Rural traders still reject the new naira

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By our staff writer

With few weeks to the final withdrawal of the old naira notes from circulation, most traders especially in the rural areas are rejecting the new notes for business transactions. Those who are aware of the new notes in circulation tend to see the 31 January deadline for the withdrawal of the old notes as not realizable and have, therefore, demanded an extension of the time frame. 

The Central Bank has, however, made it clear to them that 31 January remains unchanged and urged them to beat the deadline. The Central Bank of Nigeria, Minna branch led by the Niger Branch Controller, Ademola Mohammed Saheed had gone on a sensitization drive on the new naira notes to the traders at the Ultra Modern Kure Market in Minna on Monday 10 January. The traders said transactions with many of their colleagues especially in the rural areas had been very difficult because they were refusing to take the new notes from them. 

They also alleged that banks and ATMs across the state were still dispensing the old bank notes thereby forcing them to be transacting their businesses with the old notes. One of the traders, Yusuf Mohammed said: “Those in the rural communities are not aware of the new bank notes and the deadline and they are not even collecting the new notes from those of us who are privileged to have them. I think there is a need for increased sensitization of the new notes to convince them that they are legal.”

 Speaking in the same vein, the Market Woman Leader, Rebecca James also lamented that the traders had refused to collect the new bank notes when they are given to them for purchased goods, thereby making business transactions very difficult. “Some of us are aware of the deadline but the banks and ATMs are still giving us the old bank notes. When we go to the bush markets, the villagers there are not collecting the new money. If you give them the new money alongside the old ones, they will pick the new ones out and tell you to change them. From all indications, traders in the villages and bush markets do not know about the new bank notes and they need to know. It would not be fair if they have money that they will not be able to spend or spend later for no fault of theirs but because of a lack of adequate sensitization. It is from these bush markets that we buy our goods and this is why we are asking that the withdrawal should be extended”, she suggested. 

The Niger Branch Controller of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Ademola Mohammed Saheed while responding assured that there were enough new bank notes in the CBN Treasury and also confirmed that banks and ATMs had started dispensing the new naira notes. “For six weeks now, we have not been giving the banks the old currency. The old currency still in circulation is there because of the quantum which is so much. We have been giving banks new currency to dispense and we have been calling them to come and collect the new bank notes as we have them in the treasury. On the 31 January deadline, the Branch Controller said that it remains sacrosanct as there would be no extension unless the CBN Governor or the government decides otherwise. 

The Central Bank of Nigeria confirmed that there was a huge circulation of the new naira notes in the economy. The CBN Lagos Branch Controller, Godfrey Koyor, said this during a stakeholder sensitization event on the currency redesign at the Balogun market in Lagos on Tuesday 11 January. He also expressed the determination of the CBN to maintain the 31 January deadline to phase out the old naira notes. He said: “We are giving everyone the assurance that the new naira notes are available and available to everyone. We are distributing through the banking system. And as the transaction takes place, you are going to be having the new ones. So as people are giving out the old notes, they will be receiving the new notes. We have pushed a lot of the new redesigned currency notes into circulation and it is going round. I assure you that if you go to the ATM, you will get the new notes. The essence of giving the directive that the new naira notes should be dispensed through the ATM is so that they will be available to people during working hours and off working hours. So, whether it is banking hours or outside the banking hours, if you go to your ATM, you will get the new naira notes. It is a directive that the apex bank has given to all deposit money banks to make the money available in the machines so that people can have access to it, and we are supplying them with the new notes and they are making it available through the machines.” 

Mr Koyor said it was an order coming from the apex bank that all ATM machines henceforth should be loaded only with the new notes. “And so we expect compliance from the banks. And we believe that they are complying because they know the implication of non-compliance. There are implications for non-compliance from the banks. As the Central Bank, we have supplied the banks and we have given them a directive to make the notes available to the customer through the payment channels, which is the ATM.” 

Speaking on calls for an extension of the deadline, he said: “Right now, the deadline is 31 January and it is not changing. We haven’t changed the deadline. As I speak with you, the deadline remains sacrosanct and what we are asking the public and the banks to do is to surrender the old notes and take new ones. We have new notes enough in supply. We have enough. Give us the old notes you have in your possession. Give them out. Deposit them with your bank. Let your bank bring them to us and collect new notes.” 

The Central Bank of Nigeria has also said the myriads of security challenges plaguing the country, ranging from terrorism to kidnapping, would be curbed with the use of its latest initiative of the naira redesign. Speaking on Tuesday 11 January at a programme at the Gombe International Market, the Senior Manager, Currency Operations Department, CBN, Shamsudeen Imam, said situations that made it possible for criminals to collect ransom would be reduced. According to Imam, there is so much money in circulation, which has a way of encouraging criminal activities, and explained that the apex bank’s latest effort would control the money in circulation. “This would address the issue of terrorism and kidnapping. Because there was too much money in circulation before, kidnappers used that opportunity to collect ransom from people,” he said.He explained that the currency change was a good step to take, and that it would add a lot of positive benefits to the economy. 

According to him, other countries change their currencies every five years. “Globally, currencies are redesigned every five to eight years, but for Nigeria, it’s long overdue. Some of our currencies have stayed for 14 to 20 years. So, it’s the right time to redesign our currency.” While enumerating the importance of the currency change, Imam said it would improve the country’s monetary policy. “The CIC is a component of monetary policy. So, definitely, our monetary policy mechanism will be very effective. It will improve our financial inclusion drive, as it will push a lot of people to open accounts because we can’t carry cash. You need to open an account and as a result, more people will come into the financial system,” he said.

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