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‘Who has time to go to CBN?’ — frustration, extortion as transporters, traders reject old naira notes

‘Who has time to go to CBN?’ — frustration, extortion as transporters, traders reject old naira notes
February 17
09:57 2023

“If you don’t have new notes, abeg ‘comot for’ (leave) this bus,” the driver announced as he put his head through the window and counted how many seats were still vacant.

And that was when the arguments began. Some passengers refused to alight, the bus driver refused to budge. The park officials tried to intervene but it only resulted in more shouting.

“If you were selling pap like that woman over there, will you reject the money?” a female passenger said as she hissed and alighted.

“We need to be pitying ourselves as fellow masses in this country. Will you take transfer?” a man wearing a white shirt tucked into black trousers shouted to the driver who was walking away.


That was Wednesday morning at the Berger garage in Lagos state.

Two days later, it has been a mix of confusion, frustration, curses, and extortion, following the federal government’s announcement on the validity of the old naira notes.

On Wednesday, the supreme court adjourned the hearing on the suit challenging the restriction on the old naira notes.


The supreme court had temporarily restrained the federal government from implementing a deadline on the use of the old naira notes. However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has insisted on the deadline.

In a televised broadcast on Thursday morning, President Muhammadu Buhari added a new twist — the old N200 notes will remain legal tender until April 10 , but the restriction on the use of the old N500 and N1,000 notes remains in force.

You can read Buhari’s full speech here.

However, before Buhari’s Thursday announcement, there had been panic deposits at banks, hike in charges by Point of Sale (POS) operators, clashes over the rejection of the old notes, protests, as well as attacks on banks and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in some states.


The opposing directives — supreme court ruling and Buhari’s address — have been followed by varying reactions, with service providers now rejecting the old notes, and in some cases, even the old N200 note.


Following the president’s address on Thursday morning, commercial drivers and okada riders in parts of the country rejected the old N500 and N1,000 notes.

Some drivers who spoke to TheCable in Lagos on why they were rejecting the old notes said spending them would be difficult as filling stations and banks were rejecting them.


“Government expects me to take the money to the CBN office in Lagos? With my kind of job? Who has that kind of time? I have to reject the notes because it’s also not accepted to buy items within my area when I get home,” a driver plying the Berger-Ikeja route said.

In some cases, an increase in the fare was announced as a condition for accepting the old naira notes.


Another driver plying the Agege-Oshodi route in Lagos, who spoke on the reason for the rejection of the old notes, said “government is wicked”, adding that he collected the old notes on Wednesday but is shocked that by Thursday morning, the N500 and N1,000 notes cannot be spent following the president’s address.



At the Muritala Muhammad international airport in Lagos on Wednesday, airport taxi operators rejected the old notes, and charged as high as N2,000 extra for persons paying via bank transfer, while for Bolt trips, for a fare listed as between N4,500 and N5,200 on the mobile app, the driver demanded N10,000.

In Niger state, the situation has been no different as traders, commercial tricycle operators continue to reject the old naira notes.


In Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, transporters and traders who had accepted the old naira notes on Wednesday, rejected them on Thursday evening.


In parts of Ogun state, traders, tricycle operators and okada riders were adamant about the rejection of the old notes.

A trader at Akute area of Ogun state, who identified herself simply as Alhaja, said: “I can’t collect the old notes because I can’t spend them. The matter is confusing. Supreme court said one thing, Buhari is saying another. I’ll rather not take the risk of accepting them.”

In Abuja, food sellers, shop owners, POS operators were also not left out as they rejected the old notes.

At Mabushi market, behind the office of the federal ministry of power, works and housing, traders and POS operators rejected the old notes.

“Even if I accept the old notes, I don’t know where to take them to because banks or shops won’t accept them, and I don’t even know where to start from when it comes to taking them to the CBN,” a POS operator in the area said.


The scarcity of new notes has also resulted in extortion, with POS operators charging as high as N500 per N1,000 for persons who want to withdraw the new notes.

Meanwhile, in Abuja, a POS operator who accepted the old notes charged “commission”. For every deposit of N10,000 in old notes, the charge was N2,000.

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