200; I have only seen N500 at a party in Abeokuta and it was being sold as your paper rightly reported a few weeks back.”