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HURIWA to CBN: Deliberate cash crunch human rights abuse

Civil Rights Advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, has accused the Central Bank of Nigeria of serial human rights violations through its deliberate and systemic failure to ensure the supply to deposit banks of adequate volumes of the Nigerian legal national currency to meet up with the demands of customers of these banks. 

 HURIWA said naira scarcity may also be a scam organised by the CBN, the commercial banks and ‘their POS foot-soldiers.’

 The group said such scam may be organised to maximise profits by attending to large numbers of dissatisfied bank customers who are starved of their deposits by their banks in the guise that there is no sufficient quantity of cash supplied to them by the CBN.

HURIWA maintained that the legal mandates and obligations of the Central Bank of Nigeria include the issuance of legal tender currency in all of Nigeria; maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the legal tender currency; promote a sound financial system in Nigeria and to act as banker and provide economic and financial advice to the Federal Government. 

The rights group is of the opinion that the ‘persistent and intentional scarcity’ of the Naira notes all across the nation and the illegal rationing of the available Naira notes by the commercial banks, demonstrates the appalling institutional and bureaucratic rot inside of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

It called on the Governor of the CBN,  Olayemi Michael Cardoso to put to an end “this serial and provocative human rights abuse being suffered by customers of commercial banks who can’t find enough cash for their transactions. 

“HURIWA is therefore worried that despite the CBN’s directives to the banks to continue to issue, accept old and redesigned naira banknotes, scarcity of the local currencies has persisted. From Lagos to Abuja, Calabar to Kaura Namoda, HURIWA has observed that banks continued to ration the naira notes to customers in the banking halls, while Automated Teller Machines were programmed to dispense limited cash.” 

“HURIWA observed that customers who went to the ATMs to withdraw cash were disappointed because they were not dispensing cash. In Abuja, all the commercial banks are only dispensing N20 cash per customer and this is a gross violation of the human rights of these customers because most of these customers are people that do cash transactions and moreover, the Internet systems of most banks don’t function optimally and this means medical emergency cases can’t be attended to and hundreds of thousands of patients who can’t meet up their payment schedules may be left to die. So the CBN is really pushing Nigerians to their early graves. How will traders and their customers who use cash transactions go on with their legitimate businesses or is this the way the Federal Government wants to starve millions of citizens to death?”

The rights group inquired from  some high profile officials of many banks in the nation’s capital why there was no cash for withdrawal, and they said the banks did not load cash into the machine even as  ATM’s were dispensing maximum of N5,000 to non-bank customers, while customers of the bank could withdraw up to N20,000.

In a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA has warned the Central Bank of Nigeria to ease the circulation of adequate Naira notes or millions of starving Nigerians who are denied access to their deposits in the commercial banks could stage a spontaneous uprising and revolts which may not augur well for the national security. “Any revolution of the hungry and dying masses will endanger the national security of Nigeria. This is why the President must act swiftly to force the CBN to carry out their legal mandates efficiently and ensure that adequate volumes of the legal tender of currency are made available to commercial banks and their customers.”

HURIWA dismissed the apprehension of operators who had linked the cash scarcity which commenced in recent weeks to fear that the banking regulator may ban some old denominations by year end, just as the civil society group said the Central Bank of Nigeria is failing in its primary supervisory roles to get the commercial banks to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria which relaxed the December 31st 2023 deadline indefinitely for the validity of the old Naira notes that were to be phased out under the immediate past administration. 

HURIWA dismissed as grossly insufficient, the insignificant effort to alleviate the fear of commercial banks and customers when the acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Sidi Hakama, in a statement, said, “Following the order of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, granting the prayer of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation to extend the use of old naira banknotes ad infinitum, the CBN has directed all its branches to continue to issue and accept all denominations of Nigerian banknotes, old and re-designed, to  and from Deposit Money Banks.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court ordered that the old versions of N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes shall continue to be legal tender, alongside the re-designed versions.”

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HURIWA has also condemned the administrative and enforcement failures of CBN to stop the illegal rationing of the available Naira notes by the commercial banks just as the rights group is asking President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the National Assembly to check this ugly development in the banking industry and investigate whether commercial bankers are colluding with POS operators to deliberately starve customers of cash to force them to pay high commissions to obtain the amount of cash equivalent they require from these POS operators.

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