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Old Notes Circulation: CBN Begins Monitoring Today, Banks Set Two-Week Target

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The Central Bank of Nigeria on Thursday began the disbursement of old naira notes to Deposit Money Banks as government authorities stepped up efforts to end the biting currency scarcity that has inflicted pain on millions of bank customers nationwide.

The central bank had directed DMBs to pick old N1,000, N500, and N200 notes at its offices across the country for onward disbursements to customers, following a meeting between the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and bank chief executive officers on Wednesday.

It was gathered that commercial banks got old naira notes from CBN offices across the country on Thursday.

Multiple bank sources including CEOs and top executives confirmed to The PUNCH that the apex bank released old notes to banks.

“I can confirm to you that we received old notes from the CBN today, we also received a memo from the central bank to this effect,” the CEO of a commercial bank said under anonymity.

Also, a general manager at a tier-2 bank told one of our correspondents that the lender got some old notes from the central bank on Thursday.

“The CBN has started giving us old notes. However, it will take some time for the currency to circulate,” a top official of a mid-size bank confirmed on Thursday.

However, top bank officials said it would take about two weeks for the situation to normalize, adding that bank queues might not disappear until later next week.

They also hope to pay N500,000 per customer by next week.

“The situation will not normalise immediately. The impact will begin to be felt on Friday. Overall, things should normalise between one and two weeks,” a top bank executive said under anonymity.

Bank workers union also said the situation might not normalize immediately.

Also, the National President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, Mr Olusoji Oluwole, said, “Until recently, the volume of the old currency released to banks has been minimal. This coupled with panic withdrawal by customers, and the restriction of daily withdrawal limits by the CBN has caused continued rationing. However, with the announcement yesterday by the CBN to pump more cash into the system, we hope the pressure will ease by next week if the CBN keeps to this promise.”

However, findings by The PUNCH showed that only a few banks began disbursements on Thursday. It was learnt that several bank branches got the funds from the CBN very late. As such, they could not begin the disbursement.

But the CBN has reportedly concluded plans to dispatch a team of officials to monitor compliance on the part of banks.

It was gathered that the apex bank officials would monitor banks in Lagos, Abuja and other  cities with a view to enforcing proper disbursement of the old notes collected from the CBN.

Top officials of the bank were said to have been directed to ensure the speedy recirculation  of the old naira notes, hence the monitoring exercise.

NLC meets CBN

Delegates from the CBN on Thursday met with  Nigeria Labour Congress over the planned protest due to the scarcity of naira notes in the country.

The meeting,  which took place at the Labour House in Abuja, was attended by the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and a deputy governor of the CBN.

The congress disclosed this in a post on its official Facebook page. The post read, “Congress President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, received in audience a delegation of the Central Bank of Nigeria led by the deputy governor.”

The NLC  had said it would on Wednesday next week embark on a nationwide strike over the scarcity of cash in the country. Ajaero gave the directive during a media briefing in Abuja.

When asked by one of our correspondents on Thursday evening if the strike would still go ahead despite the meeting with the CBN officials, Ajaero said, “The strike will hold until the situation in the country normalises.”

Meanwhile, a reliable source who was privy to the meeting explained that the CBN said it had  disbursed N20bn  to banks nationwide, adding that banks in Lagos got N4bn while the lenders in Abuja received N2bn.

Our correspondent was also informed that the CBN promised to continue disbursing more money to the banks to address the scarcity of cash caused by the CBN naira redesign policy.

The source said, “We are not going to rely on what they told us that they are pushing; we all go to banks. The Director of Operations came to meet with us  this evening. They said based on our complaints and ultimatum, they have redoubled efforts. Today, they said they released about N2bn to banks in Abuja and about N4bn to banks in Lagos. They released nothing less than N20bn today across the country. They intend to do that consistently for a period to ensure that there is a relief.

“We told them they needed to redouble their efforts to stave off our action. If they pump money consistently, then there would be no need for our actions. Are we just looking for a fight? The ministry of labour will also meet with us on Monday.”

