Panic, Anger as Naira Scarcity Hits South East Zone

  • Naira shortage surfaces in South East, PoS operators increase withdrawal fee as situation continues
  • Banks are rationing cash and blaming panic withdrawals and revelry for the situation

The south-east zone of Nigeria is once again at its limit as the scarcity of naira has once again crippled the economy in the zone.

According to the findings of WITHIN NIGERIA, the situation is said to be getting worse by the day. Investigations revealed that many banks in the zone were in a cash trap as of December 5.

Only one in ten Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) installed in the bank was dispensing cash.

The rest have run out of cash and can only be allowed to carry out other electronic transactions such as electronic cash transfers, bill payments, purchase of recharge cards and other transactions.

When our reporter asked one of the security men why the bank didn’t stock the ATMs with cash, he simply told him that there was scarcity of cash in the country.

At Ecobank located on University Road, Nsukka, none of the six ATMs in the bank were dispensing cash when our correspondent visited the bank on Sunday.

In fact, customers were not allowed entrance into the bank and one of the security personnel in the bank who spoke to our reporter said that there was no cash on Friday and so, no ATM was loaded.

On Owerri Road, Onitsha Anambra said the story remains the same.

The area-based United Bank for Africa, UBA, was also under lockdown at the weekend.

According to our sources, this is because the branch does not have an ATM machine to withdraw cash. Our source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “The situation is becoming increasingly unbearable.

How can banks block their customers just like that? I went there on Friday and no ATM was working. They should tell us what is really going on.”

However, in Enugu Road, Abakiliki, Ebonyi State, same story. The majority of banks in the area were not stocked with banknotes.

“I went to Access Bank to make some withdrawals,” our source said. Of the seven ATMs installed, only two were functional.

“The worst thing is that even the ATMs are programmed in such a way that if you want to withdraw money using another ATM card, you will only be allowed to withdraw a maximum of N10,000.

“But if you have an ATM card from your parent bank, you will be allowed a maximum of 20,000 naira.

What can N10,000 or N20,000 do for someone like me, especially during this Christmas season? This is truly terrible.”

Nevertheless, a staff of Keystone Bank in Imo State told our reporter that the situation is unprecedented.

According to him, “Before this, about a week or so before Christmas, we would all be experiencing this.

But this was different. The water shortage started immediately when we entered the month of December.

Asked about the probable cause of this ugly situation, Mr Nweze replied: “I think it has to do with what we experienced earlier this year.

People still fear that the Central Bank of Nigeria may squeeze cash flow. “They fear that they may not be able to withdraw their money comfortably and freely next year, so they want to withdraw all their money and keep it at home or anywhere they feel safe outside the bank.”

He continued: “Many of them don’t want to use the money right away.” Rather, they want to keep it safe and see what happens because they want a repeat of what happened in January when they had a very difficult time withdrawing money.”

When our correspondent visited some points of sale, it was also a reflection of the situation in the banks. Many of the POS visited on Wednesday had no cash.

INSIDE NIGERIA, one of the operators along Orba road in Nsukka, Enugu State, who gave her name as Chinenye Ezeagu, said the situation was becoming increasingly difficult for her.

According to her, “It’s hard to get cash to operate. Banks already charge to give us cash to operate.

“Some banks only allow you a maximum of N10,000 per day. Imagine what this small amount of money can do for you.”

When asked how much she charges for a withdrawal of N10,000, Mrs. Ezeagu told our reporter that “we charge N300 instead of the N100 we used to charge.

“This is to allow us to cover the charges we incurred while obtaining the fund.”

Another PoS operator, who gave his name as Henry Onyebuchi, told our reporter that “I have not had any cash for several days now.

For now, I transfer for my customers. “I no longer have difficulty finding cash to satisfy my customers.”

However, in some banks in Aba Abia state, some banks ration cash for customers who want to make withdrawals inside the bank.

According to our source, “If you want to withdraw inside the banks, you are only allowed to withdraw a maximum of N10,00 or N20,000 depending on the availability of cash in the bank.

However, amid the liquidity crunch Nigerians are suffering from, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Dr. Yemi Cardoso has identified the poorly executed overhaul of the naira as the main culprit.

He made this known on Wednesday, December 13 during the launch of the World Bank’s Nigeria Development Update.

Explaining further, he admitted that “concerns about the policy’s expiration date well ahead of the third quarter had triggered widespread hoarding.”

Many people fear that old banknotes will lose their legal payment status. It makes them hold on to cash.”

However, Cardoso offered a glimmer of hope, pointing to the recent Supreme Court ruling that confirmed the validity of the old banknotes beyond the original deadline.

He noted that this should help allay concerns and encourage people to release their savings into circulation. Regarding the current naira shortage, Cardoso said: “Unfortunately, the history of this is linked to the naira redesign policy and towards the end of the year, well before the third quarter, there was a lot of concern as to where it all was” will end soon; and whether the old currency would no longer be suitable as legal tender, many began to accumulate savings.

This is really what happened. Happily, the Supreme Court has decided that the currency will come into effect later this year.”

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