At the bank today, By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju
Each time I drive past the main street housing banks in Akure, I feel overtaken by fear, due to the number of people angling to go into the banking hall or those at the ATM. Until this morning, I usually thank God that I do not need to visit the bank. Why? I hardly use cash, unless I’m visiting my Constituency. Today I had to go because my funds are trapped due to debits that those I credited never got and money not returned to my account. I don’t want silly stories around my money, so I thought a week of wait is enough, before filing a complaint for several hanging transactions.
On my way to work, the CBN branch in Akure was besieged. One Mallam brought N45m from Akoko in 4 sacks carried by four people. Before you exhibit your elite insouciance, I will like to tell you, that Akoko has four local governments and only Ikare has a bank. Our population is about 3.5million, and those with bank accounts are about 500,000. Those who bring good from the north like this Mallam usually sell on behalf of farmers. They return with cash. Their business is built on cash and trust. They are hard working men, not thieves.
I am so ashamed that some people I know, are happy thinking this unfortunate policy serves politicians right because they will not be able to buy votes. So sad! This crisis is destroying poor people’s lives and livelihoods. People are not even selling as much as they used to, because there is no money for their customers to buy. My dad has been banking since the early 60’s. He however believes in using cheque and has refused to own an ATM card, for fear of losing his money. Tonight, he cried out that he does not have even N20. That he needs to buy bread and be able to afford his daily routine of two newspapers. Tomorrow morning, I will be sending him N10k. Yes, N10k. All I have myself, is N22k in cash. While attending my party’s rally on Wednesday in my local government, I saw human suffering. I went with N46, 000 and returned to Akure with N200.
At the CBN today, customers who came with N500k or less, were told by CBN staff to go to their banks and deposit it, leaving those who came with sacks of money. The crowd dispersed and went to their banks. The banks were accepting the old notes. I was shocked to read it on many platforms later this evening, that the CBN denied issuing the directive. What is going on? Are the CBN branches in the states inventing their own rules? I feel sorry for staff of the commercial banks who are the scapegoats in this drama. Many of them are afraid. They are no longer coming in their cars to work, so they can prime themselves for easy escape, in case of any fracas. Throughout today, customers in my bank were paid N20k with old N200 notes. No one got a penny above N20, 000 for the 3hours I spent there. Was my issue resolved? No! The system is overwhelmed and crawling. The banks did not envisage the enormity of the hits to their backend.
Tempers flew when one guy said he has a PhD and that people should fix this country. Folks asked him if it is them that will fix Nigeria when those at the top with all the powers are conspiring to ruin it and starve them, by confiscating their money. He was hounded with boos and jeers out of the banking hall.
In Akure, people keep vigil at the ATM hoping to be there when the machines are loaded with cash. I have seen someone pick number 102 at the ATM. This crisis has revealed a lot to me. The Governors who stand with their people are ridiculed and if they don’t act, they will be condemned. Damn if you do, damn if you don’t. Despite all these shenanigans, I have hope that the people will win. They always do.
-Ademola-Olateju is the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Culture