Despite lamenting the ripple effect of the cash crunch on their businesses, traders refused to accept the old Naira notes from customers.
Many Nigerians this week faced difficulties making payments for goods and services as traders, motorists, and business owners refused to accept the old Naira notes in anticipation of an official approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In multiple interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, Nigerians who got paid the old N500 and N1000 notes by the banks expressed their frustration amid silence from the CBN and the Nigerian government.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must extend the use of old banknotes until 31 December due to the negative impact of the policy.
A seven-member panel of the court, led by John Okoro, unanimously ordered the CBN to continue receiving the old notes from Nigerian citizens.
The court also found that President Muhammadu Buhari's directive to the CBN on the withdrawal of old notes and redesign of new banknotes without proper consultation was invalid.
The CBN had last December introduced new N200, N500, and N1000 notes, which led to the withdrawal of the old notes from circulation. This policy resulted in widespread chaos across the country, with protests erupting in various regions as Nigerians faced difficulties doing business and making cash payments in daily transactions.
After the Supreme Court delivered its judgment on the naira policy last Friday, some commercial banks in parts of the country on Monday resumed the issuance of the old N500 and N1000 notes to their customers. Analysts thought the development would bring relief to many Nigerians whose businesses have suffered because of their inability to access cash.
But since the Supreme Court gave its verdict on the case, neither the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) nor the Nigerian government has reacted to the new development.
The silence of these key institutions has left many Nigerians confused about the implications of the ruling and how the uncertainty could impact the nation's financial ecosystem.
Despite lamenting the ripple effect of the cash crunch on sales in recent months, PREMIUM TIMES found that traders across the Abuja metropolis refused to accept the old naira notes from their customers.
Some complained of how they have been unable to spend the old notes they had earlier received because of the Supreme Court ruling.
As of Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that apart from traders and other service providers, grocery stores and filling stations have declined to accept the old notes.
Dickson Durotimi, a phone repairer at the Wuse market, told PREMIUM TIMES that he will not receive the old note until there is confirmation from the government and other traders begin to receive it."I will not be the first to collect it when I know that it will be useless to me. People at Banex (a huge complex where phones and accessories are sold) are not collecting it and this is where I get my market from," he said.
"I cannot risk it, even as banks are giving it, we are all waiting to hear the go-ahead from the CBN."
About three filling stations visited in Garki/Apo axis of the federal capital territory only received payment from customers through POS or the new notes.
In Lagos, Nigeria's commercial nerve center, traders also lamented the effect of the uncertainty on their businesses and daily activities.
Aramide Samuel, a civil servant in the state, complained about the rejection of the new notes and how it could cripple businesses. She also expressed worry over the hardship residents are subjected to because of the situation.
"People in Lagos are not collecting the old notes. Yesterday, I was lucky to get N5,000 old notes from the bank. Could you believe that after the hurdles of getting this morning, I could not spend it?
"My colleague that had no cash had relied on me to pay for her transport fare, we trekked from Surulere inside traffic, and not a single bus was willing to collect the money," she said.
Mrs Samuel, however, expressed optimism that once the CBN governor speaks, people will be convinced to transact business with and accept the old notes.
In Katsina metropolis, northwest Nigeria, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that traders and other residents are apprehensive about collecting the old naira notes.
A mechanic in the Layout area of the metropolis, Sanusi Bashir, said he would not collect the old notes because he has not heard from the federal government.
"Let me be honest with you, I can't collect such notes (500/1000) because I'm not sure of the seriousness of the federal government. Of course, you're right the court said we should be collecting it but are you sure the banks will accept the old notes?" he wondered.
A sugarcane seller who simply identified himself as Murtala, said he rejected old notes on several occasions on Wednesday.
"Yes, I don't collect them (old notes) because I don't know where I'll take them to. I rejected the old N500 notes three times today because if I collect them, I don't what to do with them," Mr. Murtala said.
When he was informed that the Supreme Court had passed a verdict that old notes should be accepted and banks have started giving out old N500 and N1000, Mr. Murtala said he didn't trust the "government".
A car wash attendant on Mani road by Kebram plaza, Bashir Dan-Waire, said he would not collect the old notes because the banks might not accept them.
"If I accept it, banks may not collect it from me. You know how cruel these leaders are. I don't trust them. If they want us to collect the money, let the president and CBN governor announce through the media that we should start collecting it, but I'll not be collecting money just because the court said I should," Mr Dan-Waire said.
In Ekiti, commuters and traders also complained about the confusion caused by the silence of the government on the issue.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Felicia Samuel, a foodstuff seller in Olojudo market, Ido Ekiti, confirmed that she and many other traders are rejecting the old naira notes.
Mrs Samuel said she was aware of the order of the Supreme Court but insisted that it was a presidential directive to the CBN that the old N200 should be returned to the banks.
