Nigeria’s central bank has imposed restrictions on weekly cash withdrawals to limit the use of cash in an apparent bid to curb counterfeiting and discourage ransom payments to kidnappers.
Under a new policy announced late on Tuesday, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said that weekly cash withdrawals for individuals had been slashed to 100,000 Nigerian naira ($225) from 2.5 million naira ($5,638).
A majority of Nigerians have no bank accounts and use informal markets where cash is preferred. This move aims to bring more people into the banking system, and will take effect on January 9, the CBN said.
“The maximum cash withdrawal per week via automated teller machine shall be 100,000 naira subject to a maximum of 20,000 naira ($45) cash withdrawal per day,” it said.
Only denominations of 200 naira and less will be loaded into ATMs, it said.
For businesses, the weekly limit has been cut to 500,000 naira ($1,128) from the current daily limit of three million naira ($6,766).
“Withdrawals above these limits shall attract processing fees of five percent and 10 percent, respectively,” the CBN said.
But in compelling circumstances individuals and businesses could withdraw a maximum of five million naira ($11,277) and 10 million naira ($22,553) respectively once a month, it added.
The central bank warned commercial lenders against violating the new cash limits, which it said were in line with its policy to promote cashless transactions.
The bank has expressed concerns in the past over currency counterfeiting, the volume of money outside the banking system and huge ransom payments to kidnappers and bandits.
Last month, Nigeria launched newly designed currency notes, another move the central bank said would help curb inflation and money laundering.
More than 80 percent of the 3.2 trillion naira ($7.2bn) in circulation in Nigeria are outside the vaults of commercial banks and in private hands, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said when he unveiled the new notes.
“The currency redesign will also assist in the fight against corruption as the exercise will rein in the higher denomination used for corruption and the movement of such funds from the banking system could be tracked easily,” he explained at the time.
The new notes – denominations of 200, 500 and 1,000 naira – come into use on December 15, but Nigerians have until January 31 to turn in old notes when they will cease to be legal tender.