The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele stated on Tuesday that banks are to blame for the scarcity of new naira notes.
He said some of them have not complied with a directive to only load the new notes on Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), but have instead been handing out bundles to individuals who spray them at parties.
Cash-strapped Nigerians have been toiling to withdraw money from ATMs across the country.
Banks have stopped issuing the old notes, which will cease to be legal tender on 10 February, but the new notes have been scarce.
Emefiele, who clarified that old notes can still be deposited after the extended deadline, said anti-graft agencies have been sent after erring banks and officials.
The CBN governor spoke when he appeared before the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on the New Naira Redesign.
He was accompanied by Deputy Governors Aisha Ahmed (Financial System Stability), Edward Adamu (Corporate Services), Ade Shonubi (Operations), and Kingsley Obiora (Economic Policy).
The House and the CBN agreed that a time limit would not apply to the validity of old Naira notes after the 10 February deadline, in line with the law.
After apologising for his inability to honour previous invitations, Emefiele said the CBN met many times with the banks and provided them with guidance notes on the collection and processing of old notes and the distribution of new ones.
He said: “These include specific directives to the banks to load the new notes into the ATM nationwide to ensure equitable and transparent mechanisms for the distribution of the new notes to all Nigerians.
“We wanted to be sure that as the currency is issued, the banks must go through a process that is equitable and transparent, not treating some customers as a priority and some as less important.
“They were told to load this currency into the ATM. The ATM is a robot. People can only collect a maximum of N20,000 or N40,000, whether they are a priority or not a priority customers.
“I addressed the bankers on Sunday and I expressed to them my disappointment and in fact, the disappointment of the President and that of leaders with the way this has gone.
“Many of us have unfortunately seen the new Naira, instead of being used for the purpose it’s meant, is used in parties, in celebrations.
“Some said, maybe, it’s money from the ATMs and I said no, money from the ATMs is already broken. They (the ones sprayed at parties) are in leaflets.
“What we saw being stamped on people at parties were packages of the new Naira notes, which means they (banks) had breached certain aspects of the guidance note we gave to them”.
The CBN governor said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), and the Department of State Services (DSS) have been directed to go after the violators.
“When I met President Buhari, I told him that we have met with the EFCC, ICPC, and NFIU to join us in monitoring the flow of this currency to our people.
“I am delighted that even yesterday (Monday), I read that the DSS had even started, which is what we want”.
Chairman of the Committee and House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa said communication was essential.
“It is only when you interface that you have an opportunity to understand the policy of the government. So, this is a welcome submission but unfortunately at a belated point.
“If you (Emefiele) had communicated this much earlier, this crisis would not have come up at all. Nigerians would go home to sleep without any fear at all.
“I thank you for coming up with this submission, especially on the position of the law, that the bank will at all times respect the position of the laws of the land.
“It’s clear and written in black and white. I want to thank you on behalf of the committee for admitting the position of the law”.
Doguwa told the House during plenary that the CBN governor agreed to consider another extension of the validity of the old notes should there be a need for it.