The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Sunday, clarified that for now, banks are only authorised to dispense the new N200, N500 and N1, 000 banknotes through Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). The apex bank said it had intensified efforts to ramp up circulation of the new notes.
The bank, also on Sunday, reiterated that there will be no extension of the January 31 deadline for the return of old N200, N500 and N1, 000 notes to the banks.
In addition, the central bank, in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and various market associations, would beginning from Tuesday commence aggressive enlightenment and public awareness campaign on the naira redesign project as well as the need to properly handle the naira notes.
A top official of the central bank, who pleaded to remain anonymous, disclosed these in a brief chat with THISDAY Sunday night.
Speaking on the distribution of the new naira notes, the official said, “Banks are barred from distributing the new notes over-the-counter. All new notes must go to the ATMs. The directive to the banks from the central bank is that as they must dispense through their ATMs nationwide and people can go to the ATMs to collect the money. They cannot dispense the new notes across the counter for now until they exhaust the new notes. And when that happens they can then upload the old notes. Until they get another supply of new notes.
“That is the only way to ensure that the new notes are being circulated. Otherwise, what the banks were doing from our intelligence, was that they were holding the cash and giving it to high profile individuals and customers over-the-counter and not circulating it to ordinary customers. So, we decided they must only dispense it through ATM machines for now until it fully circulates in the financial system.”
The source warned that banks caught breaching this directive would face stiff sanctions.
Meanwhile, the central bank, in collaboration with the NOA and various market associations, in what has been tagged, “Market Storm,” would commence aggressive public enlightenment on the naira redesign project from tomorrow.
On Tuesday, the exercise would hold in various markets in Gombe, Minna and Asaba, in the first phase, and also hold in Kano, Ogun and Onitsha this Thursday. The exercise would be extended to other major cities across the country from next week.
“The essence is to continue to enlighten market people on why the naira redesign project was embarked upon, let Nigerians know that they should respect the naira and also encourage them to embrace alternative payment channels,” the source added.
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had on October 26, 2022, announced the central bank’s resolve to redesign, produce, and circulate new series of the N200, N500, and N1, 000 denominations.
Emefiele had said the move would help to manage money supply, tackle currency counterfeiting and terrorism, among others.
The circulation of the new banknotes commenced on December 15, 2022, while the new and existing currencies remain legal tender and circulate together until January 31, 2023, when the existing currencies shall seize to be legal tender.
Emefiele had insisted that the January 31 deadline remained sacrosanct, adding that the 100 days provided for people to deposit existing banknotes in commercial banks was adequate.
President Muhammadu Buhari, subsequently, on November 23, 2022, unveiled the redesigned banknotes during the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
At the weekend, following criticism of the quality of the new banknotes, the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc (NSPM) had assured Nigerians that the currencies were of the highest quality as the old notes, while warning the public against carrying out experiments on the new notes.
In a statement signed by its Managing Director/Chief Executive Ahmed A. Halilu, the NSPM had stressed that the new notes were of the same substrates and passed through the same printing processes and finishing procedures which it had been using since 2014.
Halilu explained, “The NSPM PIc has been meeting the currency needs of Nigeria with the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2014. Indeed, Nigeria has achieved zero importation of currency, developed local capacity and, to an extent, conserved foreign exchange within this period.
“It is, therefore, basically the same as the other notes in circulation. It also leaves traces of intaglio inks when rubbed on plain white surfaces. It is, howe ver, important to note that new banknotes are generally light when issued, then become heavier in circulation on getting in contact with dirt and moisture.”
Meanwhile, findings revealed an increase in the distribution of the new banknotes via ATMs by bank customers. THISDAY observed that more people were able to access the new notes over the weekend.
THISDAY visited some bank branches across Lagos to find out the level of compliance with the central bank’s directive that they should load their ATMs with the new currencies. Findings showed that a lot of the banks’ ATMs had started dispensing the new banknotes.
At the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Fidelity Bank branches visited, their ATMs were paying new banknotes.
THISDAY also visited few supermarkets in Gbagada, Lagos and saw the new notes being accepted and exchanged at the cashiers.
Speaking to THISDAY, a lady simply identified as Miss Chiamaka D said she came in contact with the new note for the first time on Sunday.
She said, “I hardly go into banking halls because I mostly do transfers and use ATMs for cash so this step to put the notes in ATMs is a good one. Now more people would be acquainted with it before the deadline.”
Obinna Chima and Nume Ekeghe