Bank queues persist

It was gathered that banks were still rationing cash in their custody despite the CBN latest directive on the release of old N1,000 and N500 notes.

Branches in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun State, and other major cities indicated that Nigerians were still facing hardship with accessing cash from banks.

At the Union Bank of Nigeria Plc branch in Mazamaza along the old Ojo Road, Lagos State, cash was only dispensed over-the-counter, while Automated Teller Machines were not loaded.

It was the same situation at the First Bank of Nigeria branch at Mazamaza bus stop. Customers were only able to get a little cash via the counter.

However, at the Access Bank Plc branch on the same road, customers could not access cash via ATMs and over-the-counter as of 3:45 pm on Thursday.

In the Ojodu-Berger area of Lagos State, our correspondent visited four banks.  A large crowd of customers waiting to access cash were seen at the First Bank branch on Ogunnusi Road.

Bank personnel at the branches said only customers seeking to do forex-related transactions were being attended to. Upon further inquiry, our correspondent was told that the bank would soon commence over-the-counter payments, but would only pay each customer the sum of N5,000 per withdrawal.

Union Bank and Ecobank branches located in the area shut their gates due to a lack of cash to disburse to their customers.

At the Guaranty Trust Bank at Oke-Afa-Ejigbo area of Lagos State, ATMs were not loaded. However, customers were being attended to inside the banking hall with each customers getting N20,000.

The Union Bank at Ikotun did not load its ATMs. It however paid customers N20,000 over-the-counter.

The FCMB branch at the Oke Afa-Ejigbo area also closed its gate to customers. The bank wasn’t attending to any customers.

Abuja banks

Some banks in the Federal Capital Territory did not release cash to their customers despite the directive by the apex bank.

Banks along the Abuja airport road claimed not to have received the old notes from the regulator when our correspondent visited the place around 2:30pm on Thursday.

Bank officials were, however, optimistic that the regulator would release more cash to them on Friday (today).

They include Stanbic IBTC, Zenith Bank and GTBank.

But a bank official said, “We didn’t receive allocation today but we are hoping it will be resolved by tomorrow”

However, at Zenith Bank,.Central Area, select customers were allowed to withdraw as much as N50,000, with the bank promising to increase distribution on Friday (today).

A bank employee in the United Bank of Africa’s office, Alagbako branch, Akure area of Ondo State, noted that they had started receiving money from CBN.

He said, “We have started getting money from CBN, our ATMs are also working.

“We have been paying over the counter, like today we still disbursed N20,000, however, it  might change tomorrow to a higher amount tomorrow.”

In the same vein, a Zenith Bank employee working at the Lagos head office noted that they had been paying N10,000 over the counter.

He said, “I heard CBN has started disbursing old Naira notes to banks across the nation, I am not sure if Zenith has received yet.

“We are currently paying 10,000 Naira across the counter to customers, and our ATMs are currently paying.”

An Access Bank employee who works in the head office in Lagos asserted that CBN had started making payments to banks, however, it had been in trickles.

He said, “I am currently at the Idimu branch of Accsss bank around the Alimosho area of Lagos, CBN is not disbursing old notes as much, it has been very little, far less than they should be giving, hence insufficient. However, this depends on each bank’s volume.”

According to him, most banks do not even have cash yet.

He added, “Most banks around the Alimosho area of Lagos have been unable to access cash from CBN.

“I feel CBN is not deliberately giving a lot of cash, it is either they do not have or the cash policy limit. However, the situation has not improved.”

Meanwhile, a First Bank employee working in the Akure branch of Ondo State, said they had not gotten any cash yet from CBN.

 

Credit: The Punch

BIG STORY

Report Excessive Price Increases, Unscrupulous Exploitation Of Consumers — FCCPC Urges Nigerians

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The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has said that business that engage in price-fixing will face swift legal action.

It called attention to the burden that this practice places on the financial security and well-being of consumers and exhorted them to denounce such acts.

This was revealed by the FCCPC in a statement that was published on its official X (formerly known as Twitter) handle on Sunday.

