Nigerian commercial bank have partially accepted the Supreme Court order approving the use of old N1,000 and N500 and N200 notes as legal tender for 10 months.
The Supreme Court had, last week ordered that the old naira notes should be allowed in circulation along with the new notes until December 31, 2023
The court had said the Federal Government’s naira redesign policy contravened the 1999 Constitution.
On Monday, it was revealed that commercial banks had begun partial compliance with the order even though the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation kept mum on the matter.
Visits by our correspondents to several bank branches in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities revealed that some banks had commenced compliance with the Supreme Court order.
The CBN and the AGF office had refused to comply with previous orders by the Supreme Court on the controversial naira redesign policy.
Among others, the Supreme Court had on February 8, 2023 nullified the February 10 deadline stipulated by the CBN for the phasing out of the old naira notes.
The CBN and the AGF office however failed to comply with the directive.
While the CBN and AGF office failed to take a decision on the latest order by the Supreme Court order, some commercial banks on Monday began to pay their customers the old notes.
Several Gtbank branches in Lagos and Abuja paid customers the old N1000 and N500 notes on Monday, according to findings by The PUNCH. Also, several branches of the United Bank for Africa paid customers the old N1000 and N500 notes.
However, other commercial banks refused to paid their customers, saying they were awaiting CBN directive on the matter.
Findings by The PUNCH showed that the CBN had yet to issue a directive to banks on the matter but some banks relied on the Supreme Court ruling to go ahead with paying their customers.
“No clear official directive from CBN yet but we have to go ahead because customers are suffering. Also, the Supreme Court has ruled on it,’’ a top official of a tier-1 bank told The PUNCH on condition of anonymity.
However, officials of FCMB, Polaris Bank, Access Bank among others said they were still waiting for the CBN directive on the matter.
Meanwhile, all efforts to get the CBN to comment on the Supreme Court ruling failed as the acting Director of Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Dr Isa Abdulmumin, declined to comment.
At the GTBank in Olowoira, Lagos, several customers were seen on queues collecting the old N500 notes from the bank’s cashiers.
However, The PUNCH observed that some bank customers rejected the old notes over fears that traders might not accept them as legal tender.
A customer, who simply identified himself as Benjamin said, “I came here very early and I was given number 208. I had to leave and come back and now I am still on the queue; I was expecting the queue would have stopped but it is still there, though not as long as it was before.
“The annoying thing now is that they are giving only the old N500 and N1,000 notes and I am not sure traders will accept the old notes from me.
However, several customers complained about scarcity of old notes in bank ATMs across several branches.
A customer, who came out of the GTBank branch in Ojodu Berger, said, “I was still here last week and the ATMs still dispensed new notes, even though I had to stay on a long queue to get to my turn. But now, you can see, all their ATMs are dry. None is dispensing money.”
At the Polaris Bank in Olowoira, many frustrated depositors stayed on queue and refused to leave even after the bank officials said the bank had closed for the day at 2pm.
“Speaking with our correspondent, the official said, “We don’t have the new and old notes to give anybody. We opened at 8am and closed at 2pm, and all we did was to attend to complaints, transfers and enquiries. All these people still standing outside are on their own because we are not attending to anybody today again.”
In Ojodu, our correspondent visited four banks which are located on Ogunnusi road.
At First Bank, there was a small crowd in front of the bank, waiting for the ATMs to be loaded with cash. The bank was shut, and when our correspondent inquired from one of the security guards, he said there was no cash to give out.
At Access Bank, our correspondent gathered that the bank had run out of cash.
The bank was however giving out tallies to customer it would attend to the following day.
A security guard told our correspondent that the bank paid some customers old naira notes in the morning but had run out of cash.
At Union Bank in the same area, there was no activity in the bank’s premises especially at the ATMs.
The story was the same at Ecobank, where the bank was shut. One security guard told our correspondent that the branch had been instructed by its head office to shut down operations by 1pm.
When asked why the bank did not pay out old notes following a Supreme Court order, our correspondent was told that the bank had yet to receive any directive from the CBN.
Meanwhile, a senior executive with Sterling Bank who would not want to be quoted, told our correspondent that some of its branches in the Ajah area of Lagos had received significant amounts of the old naira notes.
According to him, the bank’s customers who were apprehensive of the public perception surrounding the old notes refused to collect them.
He said, “Customers refused to collect the old notes. I was at three of our branches in Ajah today, and not a single customer agreed to collect the old notes.”
Banks visited in the Mazamaza area of Lagos were not dispensing cash. They only attended to customers who needed customer care service.
A customer who came out of the Union Bank branch in the area, Michelle Taju, said that the branch neither had network nor cash.
“They don’t have network and they don’t have cash; old or new. I have been told to come back.”
Also, a banker told our correspondent that they had yet to get any directive from its headquarters on the Supreme Court ruling.
“We are still waiting for directives on the Supreme Court ruling, nothing yet,” she said.
When our correspondent visited Access Bank, Zenith Bank and Wema Bank in the Federal Secretariat area of Abuja on Monday, it was observed that the banks had yet to commence paying customers with the old N500 and N1,000 notes after the Supreme Court order.
At the Access Bank in Federal Secretariat, when our correspondent asked the security man if the bank had commenced paying customers with the old currency, he said, “Not yet because there is no cash.”
At Zenith Bank, it was observed the lender was not paying cash because it had run out of old and new notes.
At the Wema Bank in the same area, the situation was the same.
It was further observed that none of the ATMs of these banks was dispensing cash.
Meanwhile, motorists continued to reject the old notes despite the court order.
A bus driver plying Mile 2-Oshodi route stopped at Second Rainbow bus stop and asked a passenger to get down after he gave his conductor old N1,000 note.
This provoked reactions from other passengers.
“You cannot blame the driver, until our Buhari speaks, we cannot be sure,” a passenger said.
A trader on Airport Road in Ibadan, who supplies food stuff and essential items to customers in Lagos, Jumoke Edwards, told our correspondent on Monday that she was not collecting the old notes.
She said, “This is because ever since the Supreme Court gave its ruling on Friday, we have not heard from the CBN in that regard. As for me, until the CBN corroborates the Supreme Court order, I will not collect old naira notes from anybody.”
The confusion in the economy had continued to mount despite calls from several quarters, urging the Federal Government to direct the CBN to comply with the court ruling.
This came as many continued to decry the negative effect of the naira crunch on their businesses and living standard.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project had urged Buhari to immediately obey the Supreme Court.
SERAP urged Buhari “to disclose the measures that your government is taking to direct the CBN to immediately re-circulate the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes, as ordered by the Supreme Court.”