Nigerians who have had cause to make foreign transactions with banks in the country have been going through very tough times with the banks, as the financial institutions now refuse to accept dollar bills printed earlier than 2006.
LEADERSHIP investigations revealed that Nigerians who had cause to make foreign trips or needed to make transactions abroad in recent times were disappointed when their dollar bills were rejected by the banks. Virtually all the banks operating in the country refuse to accept United States Dollar bills printed before 2006.
Also hard-hit are Nigerian importers in the informal sector who depend largely on the parallel markets for their dollar supply but pay for their goods abroad through bank transfers from their domiciliary accounts to the accounts of their suppliers abroad.
One of such importers, a dealer in building materials in the Dei-Dei International Market, Abuja, Mr Anthony Miracle, told LEADERSHIP that the dollar bills he presented to a ranking bank in the country was rejected even when he was very certain that they were original.
Asked where he sourced his forex from, he said it was from the parallel market.
"The bank rejected the dollar that I presented to them to pay for my goods abroad. They didn't even explain to me what was wrong with it. They just said that the machine did not accept it," Miracle said. "It was the Mallam that I bought the dollar from that told me it was rejected because of the date it was printed and not because it was fake."
According to him, the black market dealer showed him that the dollar was printed in 2000, and that is why it was rejected.
Another bank customer, Adejala Thomas, whose brother lives abroad, also narrated his own experience: "My brother in US gave his friend some hundred dollar bills to give to me. When I took the money to change I could not change them because the bureau de change rejected the money. The man now explained that they would not accept dollars made before 2006 because banks don't accept it from them."
Nsima Aniekan, a bank customer who wanted to travel abroad also told LEADERSHIP that she suffered the same fate. "My bank said they rejected the bills because they were made in 1996," she said.
The United States Embassy in Nigeria, while confirming the report, however, said it affects dollar bills printed before 2004 and not 2006.
Spokesperson of the embassy Deborah Maclean confirmed to LEADERSHIP that it's banks and other businesses abroad that were electing to accept only the most recently produced US currency.
"We have heard of banks and other businesses abroad electing to accept only the most recently produced U.S. currency, in this case the 2004 series notes which feature greater anti-counterfeiting measures. Banks and other businesses have the right to decide which currency to accept or not accept. We note, however, that the U.S. government recognizes notes produced prior to 2004 as legal U.S. tender."
When LEADERSHIP visited one of the banks to confirm the reports, the officials insisted that they were not rejecting the dollar bills based on the year they were printed, adding that they only accept bills that pass through their scanning machine.
An officer in Diamond Bank who refused to have his name in print said: "We are not the ones rejecting the money, it is the machines. When they bring the dollars we have to scan them through our machine; if they pass through we accept it, if not we won't accept." Asked whether he noted that only dollars printed before 2006 were rejected, he simply said, "I don't know."
However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said it is not behind this move by banks to reject dollar bills printed before 2006.
CBN director of banking supervision Tokunbo Martins said there was no circular from the apex bank to that effect, an indication that the banks were acting on their own.