The Central Bank of Nigeria, on Friday, said its attention had been drawn to the circulation of counterfeit banknotes.
The banking regulator noted that the counterfeit notes were common with higher denominations by some individuals for transactions in food markets and other commercial centers across major cities in the country.
It said this in a statement signed by the acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mrs Sidi Hakama, on Friday.
This development came as bank depositors continued to complain of cash shortage, both from Automated Teller Machines and over the counter in the banks.
Naira scarcity had lingered, despite the CBN’s directives to the banks to continue to issue, and accept old and redesigned naira banknotes.
Observations by Saturday PUNCH during visits to some banks and ATMs during the week revealed that banks were rationing cash payments over the counter, while withdrawal limits were placed on ATMs.
For instance, in Lagos at GTB, Gate Ejigbo, ATM’s were observed to be paying just N5,000 to non-bank customers, while customers of the bank could withdraw as much as N20,000. Eco Bank at Gate, Ejigbo paid non-bank customers up to N10,000, while bank customers could withdraw as high as N20,000.
A bank depositor, Chuks Daniel, said he visited three different banks in Owerri only to be given N50,000 at his third attempt. Another customer, Wura Adebayo, said she went to UBA bank but was allowed to withdraw only N50,000.
However, in the latest development, the CBN said, “For the avoidance of doubt, Section 20(4) of the CBN Act (2007) as amended, states that: It shall be an offence punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years for any person to falsify, make or counterfeit any bank note or coin issued by the Bank which is legal tender in Nigeria.
“The CBN is in constant collaboration with relevant security and financial agencies to confiscate fake naira banknotes, arrest and prosecute counterfeiters. Members of the public are also encouraged to report anyone suspected of having counterfeit naira notes to the nearest police station, branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria or via firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The banking regulator urged all Deposit Money Banks, financial houses, Bureau de Change operators and the general public, to be more vigilant and take all necessary precautionary measures to curtail the acceptance and distribution of counterfeit notes. “Furthermore, the general public is encouraged to embrace alternative modes of payment, e-channels, for day-to-day transactions to mitigate the risk of spreading counterfeit banknotes,” it stated.