Following the alleged hoarding of the naira notes by the banks, the Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, has directed banks in the state to dispense the new notes via Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and banking halls or risk losing their lands to the state government.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has also arrested bank officials in Dei Dei, Abuja, for hoarding cash.
Also, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has commenced an investigation of Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, an actress and cosmetologist, for allegedly tampering with the redesigned naira notes, an offence contrary to Section 21 (5) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act, 2007.
This is coming as the Chairman of the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has alleged that the scarcity of the naira could de-market the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming elections and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address the issue before it snowballs into crisis.
Zulum gave the warning on Saturday after visiting branches of banks in Maiduguri, the state capital, to assess problems being faced by residents trying to access new naira notes.
“Any bank in Borno State unwilling to ensure their ATMs are fully dispensing new naira notes cash to ease the suffering of our people, we will withdraw their land title immediately. We will only spare Banks with verifiable constraints,” Zulum said.
He added that he was unhappy seeing hundreds of people queuing at a bank branch, with only one out of 10 ATMs dispensing cash.
“As you can see here, only the less-privileged people are queued up. I didn’t see rich people here. Many people are said to be here since 3:00 am; some could not even eat anything. The new naira note and even the old ones are not available, which is adversely affecting commercial activities in the state, and people are suffering,” the governor said.
He said further: “We just released salaries of about N5 billion, and the banks don’t have money; some of the ATMs are not working. We don’t have any problem with the CBN policy or the withdrawal limit, they said individuals could only withdraw N20,000, but why can’t everyone have access to that N20,000?” he queried.
“Yesterday, I was in Gubio with over 70,000 people, but it was impossible to source N100,000 in the entire local government, neither of the new or old notes. A ram worth N100,000 is now being sold for N35,000 because people are desperate for cash, and some wicked rich people are going to rural areas to exploit poor people,” Zulum explained.
The governor urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure the availability of new notes at commercial banks for people to access their money.
“Right now in Borno State, I have visited more than 10 ATMs, and there’s no cash,” Zulum said.
ICPC Arrests Bank Officials over Sabotage
Meanwhile, ICPC on Saturday said it arrested bank officials in Dei Dei, Abuja, for hoarding naira notes.
The commission said in a statement that the bank officials, who deliberately refused to upload the machines despite the availability of cash, were compelled to load the machines.
It added that the move was in continuation of its clampdown on elements frustrating efforts in making the redesigned naira notes available to members of the public.
One of the bank officials, the branch service head of the Deidei Branch of the bank, was taken into custody for her deliberate refusal to upload cash into the branch’s ATM even when the money was available and people were queuing at the ATMs.
Facts available to the ICPC operatives indicated that the branch delivered the cash around 11:58 am and either willfully or maliciously refused to feed the ATMs with the cash.
The statement said investigations were still ongoing, and the commission would take appropriate actions as soon as they were concluded.
In a related development, the ICPC Compliance Team in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, has busted another bank where some ATMs were loaded with cash with their wrappers un-removed, thus preventing the money from being dispensed.
Therefore, the team directed that the wrappers be removed and the cash be loaded correctly.
However, when a follow-up visit was undertaken the following day to ascertain the level of compliance, the team discovered that one of the ATMs was still loaded with un-removed wrappers.
The operation manager of the bank was arrested and taken in for questioning.
Similarly, seven Point of Sale (POS) operators and a security guard were arrested during the ongoing exercise in Osun State for charging exorbitant commissions for cash.
Investigations revealed that they got the money from filling stations that collected new notes from fuel buyers, but they resold the cash to the public at exorbitant rates.
The statement said the arrested persons are helping the commission with information to assist investigations and bust any syndicates involved in the hoarding or sales of the redesigned notes.
In another development, the EFCC has said it commenced an investigation of Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, an actress and cosmetologist, for allegedly tampering with the redesigned naira notes, an offence contrary to Section 21 (5) of the CBN Act, 2007.
Operatives of the ICPC arrested Omoseyin on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, along Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, following an intelligence report.
The 31-year-old was arrested after the video of her spraying and stepping on the newly redesigned naira notes at a party surfaced online.
In the viral video, she was also seen flaunting wads of the new naira notes.
The suspect was subsequently handed over to the EFCC on Thursday, February 2, 2023, for further investigations.
Meanwhile, Akeredolu has called on President Buhari to address the issue of naira scarcity before it snowballs into crisis.
Akeredolu, in a personal statement he signed, said the people had been compelled to live under excruciating pains occasioned by the naira and fuel scarcity.
In the statement titled: ‘The President Must Intervene, Decisively on the Crisis of Distribution of Petrol and Currency Notes,’ the governor lamented that “Nigerians are practically buying the country’s currency to feed when we are not in a state of war.”
According to him, these ugly developments are already eroding the goodwill enjoyed by the federal government for the stability achieved in the past seven years.
Akeredolu fingered some people he referred to as unscrupulous elements as being behind the scarcity in the distribution chain of fuel and the new naira notes.
“The struggles and actual fights recorded in banking halls, ATM and PoS points, and markets across the country are disquieting.
“The ordinary people are the victims. Depositors can no longer access their monies even to feed their families. Hunger is not the anticipated result of a monetary policy.
“While no reasonable person will contend with the decision of the CBN to discharge its statutory functions, the plight of the downtrodden must, however, be considered. The majority of Nigerians groan, at present, under the crushing weight of these crises.
“There is pervasive discontent in the land, and unless some urgent redemptive steps are taken to ameliorate the debilitating effects of seeming desultory and nonchalant disruptions of their normal simple lives, a series of events with unpleasant consequences are inevitable.
“A situation which permits a few individuals to inflict pains on the populace, seemingly without check, is deplorable. The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, must come clean on the new monetary policy. Nigerians practically buy the country’s currency to feed when we are not at war.
“The fact that the ruling party hopes to present candidates for election in the general elections in the coming weeks accentuates the level of suspicion as regards the possibility of having certain elements whose interests stand at variance with the public aspirations of the party and its committed members.
“There is no better way to de-market a brand than this ruthless execution of a pernicious motive. The federal government, through the president, must act now,” he said.