By Kehinde Ibrahim, Lagos
THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reversed itself and directed banks to commence paying customers new Naira notes Over The Counter (OTC).
The apex bank said the order was to reduce queues around Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) across the country.
A statement from CBN’s Director Corporate Communication Osita Nwanisobi, explained banks can only pay N20,000 of the new notes over the counter per day to individuals.
The statement reads: “The Govenor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has directed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to commence the payment of the redesigned Naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000”.
To ensure the effective distribution of the newly introduced naira banknotes, the CBN urged Nigerians “to exercise patience as the CBN is working assiduously to address the challenge of queues at ATMs”.
Speaking to the long queues at ATM points, Nwanisiobi lamented the queues at ATMs across the country “and an upward trend in the cases of people stocking and aggregating the newly introduced banknotes”.
He said these people “serially obtain cash from ATMs for reasons best known to them. Also worrisome are the reported cases of unregistered persons and non-bank officials swapping banknotes for members of the public, purportedly on behalf of the CBN”.
The CBN spokesman appealed to Nigerians “to embrace and adopt other payment channels for their transactions.
“There are moves now by the CBN and security agencies to go after party goers who abuse the Naira. In the same statement, Nwanisiobi said “it is unlawful to sell the Naira, hurl (spray), or stamp on the currency under any circumstance whatsoever” describing those engaging in these practices as “unpatriotic persons”.
The CBN particularly frowned at those “who sell the newly redesigned banknotes and those who flagrantly abuse the legal tender by hurling wads of Naira notes in the air and stamping on the currency at social functions”.
To stop this practice, Nwanisiobi said “the CBN is collaborating with the Nigeria Police, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to address the unpatriotic practice”.
He warned Nigerians, “particularly those at social functions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals, to desist from disrespecting the Naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies”.
According to him, “the Naira is our legal tender and symbol of national pride. Therefore, let us respect it and handle it with care”.
For emphasis, Nwanisiobi drew party goers’ attention to “section 21(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 (As amended) which stipulates that “spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under the law by fines or imprisonment or both.”
Also, Section 21(4) states that “It shall also be an offence punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in the Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank.”