Protests As CBN Begins Cash Withdrawal Limit Enforcement
Over 20 banks on Monday began the implementation of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s new cash withdrawal limit policy across the country with bank customers expressing anger over the new rule.
The Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, had on December 21, 2022, bowed to pressure and revised the bank’s earlier cash withdrawal limits.
The CBN reviewed upwards the maximum weekly limit for cash withdrawal across all channels by individuals and corporate organisations to N500,000 and N5m respectively.
The CBN attributed the development to the feedback it got from stakeholders.
For transactions above the withdrawal limits, financial institutions are required to get details of the customers and upload the same on the CBN portal created for the purpose.
In the earlier circular it issued on December 6, 2022, the CBN had said that with effect from January 9, 2023, the maximum over-the-counter cash withdrawal limit by individuals and corporate organisations per week, would be N100,000 and N500,000 respectively, adding that withdrawals above these limits would attract processing fees of five per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
It further stated that the maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machines from January 9, would be N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day.
The apex bank also directed banks to load only N200 and lower denominations into their ATMs.
Following the previous directive, many stakeholders kicked against it. The Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents of Nigeria said that point-of-sale operators would protest as the policy was targeted at killing their source of livelihood.
However, the reviewed cash limits, which took effect on Monday faced severe opposition from bank customers who accused the central bank of not being sensitive to the plight of cash-based businesses.
A bank customer, identified as Sola Adewale, who spoke to our correspondent in Mowe, Ogun State, said, “I personally think putting a limit on how people should spend money they worked for is crazy. N500,000 weekly withdrawal limit may be too much for some people while it is too small for others. This affects some businesses that need much cash.
He added, “Putting a limit on cash expenditures won’t reform Nigeria in any way because the people who spend lavishly will still have access to whatever amount of money they need. So at the end of the day, it’s the common man that will suffer the most.”
Another bank customer, Grace Chukwu, who spoke in Ogba, Lagos, said, “I am an entrepreneur with three companies. I use First Bank, FCMB, Zenith Bank and Sterling Bank. I will use this opportunity to applaud the service I receive from First Bank, Sterling Bank and other banks. I’m not really bothered because I hardly transact with cash, I do bank transfers most time.
“But I can understand how this new policy will affect other organisations and people who still don’t trust the available Internet banking options in our rural and urban communities and need to move funds above the amount permitted via Internet banking. I’ve been a victim myself a few times. So, I don’t blame them. And let’s face it, cash is still king. I feel they should review it.”
Also, another bank customer, identified as Maduabuchi Mercy, who spoke to The PUNCH in Garki, Abuja, said, “I don’t have much to say. This will surely limit individuals and businesses from their day-to-day activities. This really doesn’t show that we’re moving any forward. People make their money for themselves, and regulating how to spend our hard-earned money is a complete turnoff.
“Imagine me having a transaction above the stipulated limits, so I’ll have to spend up to a month to complete a particular transaction. How long will it take me to do five to 10 transactions as an individual let alone as a business owner?
Several other customers across the country challenged the CBN’s latest policy again.
A customer, Solomon Onyebuchi, in Abeokuta, said, “This is arrant nonsense and unacceptable. What’s the essence of this policy to the economy? They just want us to suffer while the rich ones don’t have any issues.”
Another customer, Dupe Adegbenga, an SME operator, while reacting, said, “How do the banks expect businesses to operate? SMEs will suffer. I’m in pain.”
Meanwhile, banks located at Garki, Area Two, observed the CBN withdrawal policy via their ATM stands.
Findings by our correspondent showed that Zenith Bank, Keystone Bank, Ecobank, and Access Bank enforced the policy.
One of our correspondents, however, observed that customers using their debit cards at the same bank’s ATMs were able to withdraw higher amounts.
When our correspondent visited Access Bank, customers were seen making deposits of the old notes while the new notes were dispensed sparingly via the ATM.
At Ecobank, an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “You can only withdraw N100, 000 per day over the counter in line with the CBN policy. If you want more, you would have to go through the necessary process.
“However, I advise that you use other methods to transfer if you need more money. The main purpose is to ensure that a proper audit can be done and nobody takes our money out of the country.
Reacting, the National Publicity Secretary of The Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Olusegun Elegbede, said the implementation of the policy was being observed, adding that the effect would be seen by end of the week.
He said, “Well, it is still early to draw any form of conclusion around it. We may not likely not be able to appreciate the effects until later this week.”
Some of the banks visited include Ecobank, Zenith Bank and First Bank located at Jabi area in the Federal Capital Territory.
At the Ecobank Jabi, an employee told one of our correspondents that the bank had started the implementation of the new withdrawal limit.
The Ecobank worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, “The policy has been implemented. For this location, I haven’t seen anyone that has withdrawn more than the limit. I know some customers are still not aware or they have not just taken notice.”
Furthermore, findings showed that several Point of Sale operators were not aware of the new policy.
Reacting, the President, National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees, Abakpa Anthony said, “We cannot really comment on that for now as the normal transaction is still ongoing.
Findings showed on Monday that several ATM did not dispense the new notes.
At the Ecobank on Ogunnusi road, Berger Bus stop, our correspondent reported that three ATM galleries at the bank were dispensing old notes as as that time of visit around 3pm.
Similarly, all the two Union Bank’s ATMs just a few metres away from Ogunnusi road were dispensing old notes as of the time of the report.