Millions of Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief on Monday after weeks of emotional and psychological torture inflicted on them by the failed naira redesigning policy of Governor Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Their relief followed a statement issued by the apex bank on Monday announcing its decision to abide by the judgment of the Supreme Court it had previously ignored that the old N500 and N1000 notes outlawed by the bank should remain in circulation as legal tenders till the very last day in the year.
According to The Nations, the retail end of the economy had been worst hit by the cash crunch that resulted from CBN’s withdrawal of the old naira notes without issuing enough of new ones to replace them. The resultant scarcity of cash forced many retail businesses like point of sales operators, petty traders, barbers, cobblers and other artisans whose businesses are not compliant with online cash transfers shut down their operations.
The anger provoked scarcity of cash resulted in attacks on banks around the country with many bank workers scaling the fences of their banks to escape the wrath of angry customers who could not access their deposits and resorted to violent thanks on banks’ employees, their buildings ans automated teller machines (ATMs).
But by far the most worrisome phase of the crisis was the scores of people who lost their from direct or indirect impact of the crisis. From Lagos to Maiduguri and Port Harcourt to Kano, the crisis resulted in loss of lives that has left many families in pains over the loss of their loved ones.
In Kasuwan Magani part of Kajuru Local Government Area in Kaduna State, for instance, a resident named James Auta was in the bank on February 1 struggling for cash to pay his expectant wife’s hospital bill but could not secure any. He returned to the hospital and took his wife home because the hospital said she would not be attended to without payment. Unfortunately the poor woman bled to death.
Recalling the incident, Auta said he had gone to the hospital with his wife on her delivery day but doctors at the hospital asked him to deposit some money before his wife could be examined.
Auta said: “I ran to my bank to withdraw money, but I was told that there was no money. I went back, looking for POS operators but I could not find any because since the issue of new currency began, most POS operators had locked up their shops.”
Auta then decided to take his wife home after his failed bid to withdraw money from the bank to pay for her delivery at the hospital. He said he took the decision to trust God for his wife’s safe delivery but, unfortunately, he lost her.
He said: “My wife went into labour around 11 pm. Since I could not withdraw any money, I called the attention of a nurse within our locality.
“But after my wife delivered a baby, blood was coming out non-stop and all efforts made by the nurse to stop the bleeding failed.”
Like Auta, fate played a cruel one on Idi Bakyu in Obume, a community in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State on February 8 as he lost his wife because of his inability to obtain cash from the bank to pay for her medical treatment after some complications from child delivery.
Bakyu had travelled from Obume to Lafia, the state capital, in the hope of withdrawing money and getting a vehicle to convey his wife, Therizer, to the hospital. But he ended up spending the whole day in the bank without being able to get any money.
In the process, his wife and nursing mother bled until she died, leaving her two-week-old baby behind. Lamenting Therizer’s untimely death, Bakyu said he would not have got her pregnant if he knew there would be no naira notes to cater for her health.
He said: “If I had seen death coming, if I had known that the new naira notes would not be available for me to take care of her medical bills, I would not have allowed her to get pregnant.
“If I had known that getting my wife pregnant would amount to a journey of no return, I would certainly not have impregnated her.
“If I had known that the bank would deny me my money, I would not have opened an account with them.
“I had up to N300,000 in my account when my wife was pregnant. She was actually attending antenatal in Lafia, coming from the village until mid-January when the scarcity of naira set in and the stress of travelling made her abandon her routine medical check-ups.
“It became very difficult for us to access our cash in the bank.
“Two days to her delivery, I spent all my time in the bank trying to get at least N100,000 to buy the items expected for her delivery and probably medical bills, but I could not get cash. I spent all of the two days queuing in the bank without getting cash.
“When she went into labour, the women around the village decided that since there was no cash to facilitate her transportation to the hospital and settle the bills, she should deliver her baby in the village.
“She fell into labour in the evening while I was going from one PoS to another but the charges were too high for me to get the amount I needed for her delivery.
“She was eventually delivered of a baby boy the next morning, but the bleeding did not stop.
“Then, I was already in Lafia trying to get cash to buy what was needed. But I couldn’t get any cash, and the women around her kept calling me to arrange a vehicle.
“But it was not possible because there was no cash to buy fuel at N450 per litre, and the fuel was not even available. That was how my wife bled until she died.”
