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Okonjo-Iweala finally clear for WTO job as S’Korean candidate withdraws

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The coast is clear for Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to emerge as the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation as the South Korean candidate for the position, Yoo Myung-hee, has withdrawn her candidacy.

Yoo said at a press briefing in Seoul, “To speed up the consensus-building among the member countries on selecting a new director-general, I have decided to renounce my candidacy through close cooperation with the United States, our strong ally.

“Washington, which showed strong support for my candidacy, also respects the decision to step down from the race.”

The two women are the last candidates standing and the eventual winner will set a record as being the first female WTO DG.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had received the popular vote by a wide margin on October 28 but was not named DG because the US opposed her candidacy.

After the October 28, 2020, meeting, the WTO also said Okonjo-Iweala had the best chance of getting a consensus.

The US had said it favoured Yoo over Okonjo-Iweala because WTO is in dire need of reform and must be “led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”.

TheCable reported that there were speculations in some quarters that the US would change its stance after Joe Biden won the US election, defeating Donald Trump.

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BREAKING: CBN Issues fresh directive to banks on new naira notes

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed deposit money banks (DMBs) to commence the payment of the redesigned naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000.

The directive is coming on the heels of business grinding to a halt over the scarcity of the redesigned notes, having deposited old notes with the commercial banks.

The CBN reiterated its commitment to Nigerians to ensure the effective distribution of the newly introduced naira banknotes, urging them to exercise patience as the CBN is working assiduously to address the challenge of queues at ATMs.

The statement which was signed by the Director Corporate Communication, Osita Nwanisobi, said the CBN observed with grave concern, the activities of persons who sell the newly redesigned banknotes and those who flagrantly abuse the legal tender by hurling wads of naira notes in the air and stamping on the currency at social functions.

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Nwanisobi said: “We have equally noticed the queues at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) across the country and an upward trend in the cases of people stocking and aggregating the newly introduced banknotes they serially obtain from ATMs for reasons best known to them.

“Also worrisome are the reported cases of unregistered persons and non-bank officials swapping banknotes for members of the public, purportedly on behalf of the CBN.

“We wish to state unequivocally that, contrary to the practice of these unpatriotic persons, it is unlawful to sell the Naira, hurl (spray), or stamp on the currency under any circumstance whatsoever. “

The statement quited Section 21(4) which states that “It shall also be an offence punishable under
Sub-section (1) of this section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in
the Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank.”

Nwanisobi said the CBN is collaborating with the Nigeria Police, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to address the unpatriotic practice.

He warned Nigerians, particularly those at social functions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals, to desist from disrespecting the naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies.

He also admonish members of the public to embrace and adopt other payment channels for their transactions.

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CBN governor, bank chiefs on a collision course over amount of new notes

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The cash crunch that hit most banks in the country since Monday, January 30, 2023 continued yesterday as banks said they had not been getting enough cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disburse to their customers.

Consequently, the Association Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) has challenged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make public how much new naira notes it had pushed into circulation, even as it expressed worry over the scarcity of new and old naira notes in the country.

The president of ASSBIFI, Comrade Olusoji Oluwole, lamented that Nigerians are going through excruciating difficulties in order to feed and do business transactions because of the cash crunch brought by the policy. He called for a review of the policy in order to save Nigerians from further hardship.

Oluwole urged the CBN to publicly declare how much of the new Naira notes has been printed and distributed so far to banks for disbursement compared with what has been withdrawn from the public.

The ASSBIFI helmsman disclosed that its independent study showed that the volume of the new notes in circulation is highly insufficient and most of the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) have no new notes to dispense, while some of those dispensing are still paying out old notes.

“Nigerians have been reduced to moving from one ATM point to another in search of new Naira notes that should have been abundantly supplied. Pressure has been on bank workers who interface with the angry public in the process of depositing old or withdrawing the new notes, and we request urgent actions by the CBN to avoid attacks and other unruly actions against these bank workers as their safety and health are of great concern to the union to us in ASSBIFI,” Oluwole said.

A banker who craved anonymity said addressing the scarcity of cash is something that only the CBN can do, even as he said there ought to be discussions between the CBN and the committee of bank chief executives on how to address the ongoing scenario.

“The CBN should know what our requirements are, they should know what we require and how much will serve our customers. A bank that has over 300 branches and the CBN is giving them only N350 million; that means N1 million per branch. How do we deal with this?

The cash crunch that hit most banks in the country since Monday, January 30, 2023 continued yesterday as banks said they have not been getting enough cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disburse to their customers.