The statement read, “The FCCPC acknowledges that the rising cost of essential goods impacts consumers’ well-being and economic stability.

“While we recognise that the commission cannot directly control prices, we are committed to safeguarding consumers’ interests and ensuring fair market practices, necessitating fair pricing.

“Arbitrary price increases stemming from untoward practices like price gouging and conspiracy to manipulate supply violate existing laws.

“The commission will not hesitate to invoke Section 17(s) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) 2018 against any perpetrator of such acts. This section prohibits obnoxious trade practices and unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.”

The statement urged Nigerians to stay vigilant and report any unfair trade practices they encounter.

It added, “We encourage consumers to remain vigilant and report unfair trade practices to the FCCPC.

“Consumers can provide details, including the conduct, location of perpetrators, and other relevant information for investigation, through [email protected].

“The FCCPC remains committed to promoting fair competition, protecting consumers, and fostering a regulated marketplace. We appreciate citizens’ vigilance and encourage active participation in reporting any violations.”

Earlier report in February had it that FCCPC closed a popular supermarket in the Garki area of Abuja, Sahad Store, for lack of transparency in products pricing.

Similarly, it also encouraged electricity consumers to report distribution companies that failed to comply with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers.

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NLC, TUC Demand N615,000 Minimum Wage For Workers In Fresh Proposal

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Organised labour, comprising the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), has made a fresh demand of N615,000 as the new minimum wage for workers in the country.

According to The Punch, an impeccable source, who is an executive of organised labour, under anonymity, said that the new wage of N615,000 monthly was reached after consultations by the NLC and TUC.

The source, who was a member of one of the sub-committees set up by the government to work on getting a new minimum wage for the country, however, said the wage might still increase, following the recent hike in electricity tariff.

Furthermore, the source said, “We (NLC and TUC) have given our figures to the government (on the minimum wage), and it is N615,000. That is the position of the NLC and TUC on the matter. The government has been informed as well.”

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, had on January 30, set up a 37-member panel at the Council Chamber of the State House in Abuja.

With its membership cutting across federal and state governments, the private sector, and organised labour, the panel was tasked with recommending a new national minimum wage.

At the inaugural meeting of the panel, Shettima urged members to ‘speedily’ arrive at a resolution, and submit their reports early as the current N30,000 minimum wage expired at the end of March 2024.

Chairing the panel is a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Bukar Aji, who, at the inauguration ceremony, affirmed that its members would come up with a ‘fair, practical, implementable and sustainable’ minimum wage.

The inauguration followed months of agitation from organised labour over the FG’s failure to inaugurate the new national minimum wage committee as promised during negotiations last October.

From the government’s side, members include the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, representing the Minister of Labour and Employment; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, who was represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Lydia Jafiya; the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu; Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Yemi Esan; and Permanent Secretary, GSO/OSGF, Dr Nnamdi Mbaeri, among others.

Representing the Nigeria Governors Forum are Mohammed Bago of Niger State, representing the North Central; Senator Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, representing the North East; Umar Radda of Katsina State, representing the North West; Charles Soludo of Anambra State, representing the South East; Senator Ademola Adeleke of Osun State, for the South West; and Otu Bassey of Cross River State, on behalf of the South-South.

From the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association is the Director-General of the association, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde; Chuma Nwankwo, Thompson Akpabio; as well as members from the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, including Michael Olawale-Cole, Ahmed Rabiu, and Humphrey Ngonadi.

From organised labour, the Nigeria Labour Congress is represented by its president, Joe Ajaero; as well as President of the TUC, Festus Osifo; and his deputy, Tommy Etim-Okon, among others.

Ajaero had announced N1m as the new minimum wage, owing to the rising inflation in the country which, according to him, had pushed many of his members into poverty.

This led to several controversies, with some experts stating that the wage was unrealisable or sustainable.

However, in an interview with one of our correspondents, another labour leader stated that the NLC and TUC had pegged the new wage at N615,000 tentatively.

Asked if the May 1 deadline was still on course, the labour leader said, “What I want you to know is that we are doing our best. Both the TUC and NLC have harmonised, and they have sent their position to the government.

