There was tension at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) annex in Edo State on Tuesday following a peaceful protest by residents of the State over Naira scarcity, leading to a traffic jam and temporal disruption of businesses activities around the area for hours.
Bound in determination to dismantle the hide-and-seek among currency hoarders and Deposit money Banks in the State, members of Edo Civil Society Organizations (EDOSCO) ignored the threats by security personnel and stormed the CBN annex as early as 7:30am.
The protesters who brandished placards of various inscriptions depicting their grievances, blocked the Akpakpava axis of the road, while motorists and pedestrians brave through the adds during the traffic snarl; Just as armed security personnel watched with anxiety.
The standoff led to a major gridlock at the City centre and its adjoining streets in Benin Metropolis, with Afrobeat tunes that depict the mood of the protesters.
TheNewspad reports that what was the CBN Management had thought was a joke, caused sighs of relief few hours later, following the disbursement of over 1billion naira to commercial banks in the State for onward payment to their customers.
Addressing journalists after the siege, Dr. Blaise Ijebor, the Director, Risk Management Department, Central Bank of Nigeria, made the disclosure while briefing journalists on the efforts made far by CBN to cushion the issue of Naira scarcity in the country.
The apex bank, according to him has allowed commercial banks to pay over the counter up to a minimum of N20,000 per person in a day.
He appealed for calm from residents in Edo as more of the new redesigned naira notes will be available next week in the State.
He also appealed to the people to use the available alternative means of bank Apps, USSD and PoS for transaction that do not need physical cash.
“But for those who need cash for payment, we are making arrangement for that. In fact, since Sunday, we have given out over 1 billion naira to banks in Edo State to make available to customers.
“We have also allowed banks to pay over the counter up to a minimum of N20,000 per person per day. Some banks because of crowd might reduce the amount so that everybody will get something
“We are are expecting more of the new redesigned naira notes to land in Benin City in few days hopefully.
“We have also made sure that all bank branches have some cash to give out and we are going to make more cash available everyday throughout this week.
“We have also made provision for Banks agents in various villages across Edo State to also have cash so that they can payout and do exchange.
“We will fill most ATMs’ by tomorrow so that people can go to ATM again and withdraw”, he assured.
Dr. Ijebor, then warned POS agents in the state not to engage in any sharp practice or charged customers more than N100 per every N5000 withdraw as CBN would instruct their banks to withdraw their operating license.
Leftist Omobude Agho, former Coordinator-General of EDOSCO who led the protest, lamented that the CBN financial policy is killing Nigerians and crippling business activities in the state.
He accused the CBN of deliberately starving the Commercial banks and the Point of Sale (PoS) agents funds having lured Nigerians to deposit all their old Naira notes.
“Sir, these are Nigerians ably led by the Edo Civil Society Organizations. We are here because Nigerians have started dying inside their houses.
“Since the day, you, Godwin Emefiele came up with the new policy of not being able to withdraw not more than N20,000 in the bank, you also said you have extended the date for expiration of the old naira notes from the 31 of January to 10 of February.
“In all of these, you are retrieving the old money and you refused to give us the new money.
“You said we should start using electronics means, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and PoS.
“And you people failed to give the commercial banks the money to stock their ATMs, you people still didn’t allow the commercial banks to allow the money gets to the POS operators.
“As at today, we use N3,000 to buy N10,000 in Nigeria, this is not dollars anymore. We are now using naira to buy naira” Agho said.
Agho said the CBN should step up its game to relieve the citizens of the state of the current hardship brought upon them by its policy.
He noted that what they just started was just a peaceful show as they are coming back for a more radical actions against the CBN branch in the State.
“Sir, we came here with a peaceful protest just to give our warning.
“I came to show up my face and if you want to order for my arrest, you can go ahead with it sir because after today, the 7th of February, 2023, if we don’t see any changes, we cannot guarantee what may happen days after” he said.
He accused the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele of not being sincere with Nigerians.
“Many of these politicians that are telling us these stories, their families are not in Nigeria.
“This same man who is trying to be economical with money, Emefiele, took N100m to purchase APC Presidential forms, this same man branded over 60 vehicles for his political campaigns”, Agho alleged.
Mrs. Ameze Omorose, a widow who lamented the financial crisis, said she and her children are dying of hunger and that the bank should give her, her money.
“I went to POS no money, I went to the Bank also no money and my children are hungry and I am hungry too.
“This is the money I am using for my business.
I am a widow. My husband died last year”, Omorose said.
Another aggrieved bank customer, Godwin Idodoha, said he has been to three banks and non was dispensing money.
“My children are hungry, I have trekked a very long distance to this place and when I saw this crowd of protesters, I decided to join them to express my anger.
“I have been to three banks to withdraw money but I couldn’t get any money”, Idodoha lamented
Responding Comptroller, CBN, Benin, Mr. Raina Johnbo, appealed to the citizens of the state to be patient as machineries have been put in place to ease their suffering just as he gave the reasons the CBN came out with the redesigning of the naira.
“I want to tell you what we have done. We are not unmindful of what you are going through.
“As you are not seeing this naira so also we are not seeing it too.
“We are pleading with you people to be patient.
“The money will circulate. We have pushed out the lesser denominations to cushion the effects of hardship”, Johnbo assured.