Banks peg withdrawal limit at N50, 000 per transaction
• POS operators limit withdrawal to N10, 000 per card, hike charges by 100%
• Operators charge N500 per N5000 withdrawal in Delta
There are troubling signs from many parts of the country that the cash crunch that grounded the economy at the start of this year is making a comeback as customers are finding it hard to get cash from banks.
This has forced POS operators to also limit the amount each customer can withdraw at a time while also hiking withdrawal charges by as much as 100 per cent in many places.
This is coming on the heels of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) announcement last month that the old naira notes remain legal tender indefinitely and should be used alongside the new ones.
Panicky bank depositors have called on the CBN Governor, Yemi Cardoso, to prevail on commercial banks to give them access to their savings. A visit by The Guardian to some commercial banks in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), yesterday, revealed that withdrawal limits of between N10, 000 and N50, 000 have been imposed by many banks.
Most banks battled with large crowds of customers in their premises. Some were prevented from entering the banking halls, which were equally filled up.
Inquiries revealed that banks are currently rationing available cash because according to them, they do not have enough to go around.
At a tier-one bank in Bwari, Abuja, where none of the ATM terminals was dispensing cash, customers were made to take numbers and wait for their turn before accessing the banking hall, similar to what happened earlier this year. Inside the banking hall, some of the customers who had earlier filled withdrawal forms for cash above the N50, 000 limit were asked to adjust their requests as they could not get more than the limit.
A customer, who identified himself as Ibrahim, told The Guardian that the N50, 000 was even an improvement because between Monday and Wednesday, the limit at the branch was N20,000. He said it was painful that he spent many hours waiting only to receive less cash than what he needed.
The situation was the same at another old generation bank in the area, but with less crowd and only one of its ATM terminals dispensing. However, the limit was N50, 000 per day.
Customers, who expressed disappointment that they were being forced to take less cash than they needed, wondered why this was happening again, especially with the festive season just three weeks away.
They accused the banks of hoarding cash and called on the CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, to intervene and save them from unnecessary hardship.
The situation was the same in some areas of Lagos. Banks on Ire-Akari and Okota roads in Isolo area of Lagos had huge crowds outside.
None of the ATM terminals were dispensing cash and when asked if there was cash scarcity, the bank staff said it was temporary.
POS operators around the banks, however, had cash but limited withdrawals to N10, 000 per card and hiked their charges. Charges on N5, 000 withdrawal was increased from N100 to N200.
Speaking with The Guardian, a customer pleaded with the government to prevent what happened earlier this year from happening again.
“Let us cry out now and beg them. The little we have, let us even see it to eat. We suffered a lot during the cash swap era at the beginning of this year. What do they say is the problem now?” she pleaded.
Some residents of Agbor, Delta state, also said they have been experiencing cash scarcity for over two months now, saying the situation has, instead of improving, gone from bad to worse.
A resident, who identified himself as Augustine Ebor, said banks have not been giving cash for almost two months and that they are at the mercy of POS operators who have limited withdrawals to N5000 per customer and impose a fee of N500 per transaction.
The CBN has not responded officially to the emerging crisis. But sources in the bank attributed the challenge to forthcoming celebration, dismissing it as a trend.