Consequently, the Association Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) has challenged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make public how much new Naira notes it had pushed into circulation, even as it expressed worry over the scarcity of new and old Naira notes in the country.

The president of ASSBIFI, Comrade Olusoji Oluwole, lamented that Nigerians are going through excruciating difficulties in order to feed and do business transactions because of the cash crunch brought by the policy. He called for a review of the policy in order to save Nigerians from further hardship.

Oluwole urged the CBN to publicly declare how much of the new Naira notes has been printed and distributed so far to banks for disbursement compared with what has been withdrawn from the public.

The ASSBIFI helmsman disclosed that its independent study showed that the volume of the new notes in circulation is highly insufficient and most of the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) have no new notes to dispense, while some of those dispensing are still paying out old notes.

“Nigerians have been reduced to moving from one ATM point to another in search of new Naira notes that should have been abundantly supplied. Pressure has been on bank workers who interface with the angry public in the process of depositing old or withdrawing the new notes, and we request urgent actions by the CBN to avoid attacks and other unruly actions against these bank workers as their safety and health are of great concern to the union to us in ASSBIFI,” Oluwole said.

A banker who craved anonymity said addressing the scarcity of cash is something that only the CBN can do, even as he said there ought to be discussions between the CBN and the committee of bank chief executives on how to address the ongoing scenario.

“The CBN should know what our requirements are, they should know what we require and how much will serve our customers. A bank that has over 300 branches and the CBN is giving them only N350 million; that means N1 million per branch. How do we deal with this?

“We can’t even pay with the old note and we don’t have the new notes. The new trend is that, because banks don’t want to get in trouble, they are paying customers in N100 and N20 notes. And that is because they don’t want more problems. Customers are protesting that they want their money and since the lower denominations are still legal tender, banks are paying with them.

“There is a shortage of cash everywhere. We did not envisage what is happening now. The only place where a solution can come is from CBN. The CBN should release more cash, and at the CEO level, there should be engagements with CBN on this,” the banker stated.

The president, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, has attributed the current scarcity of old/new Naira notes coupled with fuel scarcity and hike in pump prices to systemic failure and corruption.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Lagos yesterday, Wabba said: “Millions of man-hours are lost with many people now rendered unproductive by scarcity of old, new Naira notes while people now spend hours on queue for fuel in a society blessed with abundant human and natural resources.

“The unbanked people living in rural areas and marketers are feeling the pain more as they don’t have any other means of survival. There are no old and new maira notes for people to transact business. Why the haste in implementation of Naira redesign which could have been allowed to flow side by side for months before old notes are eventually mopped up.”

Nationwide, bank tellers have been turning customers away as they say there is no cash to pay them, and queues at the few Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that are paying cash are growing longer.

Ngozi, a trader who sells electrical materials alongside her husband in Lagos said she is already running low on cash and does not know if she will be able to open her shop by the end of the week if the cash crunch continues.

“All the people that have been patronising my shop have been doing transfers which even misbehaves. I went to the bank to collect cash so that we can have money to run around and I was told that I can only get N2000. I have money in the bank and I can’t take it. It is very frustrating,” she said.

The cash crunch that hit most banks in the country since Monday, January 30, 2023 continued yesterday as banks said they have not been getting enough cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disburse to their customers.

Consequently, the Association Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) has challenged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make public how much new Naira notes it had pushed into circulation, even as it expressed worry over the scarcity of new and old Naira notes in the country.

The president of ASSBIFI, Comrade Olusoji Oluwole, lamented that Nigerians are going through excruciating difficulties in order to feed and do business transactions because of the cash crunch brought by the policy. He called for a review of the policy in order to save Nigerians from further hardship.

Oluwole urged the CBN to publicly declare how much of the new Naira notes has been printed and distributed so far to banks for disbursement compared with what has been withdrawn from the public.

The ASSBIFI helmsman disclosed that its independent study showed that the volume of the new notes in circulation is highly insufficient and most of the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) have no new notes to dispense, while some of those dispensing are still paying out old notes.

“Nigerians have been reduced to moving from one ATM point to another in search of new Naira notes that should have been abundantly supplied. Pressure has been on bank workers who interface with the angry public in the process of depositing old or withdrawing the new notes, and we request urgent actions by the CBN to avoid attacks and other unruly actions against these bank workers as their safety and health are of great concern to the union to us in ASSBIFI,” Oluwole said.

