Last Friday signaled the end of the official acceptance of old Naira notes by Nigerian banks as legal tenders. This followed an extension of the initial deadline of January 31 in the wake of chaos trailing the transition from the old to the new notes. But just like the case before the extension, the extension still could not produce any marked difference as the suffering of people remained the same.
Indeed, it was a period when many people had money in their accounts but found it difficult to convert to cash; no thanks to the attitude of banks and Point of Sale (POS) operators. Some banks were even hoarding money as was seen in Ogun State where officials of the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, discovered that a bank that collected N6m from them failed to disburse same to the public on flimsy excuses.
Some bank members of staff were also reportedly loading money into Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and taking a large chunk to give to their family, friends and even POS dealers for agreed sums, while customers queued up for long hours. This had led to a man slumping and dying inside one bank hall while waiting to collect cash.
There were also some dramatic scenes as in when a man removed his clothes and protested naked inside a bank. Another also removed his shorts and pants before he was taken inside by bank officials who cajoled him to calm down. Yet again there were reported cases of attacks on bank officials on their way home by angry Nigerians.
The POS dealers were not left out either as they charged arbitrarily, with many charging three thousand for every ten thousand Naira.
All this happened because of such factors as poor preparation and lack of emergency plans by the apex bank, as well as greed by bank officials and POS operators. It can be said that the just ended exercise brought out the worst in many Nigerians, all leading to the suffocation of the system.
As the country and her people recover from the trauma of the swapping of bank notes, it is expected that useful lessons have been learned from the mistakes that nearly marred the entire exercise.
Chief among the lessons should be to always make adequate contingency plans that will cushion the effects of any hardship on citizens, as well as to ensure that adequate monitoring of banks is emplaced. The trauma suffered by Nigerians during this period should not be repeated in the furture.