Against the race to beat the deadline given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for old naira notes to be returned to banks, making way for the circulation of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes, Nigerian banks announced Friday they will run weekend operations.
The banks said their branches nationwide will be open to receive and change old naira notes, in a bid to help their customers beat the January 31 deadline.
The CBN had introduced sensitization campaigns to ensure that rural dwellers meet the deadline. The apex bank has sent agents to remote places across the country to help those who lack access to financial inclusion swap their old naira notes for the new ones.
But the challenge remains in urban areas too, mainly due to scarcity of the new naira notes. As of Friday, some banks ATMs were still dispensing the old naira notes. Many bank customers also said they were issued old naira notes through over-the-counter withdrawal.
These come on the heels of CBN’s reiteration that the deadline will not be extended.
To help those who still have the old notes, the banks said they will be available to receive deposits from customers on Saturday and Sunday.
Similarly, UBA promised that its branches will be in operation to attend to customers this weekend.
GTBank is another commercial bank to make the announcement to its customers. The bank, in a message to account holders, urged them to “save time! Avoid the last-minute rush by depositing your old Naira notes today at any of our branches.”
“Our branches will be open on Saturday January 28 and Sunday January 29, 2023 from 10.00am to 3.00pm to receive your cash deposits only,” it said.
The CBN introduced the new naira notes late last year as part of its efforts to mop up excess old notes in circulation, which is believed to be exacerbating Nigeria’s inflation. The central bank governor Godwin Emefiele lamented that the amount of the old naira notes in circulation rose from N1.4 trillion to N3.2 trillion in seven years.
However, the implementation of the new policy has suffered setbacks due to poor circulation of the new naira notes. Empty ATMs have marked the exercise in its final days, creating concern as Nigerians seek the redesigned naira notes to spend. In a few ATMs dispensing the new notes, withdrawal is limited to N20,000 per day for individuals.
The CBN has accused banks of hoarding the new notes, threatening to sanction anyone caught doing so. Based on this, the major challenge to the implementation of the new CBN’s policy is said to be reliant on the circulation of the new naira notes, not on deposits of the old notes into banks. Nigerians say commercial banks should focus on making sure that the redesigned notes are available to their customers.