Nigeria limits ATM withdrawals to $45 per day to pay into digital currency

Nigeria will soon begin restricting ATM withdrawals to just $45 per day as part of the country’s push towards a cashless economy.

The policy – which will also apply to banks and cashback on purchases – follows the launch of the West African country’s newly designed banknotes to control the money supply.

FILE: Customers use automated teller machines (ATMs) at a United Bank of Africa Plc (UBA) branch in Lagos, Nigeria, on Tuesday, November 22, 2022.
(Benson Ibuchi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Central Bank of Nigeria has limited weekly over-the-counter cash withdrawals to 100,000 naira ($225) for individuals and 500,000 naira ($1,124) for businesses, with a processing fee required to access more.

When the policy comes into effect in January, ATMs will no longer dispense Nigeria’s high denominations of 1,000 naira ($2.25) and 500 naira ($1.10) while withdrawals from ATMs and POS terminals will also be limited to 20,000 naira ($45) per day.

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Haruna Mustafa, the bank’s director of banking supervision, said cash withdrawals may be allowed “in force majeure circumstances, not exceeding once a month.”

Policymakers say withdrawal limits and recent monetary initiatives from the central bank will bring more people into the banking system and reduce currency hoarding, illicit flows and inflation.

FILE: Godwin Emefele, left, President of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), attends the presentation of new banknotes after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, right, unveiled the newly designed banknotes due to counterfeiting and increasing security problems on November 23, 2022, in Abuja, Nigeria.

FILE: Godwin Emefele, left, President of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), attends the presentation of new banknotes after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, right, unveiled the newly designed banknotes due to counterfeiting and increasing security problems on November 23, 2022, in Abuja, Nigeria.
(Nigerian Presidency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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But other analysts are concerned that the initiative could hurt the day-to-day transactions made by individuals and businesses, given the unreliability of digital payments in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s economy relies heavily on the “informal sector” – activities outside the legal framework and government regulation such as agriculture, street trading, the market, and public transportation. In this sector, where most Nigerians work, cash is usually preferred for transactions as many lack bank accounts.

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Only 45% of adults in Nigeria have accounts with regulated financial institutions, according to the World Bank. In the absence of bank accounts, point-of-sale terminals have emerged as one of the fastest growing areas of financial inclusion in the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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