Banking halls empty as naira scarcity worsens
Banking halls across various commercial banks in Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, and other parts of the country witnessed minimal activity as frustrated customers resorted to alternative means of cash withdrawal following the scarcity of naira notes in the banks.
Checks by our correspondents revealed that while most banking halls were empty due to paucity of funds in bank vaults, large crowds had formed outside some of the few banks that were rumoured to be preparing to load their Automated Teller Machines.
At First Bank Plc branch along Ogunnusi road in Lagos, there were a few customers arguing with bank officials who had insisted that the branch had run out of cash.
The story was similar at Ecobank, Zenith Bank, GTCO and Access Bank, all located in close proximity to each other along Ogunnusi road.
However, at Union Bank Plc, also located within the same axis, there was a sizable crowd of commuters jostling through the queue hoping that the bank would load its ATM.
One of our correspondents then went further down the road inbound to Ojodu Grammar School, visiting UBA and Access Bank.
At the United Bank for Africa, the ATM did not dispense cash nor were any payments made over the counter.
A bank official, who spoke with our correspondent said the bank had been restricted to paying denominations lower than N200 notes due to a CBN directive.
When our correspondent attempted to make a withdrawal to collect the lower denominations, he was told that there was no money available, not even a thousand naira.
At Access Bank in the same area, there was no form of over-the-counter payments, while the ATMs were not dispensing.
A commuter, Emmanuel Collins, who spoke with our correspondent at Access Bank adjacent Ojodu Grammar School, said he had just come from the banking hall of his bank (UBA).
He had pleaded to be paid any denomination at their disposal.
He said, “I’ve been to my bank. Since yesterday, they don’t have any cash. They said they don’t have N1000 and N500 notes. I asked them to pay me, even though it’s N50 notes, but they didn’t have.”
Meanwhile, it was also observed that many customers of microfinance banks operating in Osun State on Wednesday threatened to storm the streets in protest against the lack of cash for withdrawal.
In some of the microfinance banks visited in Osogbo, many officials of the banks, were not on seat, as many customers waited endlessly to withdraw from their accounts.
Some of the customers claimed to be salary earners, who often get their monthly salaries through their accounts domiciled in microfinance banks.
The customers while speaking to our correspondent during visits to Olubasiri Microfinance, Ibuaje Microfinance and Osogbo Microfinance banks, all located within the Osogbo metropolis, threatened to embark on a protest if the situation persisted.
But an official of a microfinance bank in Osogbo, who spoke under condition said the refusal of the Central Bank of Nigeria to include microfinance banks in its plan for the replacement of old naira notes with new ones was responsible for the collapse of operations of the banks.
When contacted for a reaction, the Chairman of the National Association of Microfinance Banks, Osun State chapter, Mr Tunde Lawal, confirmed the collapse in operations of many of the banks which he blamed on a lack of cash to pay customers.
He however referred our correspondent to the national leadership of the group for further comment.
Also, a middle-aged woman begged bank officials in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, on Wednesday to save her from dying.
The bank customer had approached the cashiers at the Opopogboro branch of First Bank to withdraw N9,000 cash on the counter but was turned back that the maximum she could withdraw was N2,000.
All her entreaties with the female cashier to assist her to get the N9,000 cash proved abortive as the bank official insisted that was the instruction that bank customers had been complying with.
This was as many bank customers, who queued up at the ATM points in the different banks in the state capital, which were dispensing a maximum of N20,000 groaned, saying they left their businesses and other important matters to spend their valuable time queueing.
Operatives of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission arrived two banks in Bauchi State on Tuesday to monitor the cash disbursement exercise, as the agency noted that the operation would spread across the country.
Our correspondent gathered that the operation, which is still ongoing, was being carried out by a joint taskforce comprising operatives of the ICPC and its sister anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and staff members of the CBN.
Speaking to our correspondent on Wednesday, a top ICPC official said, “Yesterday, Tuesday, operatives of the commission from the Bauchi State office joined the taskforce alongside the staff of the CBN and operatives of the EFCC, to monitor the disbursement of new currency notes by some commercial banks within Bauchi metropolis.