Offices and other business activities at the National Assembly were on Tuesday, grounded to a halt as staff of the legislative institution rushed out to the banks to que for withdrawal of old Naira Notes.
Scarcity of the new Naira notes in the nation’s apex legislative house has persisted despite Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele’s latest announcement that Nigerians should now accept the old Naira notes as a legal tender.
Recall that the worsening scarcity of the Naira, has subjected workers and other business operators within the legislative complex, to que on a daily basis at the various banking and automated teller machine (ATM) locations, as they desperately fight for cash withdrawals.
Although this trend has been on within the legislative Complex since the commencement of implementation of the cashless policy introduced late last year by the federal government, the situation is getting worse on a daily basis as many of the banks operating in the area neither pay money to customers over the counter nor load their ATM machines with Naira notes for customers to withdraw.
Investigation carried out by New National Star , indicates that residents of the Federal Capital Territory and its environs, now see the National Assembly as the easiest place to cash out money either from the ATM or over the counter, as almost all the banks operating in Nigeria have branches at the complex.
This has resulted in intense congestion of the apex legislative complex every day, with its concomitant difficulties as Nigerians cluster and seek to withdraw cash at various banking points at the legislative Assembly.
Since the problem of obtaining cash got worse as a result of the banks claiming not to get enough cash supplies from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a large chunk of bank customers from Abuja and its environs resorted to coming to withdraw cash from the National Assembly every day.
New National Star also observed that, contrary to the directive of the apex bank that individuals should make a daily withdrawal of N100,000 or N20,000, some of the banks at the National Assembly, only pay 10,000 while others pay 5,000 per customer any time they are paying.
Some of the banks pay as low as 3,000 and 2,000 while few customers told our correspondent that they had received as low as N1,000. These meagre payments however, do not come on regular basis.
It was noticed that some of the banks don’t pay anything to customers for a whole week or more. This however, does not deter customers from gathering every day, stressing themselves in very tight ques, waiting in anticipation of arrival of money via bank officials for payments.
Some times, the bank operators will give the customers numbers as a means of making them to maintain orderliness in the ques, an arrangement that does not provide the required solution as some customers, after getting tired and having severe body pains due to standing for many hours, resort to distorting the ques while struggling to bypass themselves to enter banking hall or get closer to ATM machine first.
Almost every day, customers fight or at least engage themselves in serious altercation and verbal abuse at the National Assembly, where they que to struggle to get money from the banks to solve their daily needs.
Those who get frustrated, resort to raining abuses on the bank operators, whom they accuse of hoarding the Naira notes and saving it for politicians and other big bank customers, who allegedly make large withdrawals and also reward the bankers for making it easy for them to have access to cash.
Some disappointed customers also do vent their anger every day on the Federal Government, for introducing what they describe as emergency cashless policy during the election year and time, which has in no small measures, subjected Nigerians to untold hardship.
Meanwhile, customers who fail to withdraw money from the banks keep lamenting the stress they go through in providing food for their families and also meeting other pressing financial obligations within their families.
While some focus their criticism on the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, others sharply disagree, arguing that the entire blame should rest on the table of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.
One of the bank customers who simply identified himself as Gbenga, spoke to our Correspondent, saying, “Godwin Emefiele is the most wicked human being in the whole world as at today. This policy he brought and imposed on Nigerians at this critical time is the most inhuman decision any responsible person in government can take. God will pay him back; it is a matter of time.”
However, another person who decided not to mention her name, disagreed with this position, insisting that the whole problem should be blamed on the President because he has the final say on whether or not to introduce and implement the policy now.
She said: “People are blaming the CBN Governor for the cashless problem in the country. I don’t know how people think. Is Emefiele the Commander-in-Chief? It’s Buhari that should be blamed and not Emefiele because the CBN Governor is an appointee of the President, and could only do what the President approved.
“If the President tells him to stop the implementation of the policy after seeing that it has brought serious hardship to the people, he has no choice than to obey. But every Nigerian heard when President Buhari was boasting that he gave approval to the policy.
Therefore, the President is responsible for what Nigerians are going through today.”
However, Nigerians have been counting their losses and agonising experiences they have been passing through, following the introduction of the cashless policy, and obvious insensitivity of the leaders towards addressing the problem they imposed on the helpless citizens.
Many of them have expressed worries that the attitude of this government towards the suffering of the citizens was strange and unprecedented, lamenting that no other country in the world had ever treated her citizens in the like manner.
Meanwhile, the announcement, Monday night, by the CBN that the remaining old Naira notes ranging from 500 and 1000 notes will remain legal tender till 31st of December 2023 has compelled Access and Polaris banks to dispense old Naira notes on Tuesday ranging from 20,000 and N10,000 to customers respectively from their ATMs.
However, the major doubt lingering in people’s minds is whether bus drivers and traders would easily accept the old currency so soon after Emefiele’s assurance.