CBN Officials Monitor Cash Swap Policy Ahead of Deadline

•Youth groups back apex bank’s stance

Seriki Adinoyi in Jos, Fidelis David in Akure, Nume Ekeghe in Lagos and Udora Orizu in Abuja

Ahead of the January 31 deadline for the phasing out of old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes, officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were yesterday in rural communities in some states in the country to monitor the effectiveness of its recently introduced cash swap policy.

CBN recently directed commercial banks, super agents, as well as mobile money operators to swap the old N200, N500 and N1, 000 for the newly redesigned notes under the policy. They were expected to swap up to N10, 000 per person while amounts above N10, 000 would be treated as deposits. The initiative was meant to increase circulation of the new naira dominations, particularly in the rural areas.

In Ondo State, CBN officials went round to monitor the implementation of the cash swap policy. The officials, who stormed banks across Akure, the Ondo State capital, and other local governments in the state, said the move was to enforce the directive by the CBN.

Speaking with journalists during the monitoring exercise, CBN Director of Legal Services and Legal Adviser, Kofo Salami-Alade, noted increased circulation of the new naira denominations, particularly, in the rural areas of the country.

Salami-Alade said, “The critical part of this assignment now is to actually monitor the newly introduced cash swap introduced by CBN. Under this arrangement, the CBN is to ensure that the undeserved, the under-banked will also have access to new notes and we are leveraging on the agents like super agents and the banks to serve this people and under the programme, maximum of N10,000 old notes will be swapped for the old notes and there will be no charges.

“The agents will not collect charges for cash- in but for cash-out, the existing charges will still be there. So, the programme is to also ensure that people who don’t have bank account will be able to have access to the new notes.

“This is a confirmation of the promise of Governor of CBN that the bank is a listening bank and where we needed to tweak programme, we do that.

“This is a fulfillment of that promise that new notes will be taken to the farthest part of Nigeria, even in the IDPs where people are being served with the notes, so the intention is to serve the people of Ondo State as well. The banks are just collecting the funds allocated to them for this purpose.

“It is our expectations that all the agents will come to their bank branches to pick up the funds and proceed to their locations to start serving their customers.

“The agents are also encouraged to collect funds above this N10, 000 as cash cash-in and the accounts of this people credited. So, where you don’t have account, the naira wallet will be opened for you and you will be credited, so that you will have value for your money.”

The CBN director stressed that all efforts were geared towards making life easier for Nigerians and to also let Nigerians know that there was no going back on the 31st of January deadline.

However, ethnic youth leaders have hailed President Muhammadu Buhari and the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, for insisting that there was no going back on the January 31 deadline.

The CBN governor reiterated the apex bank’s stance after the Monetary Policy Committee meeting in Abuja, yesterday.

Emefiele insisted that there was no going back on the deadline, adding that enough time had been given to Nigerians to swap their old naira notes for new ones.

The youth groups, in a joint statement signed by leader of Arewa Youths, Mallam Kabiru Yusuf, while supporting the CBN’s decision, said kidnapping and ransom-taking had reduced since the naira was redesigned.

According to the groups, Buhari and Emefiele have shown capacity to stand for public interest, despite pressure from looters of the common treasury.

The groups stated that the development would help curb money laundering, vote buying, ransom taking and counterfeiting.

The statement read, “CBN decision not to extend deadline for swapping old naira notes has dealt a final blow to money launderers and kidnappers as this will inconvenience criminals that deal with cash.

“We support this because lately counterfeiting of currency has become a common phenomenon, money has become a standardised trade unit and abused by criminals. This will also improve chances of a free and fair election as vote buyers have been taken out of the equation while security will be greatly improved.”

Meanwhile, in Lagos State yesterday, central bank officials continued their monitoring of the circulation of the redesigned banknotes. Deputy Director, Banking Services Department, CBN, Ms. Josephine Kehinde Ajala, led other officials to Asejere market in the Makoko area of Lagos. She stressed that the deadline remained sacrosanct, saying that the apex bank does not intend to shift the deadline.

She said, “Right now, as we speak, I doubt if there is any ATM that is dispensing any old notes. All efforts have been made to dispense the new notes. So, surely, by the 31 of January, there cannot be any ATM that will dispense old notes.

“We just realised that probably people just want to be collecting or getting N1000 notes. The banks have been instructed that all the denominations that were given must be dispensed. We are doing a lot of audits on them.

“We’re following up seriously on them to trace and ensure that whatever we give them reaches those at the grassroots. So, all the denominations will get to the ATMs and they should be in the ATMs.”

She said further, “I’m very sure we are going to continue this sensitisation after the deadline because even though the deadline for the old notes is on 31st of January, we are going to continue the sensitisation.

“We are going to be doing a lot of sensitisation, we are going to encourage people more to get away from cash.  We are introducing a lot of cashless platforms, incentives, and more.

“So the central bank ideally wants to reduce the amount of cash that we use. If you go to countries like some other African countries, they don’t have a lot of cash, most of them are digital and the small denominations like N200.”

In response, the assistant Iyaloja of the market, Memud Iyabo Ajoke, said traders in the market had been informed of the deadline and had been told to start rejecting the old N200, N500 and N1, 000 from Saturday, January 28, 2023, which is three days to the deadline.

In Plateau State, also yesterday, central bank officials reiterated that the January 31 deadline to retire the old banknotes would not be extended.

Speaking during a press conference in Jos, Plateau State capital, Director of Payment System Management of the bank, Mr.  Musa Itokpa Jimoh, said cash deposits to banks between today and January 31 would attract no charges, adding that there is no limit to the amount of old notes people can deposit.

Jimoh recalled, “On October 26 2022 last year, announcements of a plan to redesign the currency notes were made, and we gave December 15, 2022, as the timeframe  of the currencies coming  into circulation, and true to that, we  actually made sure that the currencies were made available to the public.

“So, what we are doing is to ensure that these currencies get to all Nigerians in the nooks and crannies of the country, so that people can bring out the old currencies to the bank.

“The first thing we did was to inform the banks that there will be no charge for bringing the old notes into the bank. As much as you have of the old notes take them to the nearest bank and deposit them so that you can have the new notes. So, this has been the campaign since last year through several support groups, associations, using religious leaders and others.”

He said that the new notes have the same security features as the old ones, saying same printing and minting company that produced the old notes also printed the new notes.

“In line with the global practices, we should change our currency notes every five years, we have had them for a long time; many people have been hoarding these old currency notes such that it has hampered our plan to know the amount of money in the economy.

“This is almost nine years since the last one was issued. It’s high time we changed this denomination, especially the larger ones; N200 notes and N500 notes, and N1, 000 notes. That is why this exercise was embarked upon.”

Jimoh added that the CBN had to come out to demonstrate to the public that it was fully involved in the process to ensure that every individual was well informed about the new notes and of the need for the old currencies to return to the banks for the new ones to get to the public.

She stated, “Last week, we went to several banks to ensure that the new currencies are being dispensed because there have been complaints that the new notes were not available, and we do not want a situation where if you go to a bank branch and you are told that new notes are not available, and yet you see the notes in some people’s hands, in which case, there’s a preferential treatment.

“So, what we did was to make sure that all the new notes are fed into the ATMs. ATMs bring about the democratic process to which these funds can go out and reach all individuals as there is nothing like a preferential customer. We also ensured that the banks came to CBN to collect these new notes and put them into their ATMs.”

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