From Uche Usim (Abuja), Judex Okoro (Calabar), Femi Folaranmi (Yenagoa), Scholastica Onyeka (Makurdi)
To guarantee the success of the cashless policy and usage of the new naira notes, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has deepened sensitisation at all major markets across the country.
In Abuja, the apex bank officials visited Wuse and Garki markets, the two major ones in Abuja. Speaking at the Garki market, CBN Director and Managing Director of NIRSAL Micro-Finance Bank, Abubakar Abdullahi Kure, told the traders and other stakeholders to ensure they empty the old notes in their possession at the banks, while using other banking channels for their transactions.
He added that the new policy would help control inflation, as it would bring the hoarded currency into the banking system, thereby making monetary policy more effective.
“It will also help with better design and implementation of monetary policy as we will have much more accurate data on money supply and monetary aggregates.
“We believe that this exercise would help in increasing financial inclusion, moving towards a more cashless economy, and ensuring greater formalization of the Nigerian economy,” he said.
He assured that the banks would be closely monitored, adding that those found culpable of hoarding and diverting the new notes will be sanctioned.
He said: “We’re taking stock to know those getting new notes and what they are disbursing or why they’re not disbursing. We’re monitoring to know whether the banks are hoarding, diverting or not even picking the new money.
“Appropriate penalties will be meted out where infractions are determined,” he said.
On possible extension of the deadline, Kure said: “At this point, I can’t say yes or no.”
He added that there has been massive deployment of CBN directors across the country to deepen sensitisation on new naira notes and cash restriction.
He further revealed that the apex bank was consulting with religious leaders and traditional rulers to secure their buy-in and ultimately make the initiative a success.
Stakeholders in the market appealed to the apex bank to ensure availability of the new notes as their livelihood depended on it.
In line with its policy direction, the CBN has stated that banks that dispense old naira notes with their automated teller machines in Cross River would be sanctioned.
The Branch Controller, CBN Calabar, Glory Iniunam, who stated this during a sensitisation drive across major markets in Calabar at the weekend, expressed worry that banks were still issuing old notes over the counter. Iniunam enjoined those with the old notes to take them back to the bank before the 31st of this month.
“What we are here for is to sensitize the people on the acceptance and the deadline for the new redesigned naira to let them know that as at 31January 2023 the old note will cease to be a legal tender and February 2, 2023 the new note will come to into being completely and we are not going to use the old notes anymore.
“Anyone that has the old notes should take them to the bank before 31st January 2023 and get the new notes. If you are going over the counter we are still giving the old notes the reason being that it is the ordinary people that use the ATMs and we want the money to get into circulation.
“You can still collect the old note from over the counter and use but before January 31, take it back to the bank and they must have received enough so they can give to you.
“If there is anybody dispensing old notes we are doing spot checks and are going to do another one today, tomorrow and by the weekend. Any ATM dispensing old notes we will make report and there are sanctions for them,” she said.
She explained that those in remote villages and communities without financial institutions across the state should come together and write to the bank so that POS agents will be mobilised to such areas.
According to her, the essence of the sensitization is to keep people informed on the new naira notes as well as the deadline for the use of the old notes.
In Bayelsa State, CBN took its sensitization campaign on the new currency notes to the Swali Ultra Modern Market, Yenagoa, with a declaration that the January 31 deadline for the old notes is sacrosanct.
The Branch Controller, CBN, Yenagoa, Mr Francis Ene Asuquo, who commended the traders at the Swali market for coming out to attend the sensitization campaign said the choice of Swali market was very important to raise the awareness level of the traders on the need to take the old notes they collect from customers to the bank for the deadline.
Asuquo who noted that the cashless policy had come to stay in Bayelsa explained that the redesign of the naira note is part of the implementation of the cashless policy.
“The change in our currency design is well timed as it seeks to discourage counterfeiting, money laundering, tackle inflation, and then enable the control of currency in circulation. Associated with this policy is the need to move from cash-based to cashless forms of payment channels, which are available, accessible and easy to use. So let us open bank accounts, have our BVN, and at the same time identify the features and benefits of our new redesigned currency notes.
“We must be cashless in line with international best practices. We want to encourage the use of electronic transactions of business by ATM, Internet transfer or through the POS.
“Part of the policy why the naira was redesigned is to discourage money laundering and kidnapping for ransom. CBN is changing the narrative by changing some of the monetary policy of the bank and making sure that people comply with it in order, to make sure the issue of fake notes is eliminated.”
He also noted that part of the policy is to make sure the money outside the banking system is brought back.
“We want to stop the abuse of our naira note either by spraying it during ceremonies or squeezing it or any other abuses. Anybody found spraying money in any ceremony will pay a fine of N50,000 or get six months imprisonment or both. It is also to stop the habit of selling money.
In her goodwill message, the officer in charge of Swali Ultra Modern Market in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mrs Mildred Francis Egele, said the sensitization was very timely as it would enlighten the traders on how to differentiate a fake note from the real one.
“With this sensitization, everybody is aware that come 31st January 2023, the old note will no longer be in circulation.”
In Benue, the CBN introduced a cash swap programme to ensure rural access to the newly redesigned naira notes. The bank also stated that it has sustained its nationwide awareness/sensitization programmes, enforced speedy collection of the new notes at CBN branches by the Deposit Money Banks, (DMBs), and mandated issuance of the new notes through Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to ensure distribution is fair, transparent and evenly spread across the country.
“In addition to these measures and in recognition of the need to maximise the channels through which underserved and rural communities can exchange their old naira notes, the bank is launching a cash swap programme in partnership with Super Agents & DMBs.”
The Director, Financial Markets Department, Angela Sere-Ejembi disclosed this while speaking to newsmen in Makurdi yesterday.
She said the programme would enable citizens in rural areas or those with limited access to formal financial services to exchange old Naira notes for redesigned notes, adding that the initiative would take effect from tomorrow.
She explained “The old N1000, N500, N200 notes can be exchanged for the newly redesigned notes and/or the existing lower denominations; N100, N50 and N20, among others which remain legal tender.
“The agent shall exchange a maximum of N10,000 per person. Amounts above N10,000 may be treated as cash-in deposit into wallets or bank accounts in line with the cashless policy. BVN, NIN, or Voter’s card details of the customers should be captured as much as possible.”
She stated that the service would also be make available to anybody without a bank account saying agents may, on request, instantly open a wallet or account, leveraging the CBN Tiered KYC Framework.
“This will ensure that this category of the populace are able to exchange or deposit their cash seamlessly without taking unnecessary risk or incurring undue cost.
“Agents shall sensitize customers on opening wallets/bank accounts and the various channels for conducting electronic transactions. Designated agents are eligible to collect the redesigned notes from DMBs in line with the Revised Cash Withdrawal Limit policy.
“Agents are also permitted to charge cash-out fees for the cash swap transactions but prohibited from charging any further commissions to customers for this service.”
While urging stakeholders in Benue State to take advantage of the programme, Sere-Ejembi said cash swap agents will be readily identifiable in all local governments, particularly those in the rural areas while the CBN will continue to monitor implementation.