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New Naira: Banks Fret As CBN Widens Sting Operations, Prepares Queries



•Cash swap programme kicks off today

With barely seven days to sunset for old naira notes, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) are in panic mode as officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) widened their sting operations by discreetly  inspecting Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and banking halls to ascertain their levels of compliance to various directives, including  loading the newly redesigned notes into the machines. 

It was gathered that CBN officials caught some commercial bank workers breaching its operational guidelines, even as the deadline draws near.

A CBN source told Daily Sun that reports from field officers who visited various banks were being evaluated to determine appropriate sanctions to be meted to defaulting banks.

“CBN staff have been visiting many banks and their ATMs in sting operations. Their identities are concealed and they come in as any other customer to observe things and where necessary, call on appropriate bank officials to answer certain on-the-spot questions. Where not necessary, they observe proceedings and leave.

“In all, the CBN officials are writing their reports and we are evaluating them and preparing queries and sanctions. This is a serious business and we won’t tolerate banks sabotaging our efforts.

“There is no going back on this new naira project and there would be no extension. Those banking on a possible extension should take their money to the bank to avoid losing it. The old notes would cease to be legal tender by January 31. That is why we have deepened our sensitisation efforts taking place across the country simultaneously”, he said.

Meanwhile, Daily Sun observed that more ATM machines dispensed the new notes in Abuja at the weekend, raising hopes that the scarcity may be substantially addressed if current tempo is sustained.

From Kubwa to Wuse, out of two or three functional ATM new notes. This was a far cry from what played out penultimate week where many Nigerians lampooned the CBN and banks for new naira undersupply.

At various markets, many Small and Medium-sized Enterprises urged the CBN to extend life span of the old notes beyond January 31, since the new notes are relatively scarce.

Also lamenting the shortage of the new notes some Point of Sales operators said their customers have stopped accepting the old notes for fear of not being able to get to banks before the deadline

Maxwell Edna, said she has not been able to do any tangible business since Friday.

“It’s as if all my customers had a WhatsApp meeting where they agreed to reject old notes. “It’s still about seven days to the deadline but my customers no longer accept the old notes.

“So, I’m in a fix. My business is suffering. My customers want new notes but my banks are disbursing old notes. This is a frustrating situation”, she lamented.

Salau Mahmoud, Success Onoja and Joy Makir, were in the same situation with Edna, even as they called on the CBN to end the new notes’ scarcity nightmare.

Also, the CBN cash swap programme for rural dwellers announced last week, kicks off today.

It is being implemented in partnership with Super Agents & Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to enable those in rural areas or peopel with limited access to formal financial services to exchange old naira notes for redesigned notes.

This was disclosed by Mr Haruna Mustafa, CBN’s Director of Banking Supervision in a circular to DMBs, Mobile Money Operators and Super Agents.

He said the move will work side by side with sustained nationwide awareness/sensitization programmes, enforced speedy collection of the new notes at CBN branches by the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and mandated issuance of the new notes through Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to ensure distribution is fair, transparent and evenly spread across the country.

Under the cash swap arrangement, the old N1,000, N500, N200 notes can be exchanged for the newly redesigned notes and/or the existing lower denominations (N100, N50 and N20, etc) which remain legal tender.

“The agent shall exchange a maximum of N10,000 per person. Amounts above N10,000 may be treated as cash-in deposit into wallets or bank accounts in line with the cashless policy. BVN, NIN, or Voter’s card details of the customers should be captured as much as possible.

“To promote financial inclusion, this service is also available to anybody without a bank account. Agents may, on request, instantly open a wallet or account, leveraging the CBN Tiered KYC Framework. This will ensure that this category of the populace are able to exchange or deposit their cash seamlessly without taking unnecessary risk or incurring undue cost.

“Agents shall sensitize customers on opening wallets/ bank accounts and the various channels for conducting electronic transactions.

“Designated agents are eligible to collect the redesigned notes from DMBs in line with the Revised Cash Withdrawal Limit policy. Agents are also permitted to charge cashout fees for the cash swap transactions but prohibited from charging any further commissions to customers for this service”, the circular noted.

Agents are required to render weekly returns to their designated banks regarding the cash swap transactions.

(Daily Sun)

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