Many Nigerians have been left completely frustrated with the scarcity of naira notes plaguing the country.
“If you don’t have new notes, abeg ‘comot for’ (leave) this bus,” the driver announced as he put his head through the window and counted how many seats were still vacant.
And that was when the arguments began. Some passengers refused to alight, the bus driver refused to move. The park officials tried to intervene but it only resulted in more shouting.
“If you were selling pap like that woman over there, will you reject the money?” a female passenger said as she hissed and alighted.
“We need to be pitying ourselves as fellow masses in this country. Will you take transfer?” a man wearing a white shirt tucked into black trousers shouted to the driver who was walking away.
That was Wednesday morning.
Two days later, it has been a mix of confusion, frustration, curses, and extortion, following the federal government’s announcement on the validity of the old naira notes.
On Wednesday, the supreme court adjourned the hearing on the suit challenging the restriction of the use of the old naira notes.
The supreme court had temporarily restrained the federal government from implementing a deadline on the use of the old naira notes. However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has insisted on the deadline, and asked Nigerians to swap their old notes for new ones.
In a televised broadcast on Thursday morning, President Muhammadu Buhari added a new twist — the old N200 notes will remain legal tender until April 10 , but the restriction on the use of the old N500 and N1,000 notes remains in force.
However, before Buhari’s Thursday announcement, there had been panic deposits at banks, hike in charges by Point of Sale (POS) operators, clashes over the rejection of the old notes, protests, as well as attacks on banks and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in some states.
The opposing directives — supreme court ruling and Buhari’s address — have been followed by varying reactions, with service providers now rejecting the old notes, in some cases, even the old N200 note.
‘WHO HAS TIME TO GO TO CBN?’
Following the president’s address on Thursday morning, commercial drivers and okada riders in parts of the country rejected the old N500 and N1,000 notes.
Some drivers who spoke to TheCable on why they were rejecting the old notes said spending them would be difficult as filling stations and banks were rejecting them.
“Government expects me to take the money to the CBN office in Lagos? With my kind of job? Who has that kind of time? I have to reject the notes because it’s also not accepted to buy items within my area when I get home,” a driver plying the Berger-Ikeja route said.
In some cases, an increase in the fare was announced as a condition for accepting the old naira notes.
Another driver, who spoke on the reason for the rejection, said “government is wicked”, adding that he collected the old notes on Wednesday but is shocked that by Thursday morning, the N500 and N1,000 notes cannot be spent following the president’s address.
N2k EXTRA FOR AIRPORT TAXI TRIP PAID WITH BANK TRANSFER
At the Muritala Muhammad international airport in Lagos on Wednesday, airport taxi operators rejected the old notes, and charged as high as N2,000 extra for persons paying via bank transfer, while for Bolt trips, for a fare listed as between N4,500 and N5,200 on the mobile app, the driver demanded N10,000.
In Niger state, the situation was no different as traders, commercial tricycle operators rejected the old naira notes.
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, transporters and traders who had accepted the old naira notes on Wednesday, rejected them on Thursday evening.
‘I CAN’T TAKE THE RISK OF COLLECTING THEM’
In the Denro area of Ogun state, tricycle operators and okada riders were adamant about the rejection of the old notes.
A trader at Akute area of Ogun state, who identified herself simply as Alhaja, said: “I can’t collect the old notes because I can’t spend them. The matter is confusing. Supreme court said one thing, Buhari is saying another. I’ll rather not take the risk of accepting them.”
In Abuja, food sellers, shop owners, POS operators were also not left out as they rejected the old notes.
At Mabushi market, behind the office of the federal ministry of power, works and housing, traders and POS operators rejected the old notes.
“Even if I accept the old notes, I don’t know where to take them to because banks or shops won’t accept them, and I don’t even know where to start from when it comes to taking them to the CBN,” a POS operator in the area said.
A REIGN OF EXTORTION
The scarcity of new notes has also resulted in extortion, with POS operators charging as high as N500 per N1,000 for persons who want to withdraw the new notes.
Meanwhile, in Abuja, a POS operator who accepted the old notes charged “commission”. For every deposit of N10,000 in old notes, the charge was N2,000.