Despite the persistent scarcity of new naira notes, illegal currency hawkers have continued to make brisk business by openly selling new notes in different denominations on the streets and party venues.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that tellers at the CBN front desks and branch service officials in commercial banks were selling the currency at a margin of 10 per cent to currency hawkers.
For instance, it was gathered that a bundle of N100 notes (N10,000) was being sold at N11,000, while a bundle of N200 notes (N20,000) was being exchanged for N22,000.
Investigations also showed that the CBN had recently been printing new notes but they were being hoarded and sold to currency hawkers.
A source at the CBN, who craved anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, told our correspondent that the bank had resumed printing of new notes.
“There was a time the CBN stopped printing new notes for a while, but it has started printing N500 notes in recent times,” the source said.
Some currency hawkers, who spoke with our correspondent, confirmed the connivance of CBN and bank officials with them with regards to the availability of new naira notes, adding that they had insiders in the institutions who reserved new notes for them.
One of the currency hawkers, who simply identified himself as Tunde, told our correspondent, “The new notes are not fake notes; they are money from the vault directly. We pay to get these new notes from the vaults; we pay 10 per cent on every bundle.”
Another currency hawker disclosed that the higher denominations were been purchased by politicians and rich people.
“You will hardly see higher denominations on the street, they are sought after by rich people who prefer to go about with large denominations because of the huge amount of money they carry about,” he said.
When contacted, the CBN said it was aware of what it described as the unpatriotic behaviour of some Nigerians, who, despite media sensitisation, had continued to sell new naira notes to interested members of the public.
The Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Ugo Okoroafor said, “In its determination to nip the unwholesome practice in the bud, the CBN has perfected its plan of trailing such currency notes being sold to individuals, using the serial numbers.
“The CBN is working in concert with the police and other security agencies to arrest errant persons, and, therefore, warns those bent on perpetrating the unlawful act to desist forthwith or risk facing the long arm of the law.”
He, however, denied that the central bank was engaged in the practice of hoarding new currency notes only to release same to agents, who paid its officials commissions after selling the mint notes to interested members of the public.
“The CBN does not have responsibility for the supply of cash to Automated Teller Machines. ATMs are owned and deployed by DMBs as well as independent outfits. It is the responsibility of the banks and the other licensed outfits to generate and load ATM-fit banknotes into the cash dispensing machines from cash deposits,” Okoroafor said, while reacting to allegations that ATMs were also dispensing dirty naira notes instead of new ones.
The vigorous campaign by the CBN against subjecting the naira to all forms of abuses seems to have fallen on deaf ears as Nigerians continue to sell and spray naira notes at social events.
The CBN Act, 2007 had drawn public attention to the indecorous treatment of the nation’s currency and introduced legislation to this effect. It also prescribed a six-month jail term or a fine of N50,000 or both for anybody found guilty of both offences.