·Urges banks to make process of cashing money easier for the masses
By Ignatius Chukwu
For about two weeks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) moved from community to community in the Niger Delta especially in Rivers State to ease currency swap easier.
Though tension still persists but the CBN in Port Harcourt with their team led by the branch controller, Maxwell Okafor, intensified their campaigns in the rural areas.
The CBN first began in at the Mile One Market in Port Harcourt where they led other stakeholders to teach people on the CBN naira redesign policy, the issues of deadline, and the ultimate objective being a shift away from cash to other transaction instruments such as transfers and e-Wallet.
At the Mile One Market campaign, the CBN team lectured the traders on how to download the e-wallet, saying it is compatible with both android and analog phones.
The team also took many questions from traders most of who insisted on cash.
The CBN also went round the city to see Autamated Teller Machines (ATMs) at work. This seemed to bring some relief as banks loaded some new money in the machines, but soon after, the matter seemed to become worse.
This may have made the apex bank to raise calls when they saw the situation outside PH. Thus, the CBN called on bank authorities across the country to make process of cashing out money easier for Nigerians.
Okafor in particular made the call during a cash swap programme held in some rural areas. The CBN was also at the Access Bank, Rumukwurisi along Aba Road and Polaris bank in Igwuruta, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The CBN officials helped in coordinating banking agents that participated in the cash swap programme.
Okafor who noted that the cash swap process was slow, disclosed that the CBN had always made sure that the banks had the needed money to make their work very easy.
He regretted that hoarding which should have been ruled out of the process after their last warnings to the banks seemed to be repeated everywhere. The CBN boss in Port Harcourt promised to continue to monitor the process to ensure that right thing is done without putting the people through pains to withdraw or deposit their money.
He said: “The exercise going on here is a direct cash swap for Nigerians, especially those that do not have bank accounts. The process is going to last till the last day of the naira exchange.
“I am very satisfied, the enthusiasm is there, and the interest is there. There is a massive response of the people at short notice and many of them mentioned that they are going to call their parents in the villages. In the past two days, we have made sure that banks get enough money. Some of them took money to Bonny Island, and we were there on Friday to monitor it. All the banks in the area now have cash, all their ATMs are up and running and they paying very well.”
Okafor went on: “So, we will also monitor the exercise much as possible in other riverine areas of the state. As we speak, CBN is ready to disburse a lot of cash to banks even today. Banks are free to come today, our office is open as we speak. They can come in to collect and deposit their cash.
“The sincere truth is that the situation is not smooth. Many of the banks are making the process too cumbersome. For us to enter the bank today to assist these POS operators, we met a lot of pains.
“I wonder if Nigerians go through this pains when we are here, what happens when we are not here. Banks should please make the process of cashing money easier for Nigerians so that they can get the money to every nook and cranny of the state.”
He said it was not easy to establish a case of hoarding on the part of the banks. “We will need a further exercise to establish that. It means we had to go into their strong rooms, we will check how they disbursed what they have, ATM, individuals, before we can establish that. But the process is slow and we are pleading with banks to make the process easier”.
Okafor revealed that the cash swap programme would continue the next day in other communities, especially some rural areas of the state.
“We are going to carry the exercise from here to the inter-land. As we leave here now, we go to Igwuruta. Tomorrow, we are going to Buguma, Omoku, Ahoada, Oyigbo, Onne, Eleme. So we will gradually cover all the inter-land of the state to make sure we exchange money directly for persons, especially those who do not have bank account.”
He warned that anybody that was not able to exchange his own notes before the former deadline would lose his money. The deadline was extended a bit to February 10, 2023.
Okafor however said the CBN was carrying out the field campaigns to augment the effort of the banks to make sure that as much as possible, everybody had an opportunity to exchange the old naira.
Suggestions from the pulpit: deploy e-wallets
The situation seemed to get worse each day as the banks looked helpless, forcing the CBN to extend the deadline.
Now, a PH-based church minister called on the FG and the CBN to move fast with the remaining period of grace to teach the citizens how to use e-wallet.
The cleric also suggested to the CBN to use worship centres and markets to mop up old notes and teach e-wallet system. The CBN has however asked everybody to go to the banks and collect cash of not more than N20,000 per day.
Kingsley Nwachukwu, Founder and Chief Worker of Eleutheria Church in PH said the presidency and the CBN have a duty to rescue the masses who he said were trapped in the fight between the CBN and those believed to be hoarding the new naira notes.
Nwachukwu spoke at the Thanksgiving Church Service of the Correspondents Chapel Press Week 2022/2023.
The cleric urged the authorities to use the last two days to mobilise teams to churches, mosques, and markets as well as civil service secretariats in the 36 states to attempt to mop up old notes in return for new ones. He said the intervention has become necessary to save the masses from roasting in this seeming battle between the CBN and commercial banks.
He observed that those against the naira redesign policy seem to have ganged up with commercial banks to stop the policy by forcing the common man into suffering and mass hysteria that may lead to protests.
He warned that the masses may not survive up to the election let alone voting.
To counter these forces, he urged the CBN to move to spiritual houses and the markets to mop up old notes from the common people and give then new notes up to N50,000 per person. He said the fight between the CBN and the banks/hoarders of the naira is beyond the understanding of ordinary people.