Visits by our correspondent to several banks in most parts of Lagos on Wednesday showed that long queues had become a common sight at their ATM points.
Customers preparing for Christmas and New Year festivities, findings showed, were busy withdrawing cash from the ATMs to buy food items, dresses, decorations and other things needed to make the Yuletide an exciting experience.
The economic recession ravaging the country may not mar the Christmas and New Year experiences of most Nigerians if long queues seen at the ATM points are anything to go by.
“I need to prepare for the Christmas; I have come to withdraw some cash for my wife to get some dresses for the children and us,” a businessman, who identified himself as Kunle Benson, told our correspondent at a Skye Bank Plc ATM gallery in Ikeja.
Similar stories were told by bank customers who spoke to our correspondent at the ATM centres in Iyana Ipaja, Ikotun-Egbe, Ogba, Magodo and Ojodu in Lagos.
“I have been very busy but it is high time I bought things we need for the Yuletide. I have come to get some cash to buy food items we will need for the Yuletide,” a trader, Mrs. Shola Ologunjaye, told our correspondent at a Guaranty Trust Bank Plc’s ATM gallery in Ojodu, Lagos.
Some customers told our correspondent they were surprised about the long queues seen at most ATM centres, saying it was too early to start seeing such queues.
A customer, who identified himself simply as Johnson, said he had driven from Ogba to Ojodu in search of ATM galleries with short queues.
“I never knew I could get to this point and still did not get an ATM with a shorter queue. I wonder where the people are from. People are queuing up to get cash everywhere,” he said
An ATM officer in one of the commercial banks, who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity, said the situation was made worse by most Nigerians withdrawing cash to travel to their home towns for the Yuletide.
On why the biting economic recession did not stop the long queues emerging at the ATM galleries, a professor of Economics at the University of Uyo, Leo Ukpong, said the impact of the recession would be felt after the Yuletide, pointing out that most bank customers were withdrawing cash from the savings they had made for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
The don said, “People have savings and people will normally save towards the Christmas. We will feel the impact after the Christmas and the New Year,”
However, Ukpong said the ATM queues were also being compounded by poor cash management by the CBN.
He said, “It is not only in Lagos we are having the long queues. I have seen them in Uyo as well. I asked why and they said that the CBN would normally print new notes to replace the old and dirty notes. But recently, they have not been doing much. Somehow, there is a shortage of notes for the ATMs. People are now withdrawing cash to travel and do other things to prepare for the Yuletide. The danger is that this can cause panic in the system. The CBN’s cash management system needs to do something.”
An economic analyst, Mr. Haruna Okunade, said the recession was affecting many Nigerians and that not everyone would experience Yuletide in the manner they used to do.