Supreme court: Banks begin skeletal re-circulation of old naira notes

Old naira notes

Deposit Money Banks in the country have begun partial compliance with 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, findings by The PUNCH 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 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, it was 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.

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