Nigerians’ hope of having more access to cash was dashed yesterday.
The banks had no improvement in the cash allocation they have been getting from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) despite last Friday’s Supreme Court verdict on the recirculation of all old naira notes.
The Nation gathered that the situation was not helped by the Federal Government’s inability to get the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment.
It was learnt that the government must obtain the CTC before it can direct the CBN to comply with the judgment.
The government’s lawyers were sighted at the Supreme Court in Abuja trying to get the CTC.
Before the lawyers arrived at the apex court, many Nigerians who thronged commercial banks with the hope of making withdrawals left disappointed as they were not paid.
None of the banks visited by The Nation reporter in the Central Business District of Abuja and Wuse zones 2 and 3 paid the old and new naira notes through their counters and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
A few residents of Lagos were however lucky as they were paid old notes across the counters and ATMs.
One of the government’s lawyers said: “The Federal Government has not enforced the judgment because it is yet to receive the CTC. There is no way the government will act on the spur of the moment.
“After obtaining the CTC, the government will isolate the order(s) of the court before directing the CBN and other statutory agencies to comply.”
The lawyer was, however, optimistic that “in the next 24 hours or 48 hours, all the parties will get a copy of the judgment.”
He added that it was “preemptive” for people to “assume that the government has not carried out the order of the court”.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers were also in the court expecting the CTC in order to determine their line action, including contempt proceeding if the judgment is not enforced.
A counsel to one of the plaintiffs said: “It is true that we are all waiting for the CTC of the judgment.
“I think the Federal Government is only trying to be technical because the Supreme Court’s judgment was loud and clear.
“We will give them the benefit of doubt. But the government has no choice but to abide by the rule of law.
“On our part, as soon as we get the CTC, we will register it before a Federal High Court to enable us to file contempt proceedings against the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele.
“We are on standby for contempt proceedings if the Federal Government ignores the judgment of the Supreme Court.”
In Lagos, a banker, who asked that his identity be veiled, said he could not say when the cash scarcity would abate.
“Banks don’t hoard money. If banks have the money, they will give it out,” the banker added.
The official said in normal times, banks load each ATM with an average of N8 million.
He claimed that when he inquired from banks in two states about their cash position, he was told that 13 branches got only N16 million.
The official, who confirmed that his branch paid a few customers yesterday with the old notes, said no bank had received any directive nor cash from the CBN.
Last week, The Nation gathered that only about N13 million was released to a Lagos bank that has over 40 branches.
But a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) source told The Nation that the apex bank was “working towards alleviating the sufferings of the people.”
He pleaded with Nigerians to give the CBN “the benefit of the doubt.”
A Lagos resident, Johnson Okanlawon, said two commercial bank branches in Iyana Ipaja did not pay the old notes across the counter but loaded their ATMs with both old and new notes.
“I sent my salesgirl to one of the banks in Iyana Ipaja to deposit old notes. The salesgirl came back to inform me that the banks had resumed payment of the old notes.
“We have also seen customers freely buying and selling in the old notes within our axis,” Okanlawon said.
Another resident said he was paid N20,000 in old N500 denominations across the counter by a bank in Abule-Egba
“I was paid N20,000 in old N500 notes in the banking hall. I felt very relieved because, in the past two weeks, I never had up to N2,000 cash. In fact, I was very lucky today (yesterday),” he smiled as he walked away from the bank premises.
But checks across several bank branches in Ibeju-Lekki and Victoria Island showed that cash scarcity had yet to abate.
At the Ibeju-Lekki branch of one of the banks, officials told customers that they had no cash to pay.
“We do not have the cash to pay anybody. We only attend to customers carrying out intra- and interbank transfers, and activation of ATM cards,” one of the bank workers said.