New naira: Racketeering booms in Lagos, Abuja, Anambra - PUNCH
BY Sami Olatunji, Solomon Odeniyi, Lilian Ukagwu, Damilola Aina, Nathaniel Shaibu, Anozie Egole, Funmi Fabunmi, Uthman Salami, Josephine Ogundeji, Ikenna Obianeri, Tukur Muntari, Ada Wodu, Adeyinka Adedipe, Animasahun Salman, Matthew Ochei, Daud Olatunji and Tunde Oyekola
The scarcity of the new naira notes took a worse turn on Monday as currency racketeers took advantage of the situation to exploit Nigerians who were desperate to obtain the currencies.
In Abuja, the nation’s capital, Lagos, Anambra and other states, black marketers were observed selling the new notes to those who could not endure the long queues at Automated Teller Machine stands.
A currency seller, Abdul Mohammed, operating under Dei-Dei pedestrian bridge in the Federal Capital Territory, said the inability of banks to distribute the new notes has increased the demand for them.
“We normally sell N10,000 for N13,000 and N20, 000 for N26,000. I will provide all the denominations you want. I have N200, N500 and N1,000 new naira notes,’’ he offered.
When asked if he could supply N600,000 new notes, he promised to notify our correspondent when the notes were available for collection.
He said, “The new notes are very scarce and that is why we charge more. Getting the new notes is very tough and expensive for us. The issue of changing the notes has caused a lot of problems. There is high demand for it. I get the notes at very expensive rates too.
“It is also not available at banks because people are rushing to buy it there; we are not enjoying the business at this time.
“We sell a bundle of 200 notes for N300,000; N500 is even cheaper than that. Some get it from the bank but it gets exhausted quickly.”
A currency exchange operator, who chose to remain anonymous, explained that the currency exchangers maintain a relationship with bank staff, adding, however, that they do not pay for the currencies, except by way of incentives or when there is an increase in demand.
“Currency exchangers basically form relationships with bank staff. If I need an amount, all I do is put a call through to my contact in the bank, ask for the availability of what I need, find out the buy rate, and buffer it by N5-N10 to resell.
“Most times, we don’t offer the bank staff anything. We just give incentives once in a while. Except there is high demand and limited supply, that’s when they can demand something. N50,000 mint (new notes), for example, could resell for about N53,000 or N60, 000, at most,’’ he explained.
Banks in Onitsha, Nnewi, Obosi, Nkpor, Ekwulobia and some parts of Awka in Anambra State did not open as a result of the Monday sit-at-home.
One of our correspondents, who went round the cities, noticed that most of the ATMs were switched off while the few ones that were working were still dispensing the old notes even as they were besieged by a huge crowd of customers.
In the early hours of Monday, The PUNCH gathered that two persons who had a public address system, went around some streets of Onitsha and Nkpor, asking the residents to come out and buy the new notes.
The unidentified individuals were said to have insisted on collecting N3,000 on every N10,000 withdrawal of the new notes.
Our correspondents who visited some parts of Lagos and Ogun states, including Ikeja, Egbeda, Ikotun, Idimu and Magboro, observed that the racketeers had taken over the naira swap initiative in alleged deals between them and some bankers.
The PUNCH observed that the currency racketeering was on full display at Access Bank located on Ikorodu Road in Lagos on Monday.
A resident, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity, said, “I went to the Access Bank to withdraw some money. Out of all the nine Automated Teller Machines on the bank premises, only one was dispensing the new notes with a N20,000 withdrawal limit.”
“However, due to the long queue of customers on the bank premises, a woman whom some people had accused of using different ATM cards to empty a nearby Zenith Bank machine began to sell the new notes to those who could not withstand the long hour on the queue,” she narrated
According to her, the lady charged N1,000 per N10,000 and N5,000 per N100,000 for the new notes.
Similarly, during visits to some PoS operators in Ogun and Lagos, some residents narrated how they bought the new notes from bankers and black market operators.
A PoS operator at Berger bus stop told The PUNCH they could not get the new notes from banks due to the scarcity.
She further alleged that some bankers and black market operators were selling the new notes at outrageous rates, making it difficult for them to maintain the previous charging rates.
She said, “We cannot continue to charge our customers the previous rate. Some bankers sell the new notes to us. At times, we get them from the black market. On every N100, 000 new notes we collect, there is a charge of N5,000. Some currency operators charge as high as N10, 000 for N80, 000.”
She warned that they might no longer engage in a transaction that is less than N5,000.
At a PoS shop at Berger, our correspondent observed the fee had increased astronomically.