The management team of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has scheduled a meeting for Monday to review the Naira swap crisis that has virtually crippled financial transactions over the weeks.
The meeting is expected to discuss last Friday’s advice of the National Council of State that the regulatory bank should print more redesigned N1,000, N500 and N200 notes or re-circulate the old ones withdrawn from circulation in order to ease the current cash crunch.
Sources at the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc (The Mint) had said that it received CBN’s request to print N126 billion of the new notes which should have been pumped into circulation but the request could not be met. CBN, it is said, mopped up over N2 trillion of the old notes and pushed out only N300 billion of the new notes.
The Mint has reportedly ran out of papers to print N500 and N1,000 notes.
But the CBN dismissed claims that its Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele attributed the distribution challenges of the redesigned Naira notes to a shortage of printing materials at The Mint. The apex bank also denied reports that Emefiele threatened to close some Deposit Money Banks (DMBs).
The Mint also said that reports that it lacked the capacity to deliver CBN’s Naira notes request were not true and that it had made arrangements to continue to produce banknotes in Nigeria.
CBN’s Director Corporate Communications, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi said:” The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to a misleading report misquoting the Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, as attributing the current challenge in the distribution of the newly redesigned Naira banknotes to a shortage of printing materials at the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc.
“We wish to state categorically that at no time did the CBN Governor disclose this during his presentation to the National Council of State at its meeting on Friday, 10 February 2023.
“For the records, what Mr. Emefiele told the meeting was that the NSPMC was working on printing all denominations of the Naira to meet the transaction needs of Nigerians.
“We also wish to restate that the NSPMC (The Mint) has the capacity and enough materials to produce the required indent of the Naira.
“Similarly, there is a misleading voice note trending in social media alleging that the CBN planned to shut down some banks, particularly in a particular geo-political region of the country. We wish to state unequivocally that there is no such plan and that the claims are illogical and do not comply with the workings of the Nigerian banking system”.
On its part, The Mint said it was prepared to meet the demand for new Naira notes.
In a statement, it described media reports that De-la-Rue of the United Kingdom was supplying its paper substrate as false. The company equally debunked the reports that it was having challenges in printing the new Naira notes.
Monday’s meeting of the CBN top management is expected to draw up fresh directives to DMBs on the state of the old notes.
An official of the CBN told Sunday PUNCH that the Council of State’s advice would be weighed carefully vis-à-vis the security implications of the Naira notes scarcity, the cost of printing more notes and re-circulating the old ones, and the implementation of the Supreme Court interim order that the old notes should be allowed to circulate alongside the new ones.
However, topsy-turvy developments in the last few days have thrown bankers, traders and ordinary Nigerians into confusion regarding the acceptability or otherwise of the old notes as legal tender.
While the Federal Government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, had indicated that the Supreme Court order would be complied with, he also said it would be appealed.
A manager of a Tier-1 bank said there was confusion everywhere as the CBN had not given any counter directive to its earlier order that the old notes should not be in circulation again from last Friday.
The bank manager said: “The whole thing has thrown us into confusion as we don’t know what to do. The last communication we received from the CBN was that we should begin to pay customers a maximum of N20,000 over the counter and that the February 10 deadline for the withdrawal of the old notes stays.
“We have stopped accepting old Naira deposits from customers. We stopped on Friday. For instance, we didn’t open today (Saturday) to collect deposits as earlier directed by the central bank. We received an advisory from our zonal head to stop collecting old notes from Friday. Except there is a new directive on Monday, we will not take deposits of old Naira notes again”.
The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees (NUBIFIE) and the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) have said their members would down tools if they continue to come under attack from angry customers.
NUBIFIE President, Mr Anthony Abakpa said told Sunday PUNCH, “Nigerians are suffering and bank workers are also the target. Customers are venting their anger on staff members, who are also our members.
“The CBN is the sole regulatory body that supervises banks. So, if it gives certain amounts to Bank A or Bank B, it should be able to supervise them and know which bank is doing the right thing. If nothing is done within a week, I think we will mobilise to shut down”.
Similarly, the President, ASSBIFI, Olusoji Oluwole said the banks could only disburse to customers the amount of cash made available to them. He said: “The sad thing is that yes, banks are being given money, but banks are not being given enough money to circulate. The banks can only issue out what they have. But coming out to tell an already agitated public that banks are the ones keeping the money creates a lot of worry for us, because what it does is that you’re practically eroding the confidence of people in the banking system and putting the workers in danger, and that is the sad part of it right now.
“Beyond that, I think people just want access to cash, whether it is the newly-designed ones or even the old ones. I’m talking about the N100, N50, and N20 (notes). Let the CBN make them available.
“We’re sure it has them in stock and when they’re doing that, it should bring the ones that are distributable, not the ones that are mutilated. It should be able to do that and, at least, ease the tension a bit”.