"I won't accept the old note until I hear that President Buhari has ordered us to start collecting it again," she said.
"You know, when they wanted us to start collecting the old N200 note, the president came out to address the country and now let him address us again. If not, nothing will make me collect the old note."
Nkiruka Romanus, another foodstuff seller at the market, said: "I don't have any problem collecting the money but I have called the man that used to supply me goods and he said that I should wait until we hear from the president or the CBN before I can start collecting the old note.
"I know the Supreme Court is the highest and they have given orders for us to start collecting the old note but to be on the safe side, I'm not going to collect it until the President or CBN orders us to do so."
Another trader at the market who identified herself as Mama Kemi said people only listened to what the CBN and the government have said in the past. In effect, she said, many Nigerians are hesitant because they don't know the status of the old naira notes since the CBN hasn't spoken about it yet.
"So I'm not ready to start collecting it now. What if I collect and I can't spend it to buy back my goods? What will now happen to me, will I now go and tell the people that are supplying me goods that they must collect the old note from me because the Supreme Court has given an order? Other people are rejecting it too," she said.Emeka Obi, an electronics dealer at Oja Oba in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, said: "For now, if you buy something from me and you have the old N500 or N1000 notes, I won't collect it from you. Either you pay with the new note or you do a transfer.
"I still have the old notes at home now, nobody is collecting them from me, I went to the bank the other day to deposit them and I was asked to go to a computer Centre and generate a code. With the code, I can now be able to deposit the money.
"I just went back home with the money and it is still in my house as I speak to you now. So, if the president is in support of the Supreme Court order let him address us. I will not collect unless the president or the CBN gives a directive on it. I can not come and run my business at a loss because of one Supreme Court order."
In Ile-Ife, Osun State, traders and transport workers within the campus of the Obafemi Awolowo University also rejected the new notes. On Thursday, PREMIUM TIMES observed some of the bus drivers at the popular student union building park warning commuters that they wouldn't accept the old notes.
"Enter with a new naira note, we are not collecting old N500 and N1000," they warned.
PREMIUM TIMES also gathered that petrol attendants at Matrix and Poplat filling stations on Ede Road rejected the old naira notes from customers.
A resident, Odunayo Adelusi, noted that once the governorship elections are over, the CBN will make pronouncement on the use of the old notes. "Even in the market where their tomatoes keep getting bad, they will not collect the money (old note)," she said.
Nyakno Abasi, a Point of Sale vendor in Uyo, lamented the scarcity of cash across the metropolis.
"I have been going to my bank since Monday but they have not been dispensing any cash. The situation is the worst here. I don't know about any other bank but the bank I am banking with is not going at all," she said.
On her part, Victoria Uyoh, a resident of Uyo, said some banks are dispensing the old naira notes but commercial bus drivers, filling station attendants and commuters are rejecting the notes.
"But some market women have started accepting the old notes," she told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning.
On his part, Solomon Ikotidem, another resident of Uyo, said one of the banks on Abak road axis of Uyo dispensed the old notes, but when some of their customers came in to deposit the old notes, the bank rejected them.
"So they're free to dispense but unavailable for deposit. I will strongly advise against accepting old notes from any bank. As it is now in Akwa Ibom only a few people can trade with it. Market women are rejecting it for the fear that Buhari has not made any official statement," Mr. Ikotidem said.
In Kano, PREMIUM TIMES observed that filling stations fuel rejected the old notes despite the judgment of the Supreme Court.
"No customer has come up with the old new naira note to buy fuel, even if they do come we were not asked to collect the old money we are dealing with the new naira notes and electronic transfer for the payment of services rendered," said a fuel attendant who declined to have his name in print.
"We prefer cash but people are coming with their ATM cards for payment and we have no reason to reject them because we cannot justify our action because we are not buying the petrol with cash."
Nura Hashim, a popular POS operator in Fagge local government area in the kano metropolis, said he does not accept or pay customers with the old naira notes.
Mr. Hashim, who paid customers with old notes in recent weeks, said the notes are difficult to get because the banks are not dispensing the old naira notes at the counter and through the ATM.
"As I speak with you, I am operating five bank accounts with different banks but none of them is providing the old naira notes. This is even after the supreme court judgment. Initially, I was happy with the judgment, but I later understood that the banks are not in compliance with the Supreme Court's judgment."
Nazifi Muhammed, a customer of Guaranty Trust Bank at the Wapa branch in Fagge, lamented the cash crunch and how it has affected his business.
"This is a difficult situation because both the old and the new naira notes are not readily available. If the Banks have complied with the Supreme Court's judgment, they could have eased the suffering of many Nigerians," he said.
On Thursday, some of the banks' ATM points in major cities across Nigeria were deserted due to the cash crunch while a few other banks dispensed only the new notes.
Spokespersons of both the CBN and the Nigerian government declined comment on the issue as of press time Friday morning.