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Concerns as banks begin cash rationing

Nigerians are becoming worried that deposit money banks (DMB) have resorted to rationing cash, raising concerns of cash scarcity experienced early last year. PAUL OKAH reports.

The first quarter of 2023 was not funny to Nigerians as they experienced hardship necessitated by cash scarcity as a result of the new bank notes introduced by the Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

It appears Nigerians will be heading to a near-repeat of the 2023 experiences as Deposit Money Banks (DMB) have resorted to rationing cash to customers in different parts of the country.

Investigation by Blueprint Weekend revealed that Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are no longer stocked to dispense cash to customers in several banks across the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other parts of the country.

Also, customers transacting over the counter hardly get up to N500,000 in cash as requests of such nature are often met halfway by tellers explaining they don’t have much cash and have to give half of the requested amount.

Ironically, point of sale (PoS) operators charge extra amount of money to supply cash to customers, leading to insinuations that DMBs deliberately ration cash in order for customers to patronize PoS operators, who allegedly work for bank officials.

Empty ATMs

Checks by our reporter showed that many banks no longer load their ATMs with cash or load them once a day and deliberately refuse to reload once the loaded ones are exhausted by customers.

When our reporter visited Zenith bank in Dusten Alhaji, Wednesday, none of the ATMs was dispensing cash, while frustrated customers had no option than to patronize PoS operators beside the bank or at Dutsen market, which is directly opposite the bank.

Similarly, when our reporter visited ATMs at GTB, Access, Firstbank, Unity, UBA and FCMB banks in Gwarinpa, none was dispensing cash as messages such as “unable to dispense cash,” “temporarily out of service,” or “service unavailable” flashed on the screens of the ATMs.

The same experience was recorded at Wema, Firstbank, UBA and Zenith banks at Bannex, while all the ATMs at Federal Secretariat were equally unavailable to dispense cash, except to make transfers or check account balance.

Nigerians express worry

Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a businessman, Ibrahim Abubabar, said he has not been able to withdraw from the ATM for weeks and expressed worry things may get out of hand.

He said: “I don’t know what is happening, but it seems we may experience another cash scarcity. Since last month, there is no time I will visit the ATM and get cash. It is always the same language of being unable to dispense cash and I will have to patronize the PoS operators because there are many transactions you cannot even do via bank transfer. Many of the local people I often purchase things from always prefer cash, while some are reluctant to accept transfer.

“During the Sallah, I had to pay a huge amount of money to withdraw from the PoS as I couldn’t withdraw from the ATM. I sincerely hope we are not heading for another cashless policy or cash scarcity like last year because it won’t be a funny experience. Whatever that is the case, I urge the CBN to intervene because it is no longer funny.

“The common allegation is that banks connive with PoS operators to create artificial scarcity so that the PoS operators will be dispensing cash and raking in thousands in charges, while making returns to banks as some staff have PoS stands. So, if that is the situation, I will urge the CBN to investigate the matter critically and punish erring bank branches because Nigerians are already going through a lot in this economy.”

Also speaking with our reporter, a civil servant, Mrs Regina Olakunle, said her bank reduced the amount she could withdraw per day to just N50,000 .

“It is difficult to get cash from the banks now, especially the ATM. I don’t really know what is happening because, before I could withdraw N100,000 to N200,000 over the counter from my bank, but I can only withdraw N50,000 now. The situation is so terrible that some banks will tell you it is only N10, 000 or N20, 000 they can pay over the counter,” she said.

PoS agent speaks

Speaking with our reporter, a PoS operator in Dutse-Bmuko, Mr Israel Edidiong, said he capitalizes on cash from depositors and traders to run his business as banks have not been giving him the needed amount.

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