Normalcy returns after Lagos riots, as Buhari’s broadcast compounds naira crisis


NORMALCY has returned to some areas on the mainland in Lagos State where rioters took to the streets on Friday, December 17 morning to vent their anger over the agonies they have been experiencing in accessing the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes.

Protesters had stormed the roads early in the day in Okekoto and Abule-Egba in Agege; the Ikorodu Road stretch (Ojota, Ketu, Mile-12, Agric); and the Iyana Ipaja, Iyana Iba and Igando axis, setting up bonfires and blocking vehicles from plying the roads.

Although there were gunshots by the police at some of the riot spots, no casualty has been reported.

The Lagos State Police Command public relations officer, Superintendent Benjamin Hundeyin, confirmed reports of the riots in those areas, but added the police quickly mobilised and sent reinforcements comprising mostly men of the Rapid Response Squad (RSS) to quell the riots.

Hundeyin stated this afternoon on his official Twitter handle about the Ikorodu Road riots, “Free movement of vehicles and people fully restored. Our officers and men are still on ground to prevent any breakdown of law and order.”

A staff of The ICIR, Tolani Kareem, residing in the Okekoto area of Agege, who was, when coming to the office in the morning, compelled by the violence to flee back home, confirmed the area was calm this afternoon.

Tolani said vehicles were back on the roads, while pedestrians were also moving freely.    

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However, it may be calm of the graveyard as scarcity of the new naira notes bites harder in the state and tension rises. There are complaints everywhere about availability of naira notes to satisfy personal and family necessities.

Anger had begun swelling up again in Lagos after the nationwide broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday February 16 dashed any hope that the citizens could still be able to exchange or spend old notes of N500 and N1,000 in their possession.

The Supreme Court had given the people some measure of hope on February 15 when it directed that the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was retiring should remain legal tender, while adjourning the suit bordering on the naira design policy of the CBN, which three state governors had brought before it, till February 22.

With the court order, the old notes began circulating freely again, with traders and commercial bus operators, among others who had been uncertain, accepting them in transactions.

But Buhari’s broadcast declaring the old N500 and N,1000 as illegal tender from February 10 erased that hope. Tension spread as people quickly began rejecting the two notes in interpersonal financial transactions.

A staff member of the Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area residing in Somolu, who would want to be identified simply as Abiodun, told The ICIR how difficult it had become for him to purchase food and commute in commercial buses since the President’s broadcast.

Abiodun said he had been hoping to spend the few old notes with him as he made more efforts to obtain the new ones.

“I don’t have a kobo on me as I stand here that I can spend. The few N1,000 and N500 notes that I have have become useless. Everybody has been rejecting them. I have not eaten anything since morning.

“I have been going to Stanbic IBTC (Somolu branch) to try to withdraw some new notes, but that has been impossible. My tally number was 98 yesterday, but by the time it was my turn to get the little N3,000 they were issuing to each person, they said there was no more money.

“Today, I was there as early as 6am, but they said they would start issuing the new notes by 10am. When I got there by that time, they said there was no money,” he said.

Accessing funds from the banks and automated teller machines (ATMs) became even more harrowing today as most banks in the metropolis shut their doors against customers because of the riots.

Most ATMs also had no money in them.

A staff of the Guaranty Trust Bank, Adeniyi Jones branch, Ikeja, who pleaded anonymity, confided in The ICIR that the banks only found in the riots an excuse about their inability to dispense funds.

The staff said the GTB branch where he works, for instance, had been unable to satisfy the demands of customers that had been thronging it for money moreso as it was about the only bank in the axis dispensing the new notes, to some extent. He said while the branch was even able to pay a maximum of N10,000 last week to lucky customers whose accounts were domiciled with it, it reduced the sum to N6,000 this week.

The branch, as well as other banks in the Adeniyi Jones Street, Oba Akran Avenue, Aromire Street, and Opebi-Allen Avenue, all in the Ikeja axis, were firmly shut today.

The Keystone Bank, Palm Grove, Lagos mainland branch, has also been paying its customers with discrimination. Only those whose accounts are domiciled at the bank were able to access funds, with the maximum being N10,000. And even then, one customer told The ICIR, the branch has been paying the money about only two or three days a week.

As was discovered at the Access Bank and Stanbic IBTC branches at Somolu, customers seeking to get money at banks where their accounts were not domiciled could only get a maximum of N3,000.

“What can N3,000 do in meeting my demands? I have a wife and five children to feed. The children must go to school. And it is more annoying when I think I queued here for four hours to get this N3,000,” a frustrated man, Abiola Desmond, told The ICIR at the Access Bank Somolu branch.

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