Four days to the expiration of the deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria for the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes to cease from circulation, Deposit Money Banks have taken extra security measures to prevent angry customers from attacking their branches and destroying facilities.
Saturday PUNCH reports that customers besieged bank branches in different parts of the country on Friday in attempts to withdraw new notes for use during the weekend and deposit old notes so that they would not be caught napping as Tuesday’s deadline approaches.
However, most of the customers were disappointed as they could not make withdrawals through the Automated Teller Machines as most of the machines had been shut due to non-availability of new notes, while the few ATMs that were dispensing cash had long queues of desperate customers.
Similarly, security guards at bank branches had a hectic time controlling the surging crowds making attempts to enter the banking halls to see if they could withdraw new notes over the counter. The situation almost degenerated into a free-for-all in some of the branches visited as customers complained of waiting in queue for hours without being allowed inside the banking halls.
The branch manager of a Tier-1 bank in the Lekki area of Lagos State told Saturday PUNCH that the lender had taken extra security measures to forestall attacks on its facilities by angry customers who were unable to get the new notes.
The manager explained that despite assurances by the apex bank that it was supplying enough new notes to the banks for circulation to their customers, the truth was that the lenders were not getting enough.
She said, “The truth of the matter is that the cash available is not enough. Last Saturday, my branch received N9m in new notes to be loaded into four ATM terminals. Each terminal normally takes N8m in N1,000 notes, but we had to load only three terminals with N3m each, and by Monday morning, the money had been exhausted.
“We didn’t get another supply until Wednesday when we got only N4m, which was loaded in two ATM terminals. Of course, it didn’t take long for customers to withdraw everything.
“Even this night (Thursday), there is a long queue of desperate customers, but only one terminal is working as the other one has a problem and we can’t fix it this night because if anything negative happens, we are not covered by insurance at this time of the day.
“We anticipate that some angry customers may want to vandalise our facilities and forwarded our observation to the head office, which has proactively deployed more security personnel to this branch and others with similar scenarios.”
It was learnt that the state police command had also deployed additional personnel and equipment, including armoured personnel carriers, in strategic locations where banks were concentrated in order to quickly quell any uprising by angry customers.
Another bank manager in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos State told one of our correspondents that officials had to take extra measures in anticipation of security breaches as the area is volatile as hoodlums could capitalise on the slightest protest by angry customers to vandalise and loot banks in the area.
The bank manager said more armed policemen were now manning the branch and were visible unlike in the past when customers would not know that they were on the premises, while the company supplying non-armed guards had increased the number of its personnel.
Saturday PUNCH noticed an armoured personnel carrier strategically placed at the Abule-Egba and Oko-Oba Road junction with armed riot policemen visible.
A mild drama was witnessed at the UBA branch in Ibafo, Ogun State, where all the ATM points had run out of cash, while desperate customers who wanted to get into the banking hall were kept under a canopy set up for COVID-19 restrictions. When a young lady approached the security guard and introduced herself as an employee of the bank and was granted access into the banking hall upon the presentation of her identity card, customers who had spent hours in the queue protested what they termed favouritism by the guard and insisted that they too would go inside the hall.
It took many minutes to pacify the angry customers, who accused the lender of deliberately punishing them, but an official of the bank came out to explain to them that the new notes supplied by the apex bank had been exhausted since Thursday.
A similar scene was witnessed at the Access Bank branch a few metres away as only two of the eight ATMs were dispensing cash with many customers in queue exchanging angry words.
At both the Ecobank and Zenith Bank branches inside the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries’ Prayer City in Magboro, off the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the ATM terminals were out of cash. A security guard at the Zenith Bank branch told one of our correspondents that no new notes had been supplied for two days and that the N100 note loaded into the ATM terminals had been exhausted within one hour.
At the Ecobank branch in Ijaiye area of Lagos, only one out of about eight ATMs was dispensing the new N200 notes, while customers were being paid in old notes over the counter. This, however, elicited protests from many customers, who rejected the old notes.
A similar scene played out at the First Bank branch at U-Turn, Abule-Egba, where only one ATM was dispensing N100 note to customers. A customer, Mr Shola Kolade, who attempted to deposit N50,000, had to abandon the bank and patronised a Point of Sales agent outside the premises, who charged him N700 to collect the old notes from him.
Cashiers at the UBA, Abule-Egba, told Saturday PUNCH that they were awaiting fresh supply of new notes as what they had had been exhausted at the ATM terminals.
At Ecobank in Ojodu, only two ATMs were dispensing new N200, while the banking hall was flooded by depositors who wanted to beat the CBN deadline for the old notes to be deposited in banks.
A senior banker told Saturday PUNCH that supply of the new notes by the CBN had been insufficient to meet the needs of customers, adding that the apex bank was giving the banks only 10 per cent worth of new notes for the volume of old notes they returned to it.
He explained, “The CBN is giving the banks just 10 per cent of new notes of whatever amount of old notes we collect from customers and take to the CBN. For instance, if we mop up N1bn in old notes from customers and take that to the CBN branches, we are in turn given N100m in new notes to load into our ATMs.
“We were initially rationing what we load into the machines and mixing the old and new notes, but since the CBN imposed a penalty for dispensing old notes through the ATM, what we now do is to load the machines with the new notes and N100 that is not redesigned and once they get exhausted, we shut down the machines and wait till we get fresh supplies, which oftentimes take days.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police Force has asked banks to reach out to police divisions close to them for adequate protection of their facilities, especially ATMs, following the increasing crowds at banks and ATM points nationwide.
Reacting to fears of possible chaos that could threaten bank facilities, the NPF noted that it was the duty of the banks to resolve issues with their customers, adding that the police were only concerned about security.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said, “If any bank is having problems with regard to security, they should contact the Divisional Police Officer within their vicinity, as all banks are expected to work with their DPOs.
Extend deadline – Ganduje, others
The Kano State Government and Islamic clerics from the Tijjaniyya, Qadiriyya and Izala sects in the state have called on the CBN to extend the January 31 deadline for old naira notes.
The call was contained in the resolution of a meeting by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, top government officials, and Islamic clerics at the Government House on Thursday.
The meeting, according to a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor, Hassan Musa Fagge, on Friday, noted that economic activities had been paralysed in Kano due to hardship caused by the shortage of the new notes.
The Chairman of MURIC in the state, Muhammad Aliyu, in a statement on Friday, said the January 31 deadline had almost grounded businesses in Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states, because of people’s refusal to accept the old naira notes for commercial transactions out of fear of their inability to deposit the notes in commercial banks.
In order to beat the deadline for the deposit of old notes, some banks have extended their work days to include Sunday. In notices sent to their customers, the banks said old notes should be brought in for deposit on Sunday as they had made provisions to receive them.
First Bank said in a notice to its customers, “This is to notify the general public that all our branches will be open on Saturday and Sunday just to receive cash.
“All old naira notes of series 200, 500 and 1,000 will cease to be in use from the 31st of January.”
Similarly, GTBank stated in a notice to customers, “Avoid the rush, deposit your old naira notes today. Dear customer, kindly be reminded that by Tuesday, January 31, 2023, the former naira series of N200, N500 and N1,000 notes will no longer be recognised as legal tender.”
Ecobank said in a notice titled, ‘Don’t let that money go to waste!!!’, “Dear customer, this is to inform you that our branches will be open this Saturday and Sunday for your cash deposit only. Time: 10.00am to 3.00pm.
“The old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes will cease to be legal tender after Tuesday, January 31, 2023. Hurry now to beat the deadline.