Residents of Owerri, the capital of Imo State, on Thursday, expressed their anguish at having to wait hours in line to use Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) or do other banking operations.
Most banks’ ATMs were crowded with hundreds of residents trying in vain to withdraw cash to cover their urgent necessities.
DAILY POST correspondent who visited banks on Welthral Road, Bank Road, Douglas Road, and Mbaise Road saw a mammoth crowd waiting in line for more than two hours to withdraw their money.
The scarcity of the new naira notes in Owerri engendered a conducive atmosphere for emergency hawkers of the naira currency to thrive and exploit helpless citizens.
While some POS customers were charging 10 percent on every withdrawal, leading to approximately N1,000 charge for N10,000, others charged N200 for N4000 transactions in new notes and some demanded N150 for N2000.
A commercial bus driver, Mr. Stanley Emeana, told DAILY POST it is not the best of times for the people of Imo, who recently had to deal with persistent petrol shortages, deteriorating power supply and inflation. The situation has now been worsened by the haste to meet the deadline of February 10 for the removal of old banknotes from circulation.
He explained that on Sunday, a large number of Imo State citizens using old currency were stranded and those who went to the market were unable to complete purchases or retrieve their balance using the old currency.
Doreen Ekeh, a civil servant and staff of Imo State Ministry of Information, expressed disappointment that the situation at the filling stations was the same and that motorists are still paying between N350 and N450 per litre.
She claimed to have gone to the bank today to withdraw money but was informed that she could only deposit because neither the ATMs nor the banking halls were paying.
The sad reality, according to her, is that citizens are stranded.
“Many are unable to withdraw their money, and marketers and small-time dealers aren’t making any money because customers aren’t coming in to buy,” she lamented, calling on relevant authorities to intervene.
“They should look into the matter and change the policy for us, it’s not at all in our favour,” she remarked.
Chronicling her woes, petty trader Uche Elendu said she spent an hour on a queue before she could withdraw N5,000.
“The ATM would only give you half of what you requested if you weren’t a client of the bank where you attempted to withdraw money,” she said.
The ordeal of Nnaemaka Obi, a secondary school teacher, was not different.
His words: ” I have been here for over an hour waiting to withdraw my money, after three people withdrew about N30,000, the ATM stopped dispensing. When we queried what went wrong, the bank officials told us that the money had finished.”
Obi said: “This is annoying, if they know that they do not have the new notes to give to us, it is better for them to still be collecting the old one, while the new one is still coming as it is presently not in circulation. ’’
Points of Sales, POS, agents in the city did not help the situation.
A POS agent, Chinedu Ozuromba, told DAILY POST: “I would only accept N1,000 for every N10,000 cash of the new currency you desire.”
When asked to justify his position, he explained: “I went through hell and paid through the nose before I obtained the new notes. I’m not sure where they acquired the new notes, but if you visit Ama Hausa in Owerri, you can receive as much as you want.”
DAILYPOST investigation found a few hawkers of the new notes doing brisk business around Douglas Road junction, Onumiri Street, Ama Hausa and Mere Street.