Many FCT residents have continued to have difficulty accessing the newly redesigned Naira notes, blaming bank officials for allegedly hoarding and selling the legal tender.
The stakeholders urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to impose harsh penalties on Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and other currency abusers found complicit in fueling Naira scarcity.
According to stakeholders, despite the CBN’s threat to sanction banks found hoarding or engaging in shady naira transactions, not a single bank has been sanctioned.
According to the stakeholders, sanctioning just one bank would serve as a deterrent to others.
The apex bank, however, said in a statement issued by Osita Nwanisobi, Director, Corporate Communications Department, that it would persecute DMBs found to be complicit and prosecute other Naira abusers.
Nwanisobi assured Nigerians that long lines at ATMs and other cash withdrawal points would soon be gone, adding that the CBN was working around the clock to restore normalcy.
According to him, the apex bank is addressing the situation in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force and other law enforcement agencies.
“The CBN has observed with grave concern, the activities of persons who sell the newly redesigned banknotes and those who flagrantly abuse the legal tender.
“We have equally noticed the queues at ATMs across the country and an upward trend in the cases of people stocking and aggregating the newly introduced banknotes they serially obtain from ATMs.
“Also concerning are reported cases of unregistered persons and non-bank officials purportedly swapping banknotes for members of the public on behalf of the CBN,” he said.
According to Nwanisobi, contrary to the practice of these unpatriotic individuals, selling the Naira, hurling spray, or stamping the currency is illegal under any circumstances.
As a result, the CBN is working with the Nigeria Police, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to combat the unpatriotic practice.
“As a result, we warn Nigerians, particularly those attending social functions such as birthdays, weddings, and funerals, not to disrespect the Naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies,” he said.
The director assured Nigerians that the CBN was committed to ensuring that the newly introduced Naira banknotes were distributed effectively.
“We urge them to be patient as the CBN works tirelessly to address the issue of ATM queues.
“In line with this resolve, the governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has directed DMBs to commence the payment of the redesigned Naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000.
“We also admonish members of the public to embrace and adopt other payment channels for their transactions.
“The Naira is our legal tender and a symbol of national pride; let us respect and care for it,” he said.
Despite assurances from the central bank that the situation would be resolved soon, Nigerians continue to face hardship as a result of the Naira’s scarcity.
Several audio and video clips of the incident have gone viral on social media.
One such incident occurred at an ATM point at the University of Benin between some Nigeria Army personnel and some students.
The Naira crisis, combined with a scarcity of petroleum products, sparked violent protests in Ibadan, prompting the state governor, Seyi Makinde, to convey a statewide address.
Due to their inability to access the Naira, some frustrated bank customers have been captured losing their cool and threatening violence within the banking halls.
Meanwhile, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) announced the arrest of several bank officials for sabotaging the circulation of new Naira notes.
According to the ICPC’s official website, one of the bank officials was the Branch Service Head of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Deidei Branch, Abuja.
It was stated that she was arrested for willfully refusing to upload cash into the branch ATMs, despite the fact that cash was available and people were already queuing.
In a related development, the ICPC announced that its Compliance Team raided a First City Monument Bank (FCMB) branch in Osogbo, Osun State, where some ATMs were loaded with cash while their wrappers remained intact.
“As a result, the cash could not be distributed. As a result, the Team directed that the wrappers be removed and the cash be properly loaded.
“However, when a follow-up visit was undertaken to ascertain the level of compliance, the Team discovered that one of the ATMs was still loaded with the wrappers.
“The Bank’s operation manager was arrested and questioned,” the commission said.
It went on to say that during the ongoing exercise in Osun State, some PoS operators and a security guard were arrested for charging exorbitant commissions.
Investigations, however, revealed that they got the money from Filling Stations that collect new notes from fuel buyers, and then resold the cash to the public at exorbitant rates.
“The arrested persons are providing information to the commission to aid investigations and bust any syndicates involved in the hoarding or sale of the redesigned Naira notes,” the statement said.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the ICPC arrested one Omoseyin Oluwadarasimi on Wednesday for taking advantage of the scarcity to openly market the new notes.
According to the commission, she is working with key elements in the financial services sector to divert newly issued notes away from banking halls and payment channels.
She is currently detained by the ICPC and is assisting the Commission with its findings on criminal naira trading and the arising scarcity and negative economic outcomes.