“We are in the process. Be assured that once anything happens, I will, as usual, inform you. That is all I can tell you for now, because we have not met; even though we have submitted our unified positions to the Federal Government. We will be speaking with one voice.

“But, let me also hint you that with the removal of the electricity tariff subsidy, we are going to have another round of serious conversations with the government. Mind you, the tariff increase is also very good for us, because they (the government) did it when the new minimum wage process had not been concluded. So, it is going to be a good ground for us to ask for more.

“Our position will be defended based on the new price of N225 per kWh of electricity. Although we (the government and Labour) are not in agreement, we are waiting to meet and decide on the next point of action.”

The source added, “This is because if you look at the Electricity Act, it canvassed a position that before any increase at all, there must be stakeholders’ engagement. However, the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission unilaterally imposed the removal of the electricity tariff on the consumers, without recourse to stakeholders. That is in total defiance to the provisions of the Act.

“These are the issues that will be in the front burner of our next negotiation with the Federal Government.

“The new tariff will also give us another strategy to press the government on the need to move the minimum wage upward. This is because the government has not announced any new minimum wage yet, as we are still negotiating.

“As I said, the NLC and TUC have harmonised positions, which we have sent to the government. It is even now that the negotiation will start properly. All that we have done so far was to try to lay the foundation, and now that we have come up with our positions, the government will also come up with their own. We will then start a fresh negotiation.”

  • Economists Differ

Reacting, a professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, said, “If internationally, they say there is poverty in Nigeria, what they mean is that Nigerians are earning less than two dollars per day. If you want to fix the minimum wage to end poverty, what you should do is fix the minimum wage above that.

“Whatever the labour unions have presented to the Federal Government is for negotiation and to serve as a benchmark. It is left for the Federal Government to negotiate.

“There is a law that has been established to make them comply. But, they (state governments) decide to flout the law. When it is agreed as minimum wage, that is what the private and public sectors should pay. If they don’t pay, they should be taken to court.”

A professor of Microeconomics at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Adeola Adenikinju, noted that while the Federal Government would bear a significant burden, it was imperative to recognise the involvement of state governments and the private sector in the implementation of the new minimum wage.

Adenikinju, who is also the President of the Nigerian Economic Society, harped on the importance of acknowledging the diverse economic landscapes across states, suggesting that a uniform minimum wage might not be feasible, due to varying levels of affordability.

He said, “The proposed minimum wage by the NLC should be looked at. It is not only the Federal Government that is going to pay this. The state government and private sector are also involved.

“It must be noted that the minimum wage varies by state, as some states are richer than others.”

In a similar vein, another economist, Paul Alaje, explained that there was a high possibility of President Bola Tinubu declaring between N100,000 and N200,000 as the minimum wages for both the private and public sectors if the exchange rate of naira improved to N1,000 per dollar by May.

He added that 30 out of the 36 states would struggle and might not align with the payment of the new minimum wage if it was pegged at N615,000.

According to him, getting special assistance from the Federal Government and intervention funds from international communities should be tied to states having zero clearance of previous salaries.

He also stated while the proposed minimum wage might not be so much of a challenge for the Federal Government and six states, the other 30 states will struggle to pay that amount.”

 

Credit: The Punch

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New National ID Card To Be Issued Through Banks — FG

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) states that applicants’ banks will provide them with the anticipated national ID card.

In order to provide the cards to applicants, NIMC stated that it is collaborating with the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS).

“The card will be issued through the applicants’ respective banks in line with existing protocols with the issuance of the Debit/Credit cards,” the agency said in a Friday update on its official X (formerly known as Twitter) handle.

It said applicants need to request their cards with their NIN “through the self-service online portal, NIMC offices, or their respective banks”.

“The card will be powered by the AFRIGO card scheme, an indigenous scheme powered by NIBSS,” NIMC said.

“The card can be picked up by holders at the designated center or delivered to the applicants at the requested location at an extra cost to be borne by the applicants,” the update read.

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