A banker who craved anonymity said addressing the scarcity of cash is something that only the CBN can do, even as he said there ought to be discussions between the CBN and the committee of bank chief executives on how to address the ongoing scenario.

“The CBN should know what our requirements are, they should know what we require and how much will serve our customers. A bank that has over 300 branches and the CBN is giving them only N350 million; that means N1 million per branch. How do we deal with this?

“We can’t even pay with the old note and we don’t have the new notes. The new trend is that, because banks don’t want to get in trouble, they are paying customers in N100 and N20 notes. And that is because they don’t want more problems. Customers are protesting that they want their money and since the lower denominations are still legal tender, banks are paying with them.

“There is a shortage of cash everywhere. We did not envisage what is happening now. The only place where a solution can come is from CBN. The CBN should release more cash, and at the CEO level, there should be engagements with CBN on this,” the banker stated.

The president, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, has attributed the current scarcity of old/new Naira notes coupled with fuel scarcity and hike in pump prices to systemic failure and corruption.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Lagos yesterday, Wabba said: “Millions of man-hours are lost with many people now rendered unproductive by scarcity of old, new Naira notes while people now spend hours on queue for fuel in a society blessed with abundant human and natural resources.

“The unbanked people living in rural areas and marketers are feeling the pain more as they don’t have any other means of survival. There are no old and new maira notes for people to transact business. Why the haste in implementation of Naira redesign which could have been allowed to flow side by side for months before old notes are eventually mopped up.”

Nationwide, bank tellers have been turning customers away as they say there is no cash to pay them, and queues at the few Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that are paying cash are growing longer.

Ngozi, a trader who sells electrical materials alongside her husband in Lagos said she is already running low on cash and does not know if she will be able to open her shop by the end of the week if the cash crunch continues.

“All the people that have been patronising my shop have been doing transfers which even misbehaves. I went to the bank to collect cash so that we can have money to run around and I was told that I can only get N2000. I have money in the bank and I can’t take it. It is very frustrating,” she said.

A roadside fruit seller said all her regular customers have been paying her with transfers and the few who are paying cash have paid with the new notes.

“All the transfers that my customers did yesterday, I am yet to get the alert but since they are my regulars, I am not so worried. This scarcity of cash has to end soon”, she said.

A business woman in Lagos, Mrs Kome Enobong, told LEADERSHIP that she left her home as early as 7am to her bank to withdraw some of the funds in her account, only to be told that there is no money to give to her.

“I have visited three Union Bank branches, but I couldn’t withdraw my money. I was told that there is no money in the bank to give to me. This is my money that I have worked for. The ATMs are not dispensing cash either. How am I going to feed my children, because right now, I don’t even have money on me?,” Mrs Enobong lamented.

A teacher, Mr James Niyi who also shared his ordeal with LEADERSHIP, said, “I cannot withdraw my own hard earned money from my bank. I had to use POS, where I spent N1,000 to get N10,000. This is really pathetic,” Niyi said, calling on CBN to intervene.

A POS operator, Mr Okanlawon noted that, they have not been able to do business as usual as there is no cash to give to customers who continue to throng his shop in search of cash. “My customers have been begging me for cash but what can I do if I don’t have the cash to give them? If this continues, I hope that people don’t take to the streets to riot over scarcity of cash.”

As of yesterday, some POS operators were charging N1,500 for N10,000 withdrawals while some were charging N1,000.

Mrs Akin, a civil servant, said after lots of begging and shouting in the bank, she was able to get N5,000, paid in N5 notes.

LEADERSHIP had, on Tuesday, reported that business activities were paralysed in Lagos State as bank customers queued for long hours at Automated Teller Machine (ATM) terminals across Lagos State to withdraw cash.

Similarly, electronic banking transfer through the mobile app, or USSD code, as well as Point of Sales (POS) machines network were extremely poor as people could not pay for services rendered through the electronic banking system.

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New naira scarcity: Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina border residents trade in CFA

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Residents of border communities in states including Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Adamawa and Kwara have opted for the CFA franc following the scarcity of the new naira notes across the country.

The residents, including traders and commercial drivers, are also rejecting the old naira notes, insisting that customers who do not have the new redesigned currency must pay for goods and services with CFAs.

The CFA franc is the legal tender in eight West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, which make up the West African Economic and Monetary Union, otherwise known as the Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine.

Findings by The PUNCH indicated that businessmen and traders in the Zurmi and Shinkafi local government areas of Zamfara State, which border the Niger Republic, prefer the franc to the naira.

