BORNO State Governor Babagana Zulum has threatened to revoke the land of any bank that starves people in the state of the new naira notes.
Zulum issued the threat on Friday after visiting 10 automated teller machines (ATMs) in the state and observing they had no cash to dispense, as hundreds of people queued for the money.
The governor said his government would spare only banks with genuine reason(s) for not dispensing the notes.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the new N200, N500 and N1000 notes into circulation on December 15, 2022, and announced that the old notes would cease to be legal tender from January 31, 2023.
Following pleas and protests by Nigerians, the apex bank extended the deadline till February 10 and said people with the old notes could take them to the bank to exchange for new ones or save them after the deadline.
Despite the deadline extension, the currency swap has caused multi-dimensional harm to businesses, households and individuals, with the 2023 general elections three weeks away.
Many banks could only issue one N1,000 at their counters. Some gave out bundles of N5 notes.
Many ATMs had no cash, while people queued for hours, hoping they would get some money.
Point-of-sale (POS) operators have been charging as high as ten-fold what they used to charge their customers – a development that has worsened the crisis.
The ICIR reports that many people had hurriedly taken all the old notes on them to the bank before the initial deadline. But getting a fraction of what they saved in new notes has been impossible.
Network failure and a complete shutdown of internet banking services are commonplace across the country, leaving most of the nation’s nearly 220 million people in a desperate search for cash.
Zulum, in a statement on his social media page Saturday afternoon, expressed sadness seeing hundreds of people queuing at a bank’s branch, with only one out of 10 ATMs dispensing cash.
“As you can see here, only less privileged people are queued up. I didn’t see rich people here. Many people are said to be here since 3am. Some could not even eat anything. The new naira note and even the old ones are not available, and that is adversely affecting commercial activities in the state. People are suffering,” Zulum decried.
He added, “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?”
According to him, he was in Gubio, a community he said had over 70,000 people, but it was impossible to source N100,000 in the entire local government.
The governor was sad that neither the new notes nor the old notes was available for people to collect.
He explained that a ram worth N100,000 was being sold for N35,000 because people were desperate for cash, “and some wicked rich people are going to rural areas to exploit poor people.”
The governor urged the CBN to ensure the availability of new notes at commercial banks for people to access their money.