From the commercial nerve centre of the country, Lagos to the oil rich Port Harcourt State and back to Sokoto State, it has been a frustrating story as Nigerians suffer untold hardship to access cash to sort out their daily needs.
Since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had earlier fixed January 31 as the deadline to spend the old N1000, N500 and N200 notes, many of them had obediently besieged banks to deposit their old notes in readiness for the redesigned notes.
The CBN had however on January 30 announced the extension of the deadline to February 10, 2023.
The truth however is that, after Nigerians had deposited their old notes with assurance that their various banks will begin to give them the new naira notes, it has been a huge disappointment as the banks have failed in this regard.
In the last one week, the crowd at the banks across the country sometimes could be mistaken for people holding political rally.
Many business have been paralyzed as a result of this anomaly. Some POS operators who are still managing to operate charge as much as N700 on N5000, some even charge N1000 on N5000.
The online payment platforms that ought to be of help have also been proving so inefficient with several stories of failed transaction.
The situation which also combines with the protracted fuel scarcity is making many Nigerians to gnash their teeth.
Many Nigerians on daily basis will report to their banks from as early as 5am in the morning just to be on the queue to access the new naira notes from the ATMs as directed by the CBN but rather than getting the maximum daily withdrawal of N20,000 new naira notes, few will get N5000, in some cases, some will only be given N3,000 while many will go back home with nothing after spending a whole day in the banks.
This is really not a good time for the country. Last week, Gov Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State said he was left with no choice than to put his scheduled second term campaign on hold because of the unbearable situation of things occasioned by the naira swap and fuel crisis.
Gov Abiodun noted that as an administration that is sensitive to the plight of the people, election campaigns in the state would cease until normalcy is returned to the economic activities of the people. He called on the people to persevere as the current situation would ease up very soon.
Of great concern is the reported sharp practices by some banks that have refused to dispense these new naira notes, they have rather decided to hoard them and then dispose them to the highest bidders leaving many Nigerians to be cash-strapped and suffer for no just cause.
It’s against this backdrop that many Nigerians sincerely wish that CBN and appropriate government agencies will waste no further time to deal decisively with any organisation or individual found to be standing in the way of the successful implementation of this naira swap.
It is also not going to be a bad idea if the CBN will extend the deadline for this policy from February 10 to June 01, 2023 so as to work around all the identified challenges and of course also allow the banks to reinforce their IT structure such that it can accommodate the volume of transactions that this cashless policy already force on Nigerians.
The POS operators must also be considered as they have been of great help since they started operations.
It is not only a veritable source of livelihood but has also proved so useful in several communities across the country where there are no banks.
All hands should be on deck now to ease this unbearable situation Nigerians have had to tolerate in the last one week, after all, one of the critical functions of government is to look after welfare of her people and ensure their comfortability. A stitch in time, the elders say saves nine.