Investigation revealed that traders in the two LGAs had been selling their commodities in CFA due to fear that they might not get the new naira notes.

A cattle dealer, Musa Shehu, said he stopped receiving the Nigerian currency since the Central Bank of Nigeria announced the deadline for the swap of the N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.

He stated, “I have since stopped receiving the old naira notes because I don’t have an account and I can’t go to the bank.”

A

trader in Shinkafi town, who shuttles between Nigeria and Niger Republic, explained that most of his customers paid with the CFA.

“I cannot collect old naira notes and give out my commodities to any customer. But I will collect new naira notes and CFA because I am afraid of losing my money if the time for the exchange expires,’’ the trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

A grain seller in Dada village in Zurmi Local Government, Muhammadu Isa, disclosed that he stopped selling grains in the Nigerian currency after the CBN’s policy on new naira notes was unveiled.

He said that he sold only to those who possessed CFAs to avoid losing money as ‘’my father did in 1983 when the naira notes were hurriedly changed by the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari regime.’’

Isa explained that his late father lost all his money when Buhari changed the national currency in 1983.

The grain trader insisted that he would not accept the old naira notes as there was no bank or Point of Service terminal in his community where he could withdraw the new currencies.

“You see since our people and those from the Niger Republic are coming to buy the grains with the CFA, I see no reason why I should collect old naira notes. If anybody wants to buy grains from me, he must pay in CFA or forget it. I will not collect old naira notes because I don’t know what to do with them after the expiration of the deadline,” he noted.

In a related development, commercial drivers who ply the Niger Republic from Zurmi and Shinkafi LGAs have also stopped collecting the old notes.

They justified their decision with the argument that the CFA was the only legal tender accepted by the people along the Nigeria-Niger borders.

A driver, Alhaji Hamisu, stated that passengers had to pay in CFA if they wanted to travel to the Niger Republic or return to Nigeria ‘’because the old naira notes are unacceptable as legal tender.’’

Hamisu said, “I have on several occasions refused to collect the old naira notes from my passengers because I have no time to go to the bank or PoS to get the new notes.

“Another problem is that you can’t buy fuel with the old naira notes in Niger republic; as such, no commercial driver on cross-border journeys will agree to take the old notes from passengers.

“I was almost stranded in Malbaza town in Niger Republic when I wanted to buy fuel with the old naira notes because we have been doing so before the change of the Nigerian currency.

“I went to the filling station as usual and bought 30 litres of fuel and brought out the old notes but the fuel attendant told me that he would not accept the notes.

pleaded with him but he was not ready to collect the money from me. I was lucky as one of the commercial drivers, who is also my friend, came to buy fuel and he had enough CFAs. I bought the CFA from him and settled the fuel attendant.”

Sokoto border traders

Also, our correspondent discovered that border communities in Sokoto State preferred to sell their products in CFA due in part to the non-availability of the new notes and the continuous loss of naira value.

Speaking with The PUNCH, Mallam Sidi Isa, who trades in cattle in Illela, a border community with the Niger Republic, said he preferred the franc because of the introduction of the new naira notes and the cashless policy.

Also speaking, Mr Jamiu Ola, a motor mechanic, argued that the CFA holds more value than the naira.

“I prefer CFA due to the fact that it is hardly devalued unlike our own naira which has been devalued,” he added.

A businessman, Mallam Haruna Abdulazeez, stated, “I shifted my business to the Niger Republic when I realised I can’t cope with the economy of this country anymore.

f I buy goods from Nigeria and take same to Niger Republic, I make profits due to the value after the exchange. Even if you take sachet water there, you will make your profits due to the exchange rate.”

A Sokoto resident, Muhammad Auwal, submitted that the CFA holds more value than the naira, hence his preference for foreign currency.

“I normally exchange my naira for CFA as it is not reasonable for someone to keep naira at home due to loss of value,’’ he declared.

Adamawa cattle dealers

Speaking in an interview, the Chairman of Mubi International Cattle Market in Adamawa State, Jafaru Hamman, lamented the scarcity of newly redesigned naira notes, adding that the difficulties in getting the currency had affected commerce at the border communities.

The problem, according to him, is that most traders in Mubi are accustomed to cash transactions and the cashless policy may take time to get mass support.

Commenting on the decision of Adamawa communities to opt for the franc over the naira, a cattle dealer, Jafaru Hamman, explained that even before the CBN policy, some traders were using the West African CFA in business transactions.

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