(Bloomberg) — Dozens of Nigerians queued at an ATM machine in the heart of the country’s commercial hub on Friday morning to get new higher denomination naira notes ahead of a Jan. 31 deadline that will render old bills expired.
The ATM belonging to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc was the only one dispensing the new notes on one of the busiest streets in the Victoria Island district of Lagos, where most of Nigeria’s banks have their head offices. Even then only one of six ATMs in the building was dispensing the new bills.
Four other banks within a block of the GTBank branch — First Bank Plc, Providus Bank, Keystone Bank and UBA Plc — all had ATMs that weren’t dispensing cash when a Bloomberg reporter visited around 11 a.m. on Friday morning.
“I have been to more than six ATMs today trying to get the new notes and none of the ATMs are paying,” Abibat Abdullahi said at a First Bank ATM on Adeola Odeku Street after being unable to withdraw the new notes. Her wallet contained old notes that she was unable to spend because many merchants are refusing to accept them.
“I want to use the money to buy food stuff and daily needs,” Abdullahi said. “I have children, they should help us.”
Business activities in Nigeria’s large informal sector, which runs mainly on cash, is grinding to a halt due to fear by traders they may not be able to exchange old bills for new ones by Tuesday. The new notes can only be collected from ATMs or swapped with the old ones from bank agents across the country.
The central bank has insisted that the deadline for the old notes to cease to be legal tender will not be extended despite calls from lawmakers to do so.
Speaker of Nigeria’s house of representatives Femi Gbajabiamila warned on Thursday that he would order the arrest of Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele if he fails to appear before lawmakers to explain shortages of the new currency.
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Africa’s most-populous nation started issuing redesigned 200-, 500-, and 1000-naira notes since mid-December to mop up excess cash sitting outside the banking system. Central Bank of Nigeria expects at least 2 trillion naira ($4.3 billion) of cash to return to banks by the deadline.