Protest rocked Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, on Tuesday as residents poured into roads and streets following biting scarcity of cash and the attendant excruciating pains on them.
The volatile Pabseke, Aladesanmi, Fajol, Iyana Mortuary, Somorin, Obantoko, Adatan areas of Abeokuta boiled over with army of protesters hitting the roads, making bonfires and some of them chanting anti – CBN songs.
The protesters lamented that they were being compelled to use their money to be buying money from POS operators whom they accused of cashing in on their predicaments to demand prohibitive service charge from them since commercial banks in town could not dispense either the old naira notes or the newly redesigned N200, N500 and N1000 notes from the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
At Sapon area where the protest appeared fiercest, hundreds of angry youths seized the major roads and set bonfires in many places. The Sapon branch of First Bank was attacked and its window panes vandalised as they surged forward, threatening to set it ablaze.
Anti – riot police despatched to the scene fired several gunshots to disperse them from the bank premises but the protesters soon regrouped and returned in greater number as the policemen moved to another boiling points at the state capital.
Traders and other business operators who had opened for the day hurriedly shut down and fled the areas even as schools hurriedly closed.
The police spokesman in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, who confirmed the protest, said officers had been despatched already to monitor the situation, secure lives and property.
Oyeyemi, a Superintendent of Police (SP) said a group of boys were involved, stressing that the command was studying the protesters to know whether they’re Okada riders or not.
The Daily Crucible reports that Governor Dapo Abiodun had on Monday, paid an unscheduled visit to the Abeokuta branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria to seek relief on the amounts that citizens could withdraw in exchange for deposits made in commercial banks.
The governor also offered to lend members of his cabinet to monitor cash distribution to banks to ensure that no commercial bank or their agents hoard the new naira notes in the state.
Abiodun who later met with Bankers Forum, made up of managers of commercial banks in the state, also extracted a commitment from both the CBN and commercial banks to make cash available to bank customers from Tuesday.
But the situation did not change for better on Tuesday.
According to the governor, it is disappointing to see long queues of residents at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), waiting to cash money from the system with so much stress and some not getting enough to meet their immediate needs.
He added that it is humiliating that those who were attended to were paid not more than two thousand naira per transaction.
Abiodun, however, urged the CBN to ensure the availability of new notes at commercial banks for people to withdraw their money.
The governor explained that he was compelled to visit the state branch of the CBN as the “landlord to find out how we can collaborate to ensure that success of the CBN policy on the new notes and currency swap”.
“I’ve met with the President and CBN governor. It is within the right of the CBN by law and as enshrined in the Constitution.
“Our people went out in their numbers but our people who deposited money and felt they would have as much money as they had deposited or need for their daily needs and welfare and wellbeing.
“We’ve had to suspend our campaigns. I met with people over the weekend who said to me that they have not eaten for days, especially, those from the informal sector.
“As a governor, whose primary function is the welfare and security of our people, I need to find out how we can interact with you to see how we can improve on the current level of distribution of the currency in order to diffuse tension”, Abiodun submitted.
The governor who appealed to the youths in the state not to embark on any civil unrest, noted that such actions would only shut down the economy of the state and make things much more difficult.
“I want to use this medium to talk to our youths that when there is a problem, the solution is not to hit the streets and to start protest marches; we can not solve a problem with another problem.
“I want to plead with our youths that rather than sending social media announcements of impending disobedience around town, they should embrace peace. We are a very peaceful state; we are very orderly and we have spent a lot of time and energy to invest in that peace and security.
“You cannot because of this problem now want to begin to hit the street to shut down the system and commercial activities.”
Earlier in his remarks, the state controller of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Wahab Oseni pleaded with the people to exercise patience.
He assured the people of the state that they will start having access to more cash as from tomorrow, Tuesday, February 7th, 2023.
Oseni while noting that the Ogun State branch of the bank has enough cash to distribute among commercial banks in the state, disclosed that the bank has come up with a plan that would see 40% cash disbursed to money agents, 30% paid across the counter and 30% paid through the Automatic Teller Machine.
He also added that Microfinance banks in the state have also been added to the plan of cash disbursement across the country.
At the meeting were representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria from Lagos and Abuja, Mr Adefuye Adeyemi and Mr Kayode Makinde while assuring the good people of the state that the situation will improve Tuesday noted that the bank would ensure full compliance by commercial banks on the disbursement of cash.
Both the controller and the State government team led by Gov. Abiodun later had a session with commercial bank executives in his office to on modalities agreed with the apex bank to ease the naira scarcity facing the people.