Following the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigerians should take old N500 and N1000 notes to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), many thronged offices of the apex bank across the nation on Friday.
As early as 1am, people had lined up in front of the CBN office in Marina, Lagos, where there was an uncontrollable crowd.
Someone who got there at 6am said he was given tag number 406, meaning over 400 persons were in the queue earlier.
A Kaduna resident, Badamasi Aliyu, told Daily Trust that he was forced to relocate to a hotel close to the CBN office the night before so he could get there early enough.
However, Aliyu, who got to the CBN office at 3am, said he was given number 134 tag.
When the exercise got seemingly out of hand and the bank officials found it difficult to control the crowd that kept increasing with time, people were asked to return to their respective Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to store old notes.
The CBN subsequently issued a directive to commercial banks to start collecting old N500 and N1000 notes.
“I am directed to convey Management of Central Bank of Nigeria directive that, all Deposit Money Banks to commence collection of old naira notes of N1000 and N500 from their customers with immediate effect.
“Please note that customers with amount of up to N500,000.00 and below can deposit into their bank account with their commercial bank. Any customer with amount more than N500,000.00 should be directed to CBN for deposit.
“Kindly comply accordingly. Thank you,” the CBN memo sighted by Daily Trust, addressed to Branch/Operational Managers of banks read.
To verify the authenticity of the memo, journalists had reached out to Osita Nwasinobi, Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, who confirmed that the directive was clear.
Moments after Nwasinobi confirmed the development, the report went viral on social media. Some Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief, saying they would move to their banks the next day.
Meanwhile, commercial banks had issued public noticed to customers to bring old notes, with effect from Saturday.
“Dear Valued Customer,
This is to inform you that our branches shall receive old N500 and N1000 notes of up to a maximum of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) after registration on the CBN portal. Please note that deposits of more than N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) should be taken to the nearest CBN location.
“In addition, our branches will be open tomorrow, Saturday 18 February 2023 to receive old notes,” a notice issued by one bank read.
However, in less than an hour, Nwasinobi issued a statement claiming that the CBN did not authorise banks to accept old notes.
He not only reversed himself but accused the media of spreading falsehood.
“The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria has been drawn to some fake and unauthorized messages quoting the CBN as having authorized the Deposit Money Banks to collect the old N500 and N1,000 Banknotes.
“For the avoidance of doubt, and in line with Mr. President’s broadcast of February 16, 2023, the CBN has been directed to ONLY reissue and recirculate the old N200 banknotes and this is expected to circulate as legal tender for 60 days up to April 10, 2023. Members of the public should therefore disregard any message and/or information not formally released by the Central Bank of Nigeria on this subject,” his statement read.
While the media was taking the heat as a result of wrong labelling by the CBN spokesman, commercial banks who had posted the notice on social media started pulling them down, triggering confusion.
A bank official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “I don’t understand their denials. The communication is genuine. Banks received the same directive from CBN. We are even directed to work Saturday and Sunday except on election weekend.”
A customer who had earlier filled the portal ahead of depositing old naira notes showed a message he received from CBN, directing him to go to Stanbic IBTC bank to deposit the money which was less than the amount being collected at CBN branches.
“The total amount you have specified is less than or equal to #500,000. Kindly note that you are required to take the notes to your specified deposit money bank (STANBIC IBTC BANK PLC),” read the message from CBN.
Efforts made to reach Nwasinobi for further comments did not yield result at the time of filing this report as his line rang out.