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New Naira Notes: Nigerians struggling to beat Jan 31 deadline

The newly redesigned naira notes of N1, 000, N500 and N200 bills, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced late last year would be the legal tender from December 15, 2022, has stirred mixed reactions and comments following its failure to circulate widely before the January 31 deadline. The Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele a few months back had announced that three out of the eight notes currently in circulation will be redesigned and introduced to replace the old notes.

Deadline

Emefiele also stressed the existing notes will cease to be regarded as legal tender by January 31, 2023. The apex bank’s head added that the reasons for the redesigned notes are to address the issue of individuals who have made currency fraud their main source of income. People who have hidden money they had stolen, for instance, would either find a way to change it by taking the money out or would not need it given the change in the value of the naira. The currency change also aims to deal a fatal blow to the growing kidnapping and ransom industry. The change in the notes is also said to aid in lowering the rate of inflation by controlling the amount of money in circulation. While some Nigerians have accepted the reasons for the naira redesign against the background of disapproval by many Nigerians, some have embraced the new notes: there have been reactions and complaints by Nigerians as regards the shortage of the new notes in circulation in view of the date set for termination of the old notes.

Frustration

Some Nigerians have, however, shared their frustration in attempt considering their efforts to get rid of the old naira notes and acquire the new bills. One of the respondents we spoke to Desmond Adedayo who lamented that the notes are not in circulation even in the banks. He also expressed concern about what to do with the deadline for the phasing out of the old notes which is drawing closer day by day. “There is no way you want to tell me that we will stop using the old notes by January 31 and many of us have not even seen the new notes, not to talk of possessing it. If the Federal Government is really serious about it, then there should be enough new notes in circulation by now, at least over 60 per cent of the notes should be in circulation but here we are struggling to have the new naira notes. This is less than two weeks to the extinction of the old notes.” Another respondent, Rosaline Afolayan, a trader, few people have given her the new notes while making payments but she refused to accept them because the notes are not fully in circulation and she is also scared that the notes might be counterfeits as it feels lighter than the former notes citizens are used to accepting. “I am not collecting the new notes because I have not seen many people using it. Until I see people use it then I will start accepting it from my customers. Besides, it feels light and they might be fake notes,” she told us.

ATMs

Many have complained that both the Point of Sales, otherwise known as (POS), and the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) are still giving out the old notes despite the deadline inching closer. “I have never set my eyes on the new notes. I visited my bank today to make some withdrawal and it was still the old notes the ATM dispensed. This means that even banks are not in possession of the new notes. I was hoping to come to the bank and withdraw the new notes, at least for me to see and know what they look like”. Bank customers have similarly lamented the continued non-availability of the redesigned naira notes as they said the limited circulation of the notes could put them under pressure in view of the January 31 deadline set to return all old notes to the banks. Monica Joseph, an Ogun State-based entrepreneur, said since the use of the new notes began, she is yet to receive any one. “I have been hearing that there are new notes in use now but I have not even touched one of them. This will make it difficult to beat the January 31 deadline for all old notes to get to the banks if by now I’m yet to even see one myself,” she added.

Also speaking, Chineye Obi, a grocery store merchant, said it has been just the new N1, 000 notes she has been receiving from customers while she questioned the existence of the other two new notes. “For like a week now I have been receiving the new N1, 000 note from my customers. On the other two I have no idea what they look like physically. I have only seen them on the internet. For me, the circulation is very poor and the CBN should do better.”

Scepticism

Due to poor circulation of the redesigned naira notes many are sceptical about the feasibility of the deadline for the extinction of the old naira notes. While few are saying the January 31 deadline may not be feasible and expressed the hope that there would be extension, a banker who spoke under the condition of anonymity affirmed that the deadline will be feasible. On her part, Funmi Ademola, an administrator, said: “I think the collection of the old notes should be extended till February because up till now banks are still giving out old notes.

By now the new currency should have circulated so that we can use the remaining few days to get familiar with the new ones.” According to Ademola, there hasn’t been enough awareness about the new notes; even people in the rural areas are still in possession of the old notes. If the old notes cease to be legal tender by January 31, many people are going to lose money.

For this reason, she stressed that the set deadline is not realistic. Expressing his views, a colleague of Ademola, Niyi Abass said: “I feel there is need for extension. We cannot use metropolitan states like Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt to determine that the time limit is enough. We also need to consider the remote parts of this country. There are some of these rural parts that are still behind in terms of accessibility to banks and network provisions and reasoned that those places will require more time. “So there is need for extension, before they can determine they ought to have been a kind of data base running of all the states.

There should be a three month extension,” Abass added. Against all negative reactions trailing the delay in circulating the three newly redesigned notes, the governor of the CBN recently said the new currency has now reached the banks and it is expected that the banks will soon distribute those currencies to the members of the public who are their customers.

Emefiele had said both the new and old notes will operate together for some time. This could be the reason they are paying in both old and new currencies. The banker from one of the leading banks, who spoke anonymously, had stressed that the whole essence of the redesigned notes is to have a good control of the amount of cash in circulation. “The new cash limit introduced by CBN is not meant to address the replacement of old notes in circulation but it is meant to control the physical cash that is in circulation.

The economic policies of the countries we are trying to emulate such as the United States, Canada and others, as they relate to cash movement, are different from our own. We are in a cash economy and we intend to move towards a cashless economy so that customers will be empowered to carry out their transactions at the comfort of their homes, using channels like e-banking, USSD, ATM cards and others. It is on a rare occasion that you are expected to carry physical cash. “Very soon the policy might be tightened; that is why when you move the old currency into any bank, you cannot withdraw it again. You can only withdraw about 30 per cent of that money and what you will be given is still the same old notes, not a new one and at the end of the day we may likely have about 1/3 of what we already had in circulation for physical cash. They are not replacing the old notes with new ones so that we can have the physical cash again as much as we are used to. “So, January 31 is still feasible because there have been meetings with bankers, the managing directors of banks and the operational heads to see

 

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