Lagos residents have voiced dissatisfaction over the inability to make cash withdrawals for transactions, attributing it to banks' reluctance to load Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) with enough cash.
Further inquiries by Legit.ng have shown that some commercial banks have curtailed customers' withdrawal limits despite the proximity of the Yuletide season, which is usually marked by increased spending.
Numerous customers have lamented their inability to withdraw required amounts in person, citing insufficient cash availability in many banks across the state.
In November, Legit.ng reported a resurgence of cash scarcity in some states including Ekiti, Gombe, Edo and Sokoto despite the assurances of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that it has enough cash in its vaults.
Cash shortage despite Supreme Court ruling
The predicament intensified during the weekend when most ATMs visited proved either non-functional or limited the cash a customer could withdraw, as the banks had failed to replenish them with money.
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It remains unclear why there is a cash shortage despite the Supreme Court's recent ruling that the old and newly redesigned naira notes will continue to serve as legal tender in the country.
This, however, has raised concern among customers as they expect that there should not be a cash shortage, given the anticipation that the system should witness an increase in cash circulation.
Some customers told Legit.ng that bank officials advised them to explore alternative channels to complete their pending transactions.
Banks set cash withdrawal limits
Some banks were noted to be functioning with insufficient cash reserves to fulfil the diverse requirements of their customers.
With the shortage in cash availability, the banks are rationing cash to customers, leading to widespread dissatisfaction.
Some customers who were fortunate to find ATMs dispensing cash faced a limit to the amount of cash they could withdraw.
As a result of the shortage, extensive queues of customers were observed at ATM locations.
At the Access Bank ATM stand on Okota road, the machine informed customers of the exhaustion of their withdrawal limit of only N40,000.
The ATM could only dispense N10,000 at a time, and after four transactions, a customer would be notified that they had reached their withdrawal limit.
The same thing was also observed at the Zenith Bank branch in Obafemi Awolowo Road, Ikeja, where customers could withdraw up to N40,000, and non-customers could only withdraw N20,000 cash.
Tunji Adewale, a bank customer who spoke with Legit.ng, said he was shocked when he was informed by the machine that he had exhausted his withdrawal limit after only withdrawing N40,000.
"It was quite surprising to me when the machine informed me that I could not make further withdrawal. I need cash to make some purchases today, but sadly, I can't get the amount of cash that I need."
The scarcity is not limited to ATMs; even over-the-counter transactions have become challenging.
Customers find themselves turned away and referred to the ATMs for withdrawals or restricted in the amount they can withdraw.
One customer, Susan Nsikan, told Legit.ng:
"I managed to get into the banking all, but I was referred to return to the ATM point for withdrawals. But there is already a long queue there."
PoS operators unable to access cash too
According to the information gathered, various operators in the Point-of-Sale sector were adversely affected as they encountered challenges in obtaining adequate cash from both banks and ATMs for the smooth operation of their businesses.
Julie Ukpa, a PoS operator in the Oshodi area, complained that she has not been getting as much cash as she usually does for her business in the last few days.
"The amount of cash that I had with me was exhausted in a few hours from customers who had come for withdrawals. Now, I need more cash, but I can't seem to find an ATM machine dispensing at the moment. And if you find any, you are sure to meet heavy queues.
Banks' response to cash shortage
Speaking anonymously with Legit.ng, a Fidelity Bank official in the Yaba area, confirmed the current scarcity of cash.
He attributed it to a shortfall in the supply of cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), given that cash demand usually heightens during the Yuletide season.
"Given that we are approaching the year-end, the demand is substantial, and we are working to strike a balance.
"Unfortunately, the CBN has not been supplying us with sufficient cash, particularly in the past few weeks amid the heightened demand.
"We understand the frustration of our customers, and we are working tirelessly to resolve the issue."
He, however, said that the bank's approach is to urge customers to explore alternative channels while providing them with the limited cash resources available on-site.
Another bank official, who also requested anonymity, informed Legit.ng that the shortage might be attributed to the hoarding of cash that has not yet been reintroduced into the economy.
"You know there was the matter of whether the Supreme Court would rule against the deadline for use of old naira notes or not. It is possible that some people may have decided to hoard some of the new notes and wait for the ruling of the court. This might actually be a reason for the low cash circulation in the system."
The present situation evokes memories of the difficulties Nigerians faced when the former CBN governor opted to withdraw old N200, N500, and N1000 notes, replacing them with newer versions in late 2022 and early 2023.
CBN orders banks to restrict accounts without BVN, NIN
In related news, Legit.ng reported that the CBN directed that all funded accounts without a Bank Verification Number and National Identification Number be restricted with no further transactions permitted from March 1, 2024.
This was disclosed in a circular to all commercial, merchant, non-interest and payment service banks and other financial institutions and mobile money operators.
The December 1, 2023 circular, which applies to all institutions regulated by the CBN, ordered banks to place a "Post No Debit or Credit" on any unfunded account.
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