New Nigerian naira notes a rare sight on first day of circulation

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Nigerians lined up to withdraw cash on the first day that new 200, 500 and 1 000 naira notes start circulating, but they were in short supply as most of the money handed out remained in old bills that are being phased out, customers said.

Nigeria’s central bank started circulating the redesigned higher-denomination notes on Thursday under a plan to curb double-digit inflation and move towards a cashless economy.

“A few (notes) came into the bank so we are going to be giving out … just a few too,” one cashier told Reuters.

The equivalent old notes cease to be legal tender on January 31, and people have until then to deposit them at banks and get the corresponding sum credited to their accounts.

Many Nigerians say that the deadline is too tight for those living in rural areas or working in informal markets.

“Out of 300 000 naira I withdrew, I ended up having 2 000 naira (in) new notes,” an agent who collect deposits and make payments on behalf of banks told Reuters on Thursday. “I was very disappointed.”

Politically, the currency plan also comes at a sensitive time, with elections for president, National Assembly seats, state governors and local authorities due in February and March.

Some politicians, who typically use hard cash for campaign handouts, have denounced it as draconian.