The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced on Thursday (February 2) the distribution of new banknotes at bank counters to reduce massive queues at ATMs, a move aimed at allaying growing social unrest.

Three weeks before the presidential and legislative elections in Africa’s most populous country, frustration is high among Nigerians who are struggling to obtain cash after the introduction of new banknotes at the end of 2022. They are already facing fuel shortages and frequent load shedding.

“The [Central Bank] Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has ordered depository banks to pay for the new naira notes at the counters within the daily limit of 20,000 naira [some 40 euros],” the holder said. lyrics by Osita Nwanisobi.

Everywhere in Nigeria, especially in the megalopolis Lagos and in the capital Abuja, many people wait for hours in front of the very few distributors issuing the new tickets.

Riots in Kano

Enough to fuel the exasperation of Nigerians, the majority of whom live in poverty and depend on the informal economy, where cash remains essential. Riots broke out this week in Kano, the largest city in the north of the country.

In October 2022, the Central Bank announced, without warning, changing the banknotes (including their color) and decided that the old banknotes would no longer be valid on January 31, i.e. twenty-five days before the presidential election.

This calendar is highly criticized in Nigeria, where pre-election periods are already synonymous with suffering for Nigerians. Economic activity there is slowing down, fuel shortages are greater than usual and insecurity is growing.

Faced with popular pressure, the authorities pushed back the date to February 10, specifying that there would be a seven-day grace period after the deadline for depositing the old notes at the central bank. The CBN blames the shortage in particular on a significant number of people “hoarding” and “hoarding” the new tickets they obtain by withdrawing “in series” from vending machines.

The new notes, according to the CBN, are aimed at reducing the volume of money outside the banking system to optimize monetary policies, combat counterfeit currency and complicate ransom payments to kidnappers in the kidnapping-ridden country.