Bakyu added: “My wife died in extreme pain. I missed her spiritual guidance and intercessions which were key to building our marriage. Her memory would remain fresh in my mind.
“Few days before she went into labour, we were discussing the future of her unborn baby and how she would want her children to be educated, and she was very happy. I never knew that her death was near.
“Man proposes, God disposes. I don’t know how I’m going to manage but I pray to God to help me.
“My joy has been stolen. I am only managing. My wife’s demise has left me distraught.”
“In 2015 and 2019, I abandoned my farm work to trek a distance to vote for Buhari. I didn’t know that he would introduce a policy that is against his people to the extent that it would take my wife’s life.
“Together with her, we laboured to get our money, opened an account, and deposited it there for future use. The time to use the money came and the bank said I could not access it. My wife suffered, bled, and died because I could not withdraw our money.”
While Auta and Bukya lost their wives, a popular presenter with Fresh FM, Ibadan Oyo State, Baba Bintin, was said to have died while trekking to work because he could not secure the cash to transport himself to the office on Saturday, March 11. As a consequence, he slumped and died while trekking to the radio station for his programme on Saturday morning.
Baba Bintin’s death was announced during a radio programme by his colleagues, Komolafe Olaiya and Olalomi Amole.
Speaking towards the end of the programme about Baba Bintin’s unusual lateness to the studio, they announced that he died while walking from Amuloko to Fresh FM after his hope of getting cash from a point of sale (POS) agent was dashed.
Baba Bintin was rushed to the University College Hospital (UCH) but died on getting to the hospital.
In Lagos, tragedy struck in the early hours of Thursday, March 9, when a staff bus belonging to the Lagos State Government collided with a moving train in the PWD area of the state, killing no fewer than six civil servants on board while many other passengers sustained various degrees of injuries.
One of the deceased occupants was a National Youth Service Corps member, Oreoluwa Aina, whose father linked the cause of her death to naira scarcity.
According to Oreoluwa’s father, Femi Aina, his daughter would not have boarded the ill-fated bus if not for the cash scarcity caused by the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The bereaved father said her daughter did not often board the staff bus but she had no choice on that fateful day because she did not have enough cash to transport herself to the Government Secretariat, where she was serving in the Ministry of Education.
He said: “I know she boarded the staff bus, but not every day. If not for this cashless policy, she would not have followed that bus. But she did not have cash, so she had to follow the bus. She had just N200. They just kill people anyhow in this country.” In Delta State, an unnamed man was said to have died on Thursday, March 2 while he was battling to withdraw money from the bank’s ATM machine.
Although the police dismissed the report, saying that the man died while he was trying to collect an ATM card in the bank, eyewitnesses said the customer died after futile attempts to withdraw cash from the bank.
The unidentified man, a source said, slumped and died after spending hours at a new generation bank in Agbor, Ika South Local Government Area.
Nigerians have experienced untold hardship following the redesign of N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that has led to the attendant scarcity of the naira notes.
The inability of customers to withdraw money from bank ATMs has led to protests in several parts of the country and wanton destruction of banks by frustrated residents.
The Supreme Court on Friday March 3, had ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow both the old naira notes and the new ones to circulate side by side till the end of the year.
Delivering the unanimous judgment, Justice Emmanuel Agim on behalf of the seven-member panel of Justices of the court, voided and set aside all the directives issued by President Muhammadu Buhari in respect of the naira re-design and circulation on grounds of illegalities and abuse of executive powers.
The court held that the President’s action was inconsistent with the law’s provisions.
The apex court knocked President Buhari for disobeying its interim order of February 8 which ruled that the old naira notes of N200, N500 and N1000 denominations be allowed to be in circulation.
The 16 states led by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara had prayed the apex court to void and set aside the policy on the grounds that it was inflicting hardship on innocent Nigerians.
The court held that the President displayed unrestrained disobedience in his broadcast of February 16, wherein he directed that only the N200 notes be issued by banks till April 10.
After the judgement by the Supreme Court, the Presidency, CBN and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) kept silent, leaving bank customers and Nigerians confused.
However, the Presidency broke its silence on Monday, saying that it never told the CBN and the AGF not to obey the order of the apex court. Apparently jolted by the Presidency’s declaration, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday directed commercial banks and other financial institutions in the country to continue to accept and pay out the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes till December 31, 2023, in line with a recent Supreme Court judgment.