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Nigerian Authorities Call For Calm as Citizens Protest Cash, Fuel Shortages

FILE - People queue at a petrol station in Lagos, Nigeria, Feb. 18, 2022.

Nigerian Central Bank authorities are calling for calm as citizens march in the streets protesting cash and fuel shortages days ahead of the February 10 deadline when the country will switch to redesigned currency. Protesters asked authorities Friday to circulate the new notes or reverse the currency switch decision. President Muhammadu Buhari assured citizens Friday that the problem will be addressed in a matter of days.

Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele told reporters Saturday authorities are taking measures to ensure smooth flow of the cash swap and minimize inconvenience.

FILE - A money changer counts Nigerian naira currency at a bureau de change in Lagos, Nigeria.
FILE - A money changer counts Nigerian naira currency at a bureau de change in Lagos, Nigeria.

He said there are enough of the redesigned currency and reiterated that the deadline to exchange the old bills for the new ones will not be extended beyond February 10.

On Sunday, the CBN announced a 10-day extension from January 31 for citizens to exchange world currencies for the new 200-, 500-, and 1,000-naira bills

But across many states, citizens say the new cash is yet to circulate, bringing business to a halt.

The situation snowballed into protests Friday in Oyo, Delta, Osun and Lagos states. Angry mobs vandalized banks and gas stations.

Ogho Okiti, the managing director of BusinessDay Media Ltd. said the new policy, though profitable, is already showing signs of poor implementation.

"What I think is happening is that we're seeing an evidence of poor execution of the policy," said Okiti. "There's the dimension of logistics, there's dimension of restrictions, then the dimension of accessibility, even to make transfers online you're not able to do that. So, it's putting so much frustration and pressure on the system".

Nigeria is also facing intensifying fuel shortages across the country due to a disruption in the product distribution chain caused by the activities of cross-border smugglers.

On Friday, Buhari called for calm and said he has met with officials to resolve the problem in a lasting manner.

FILE - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
FILE - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Oyo state Governor Sheyi Makinde also addressed residents in a televised broadcast, condemning violence in the state's capital of Ibadan.

"The violence that erupted in part of Ibadan today is condemnable and will not be tolerated," said Makinde. "In response to this I've suspended all campaign activities, I've also met with the heads of security agencies in Oyo state to restore calm. Violence cannot and will not solve our problems".

But across many states, citizens say the new cash is yet to circulate and the old notes have been mostly withdrawn from circulation, making business transactions difficult.

"The protest was actually peaceful, but I guess some people … all these political thugs joined, that is why it actually became violent. The bank was actually damaged totally, because they burgled the ATM machine, sike ?? parts of the windows," said Stephen Adekunle, an Oyo State Resident.

This is Nigeria's first currency swap in 19 years.

Authorities say the measure is already making an impact curbing crimes, counterfeiting and corruption, as well as recalling the excess cash stashed away back into the banking system.