Branches of commercial banks in Ogun State, particularly those in Abeokuta, the state capital witnessed congestion and chaos inside and outside of the banking halls on Friday as bank customers made last minutes rush to either deposit the old naira notes or make withdrawal in exchange for the new notes following the looming deadline.
While a few of the banks dispensed the new notes sparingly from their various Automated Teller Machines(ATMs), others did not, a development that created a tensed situation for the better part of yesterday in many of the bank branches.
The congestion and attendant chaos followed the observed shortage of the news notes and in some cases, unavailability of the new notes for dispensing through the banks’ ATM points, forcing the angry and frustrated customers to yell and curse their banks for putting them into untold distress.
In branches of two new generation banks and a first generation bank surveyed at the weekend in Abeokuta, distraught customers were seen crowding inside and outside of the banking halls as well as the banks’ ATM points – all shoving desperately and cursing to get turn to deposit old notes or withdraw for the new ones.
It was a pathetic sight in a branch of a particular new generation bank at Sapon area of Abeokuta. The elderly, expectant mothers and frail looking people eager to withdraw money from the ATM points yesterday, were among the horde of customers subjected to needless agonies under the blazing sun as the bank officials claimed there were no new naira notes to load the ATM machines, according to some of the affected customers who spoke to our reporter.
Disappointed and frustrated, the customers revolted, vowing not to vacate the bank premises until the bank’s ATM machines were loaded with the new notes.
The Daily Crucible gathered from sources that some of the branch managers of banks in Abeokuta were rationing supply of the new notes to certain interests outside of the banking system, creating layers of authority and bottlenecks among themselves that catered only for alleged unethical interests, leaving little or nothing of the new notes for dispensing through the ATM machines for the run – of – the – mill customers.
But it was learnt that respite came the way of the thoroughly disenchanted customers around 3:00pm when operatives of the Newly Redesigned Naira Notes Monitoring, Compliance and Enforcement team of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who were deployed to Ogun State got wind of the customers’ plights and stormed some of the bank branches.
The team was both shocked and pained to discover that after the banks had all collected sufficient amount of new naira notes from the CBN to go round, information kept reaching members that customers in Abeokuta could not access the new notes amid rejection of the old notes by some operators in the informal sector.
The team stormed three branches of the banks, and in a particular case, the CBN team went to the branch’s strong room and compelled the affected bank officials to start loading their ATM machines immediately and the swift compliance made it possible for the already wearied customers to access the new notes.
The Daily Crucible learnt from good authority that the CBN has released enough of the new notes to all branches of the commercial banks but some of the bank managers elected to hoard it away for onward supply to some quarters.
Mr. Jayeola Olugbenga, Deputy Director, Banking Supervision Department, CBN Abuja, and Dr. Adeniyi Olatunde Adenuga, Deputy Director, Research Department, CBN, who are members of the team, told newsmen that they decided to go round the banks for monitoring to ensure that the new notes moved round and customers had access to them for the weekend transactions.
Olugbenga said the exercise sought to clear any observed bottlenecks and create atmosphere of seamless access to the new notes by customers.
“We want to ensure that customers have access to the new notes. You can see that the ATM machines are now working and we have succeeded in decongesting the banks. The situation is getting better now.
“The good thing is that all banks will open and work on Saturday and Sunday. So, people should not panic and they should go deposit their money to the banks on Saturday and Sunday,” he said.