Some commercial banks and filling stations have stopped collecting the old naira notes from customers, contrary to the ruling of the Supreme Court restraining the Federal Government from enforcing the February 10 time limit earlier fixed by the apex bank for the currency swap.
Findings by The PUNCH on Monday indicated that the banks refused to accept the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes from depositors and point-of-service agents who flooded the bank to lodge their cash.
Point of service operators and other bank customers whose old naira notes were rejected, panicked as bank officials, who said they were acting on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive, remained adamant.
Also, lawyers and litigants at high courts in Lagos State were unable to file their court processes using the old naira notes for payment.
As the naira crisis worsened, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, again met with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa on Monday.
Emefiele, who had met with the President about six times since the naira crisis started, failed to address correspondents as he reportedly left the villa through a side entrance.
The governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states on February 8 secured the order of the apex court extending the deadline beyond last Friday stipulated by the CBN for the use of the old notes.
A seven-member panel of the apex court, led by Justice John Okoro directed that the deadline be suspended till Wednesday when the proceedings would continue even as other states had applied to join the suit.
But our correspondent who visited the Mobil filling station at First Gate bus stop along Lagos-Badagry Expressway observed that the attendants refused to accept the old naira notes on Monday.
Checks also showed that banks in the Ikeja area of Lagos State refused to collect the old notes from customers.
Some frustrated and desperate customers were seen making frantic calls to their friends and loved ones intimating them of the development.
Speaking to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the latest development, a staff member of First Bank Plc said that they were instructed not to collect the old naira notes.
Our correspondent noticed that only customers who had new naira notes were allowed into the banking hall.
Also in the Badagry area of Lagos, several bank customers and PoS agents who visited banks on Monday were shocked to learn that the banks were not accepting the old notes.
A resident, who identified himself simply as Mr Julius said the branches of Access Bank and UBA in the town refused to accept the old currencies from depositors.
Speaking to our correspondent on the phone, he said, “What is happening in his country? My wife visited UBA only to be informed that the bank was no longer accepting the old notes. Some PoS agents who visited Access Bank were also informed that the bank was no longer accepting the old notes based on a directive from the CBN. I thought the Supreme Court ruled that the notes are still legal tender.’’
A Sterling Bank official said banks in the Magboro area of Ogun State had shut down as a result of the scarcity of cash.
Findings also indicate that some banks in Abuja, the capital city, have stopped accepting the old notes.
Officials who spoke to our correspondent said the policy was in line with a directive from the apex bank, noting that they did not know anything about the Supreme Court order.
At a Zenith bank branch located in the Central Business District, customers who had the old notes could not deposit them as officials blatantly refused to accept them.
A bank official stated, “We are not collecting old notes again, the deadline was on Friday. The memo I saw yesterday (Sunday) directed that we should not collect N1,000 and N500 old notes anymore.
“We even had to dispatch all our old currency on Friday to the Central Bank. We obey our regulators, not the Supreme Court.”
At the GtBank close to the Ministry of Transport, our correspondent got the same response.
“We are no longer receiving the old notes, we are working with the CBN and anything they say is what we do,’’ a female cashier declared.
When reminded about the seven-day grace period announced by the CBN governor, she noted, “We don’t know anything about it, the deadline has elapsed, and we are working with the CBN.”
However, a UBA branch at the CBD, Abuja, allowed some customers to deposit their old notes.
A customer confessed that he had to call a senior official before he was allowed to deposit his old naira notes.
But the GTB and First Bank branches in the Jabi district flatly refused to accept the old notes.
The same situation was observed in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital as many residents were frustrated by the banks and filling stations which refused to collect the old notes.
Ironically, some filling stations also rejected cash transfers even though they did not provide PoS as they insisted on the new notes.
A bank customer, Tope Adeitan, said, “It was a hell of a day for me today. I was at a bank along Bank Road to make withdrawals, but I was told I could only withdraw N5,000 across the counter, which I did because I had no option. I could not say whether the bank was collecting old notes or not, but I did not see a single note of the old N200, N500 and N1000 with anybody throughout my stay in the bank.
“And at a petrol station, I had thought I would use my ATM card or my bank app to pay for fuel only to be told I would have to pay with the new notes. So, I had to use the money I collected from the bank. The petrol dealers are just interested in selling the new naira notes to PoS operators for a quick profit. I am confused, will I have to cough out N150 or N200 on every N1,000 I collect through PoS?”
Another bank customer, who identified herself simply as Ayomide, said she had gone to a bank branch in the Okeyinmi area to make a withdrawal but was surprised by the sea of people at the ATM points and under the makeshift tents who wanted to carry out transactions in the bank, adding, “I had to return home empty-handed.
Some people said that the bank and some others in the state capital rejected their old notes. So, I can tell you the banks are not accepting the old notes. The Federal Government needs to speak to Nigerians on this issue. This suffering is unbearable,” she said.
In Kwara State, checks by our correspondent revealed that several banks, including UBA, FCMB and Access bank refused to take the old notes from their customers on Monday while the Zenith Bank, First Bank and UBA at Unity Road did not load money into their ATM points.