…Cash scarcity persists as POS operators increase charges
…Extend deadline to June, Ortom tells CBN
…Policy’ll trigger anger voting, says analyst
By Solomon Ayado & Terese Tse
Following the difficulty faced by Nigerians to access cash due to the new naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), scores of persons in the agrarian Benue State have resorted to the old fashioned trade-by-barter means of transaction.
This is coming just as there is serious unavailability of both the new and old naira notes, a situation that has defied all control measures, even as Point of Sale (POS) outlets remained shut while the few that opened for business their charges.
The CBN had on October 26, 2022, announced plans to redesign the 200, 500, and 1000 naira notes.
The apex bank had set January 31, 2023 as deadline for the deposit of the old naira notes to financial institutions, before it later extended the date sequel to public outcry.
The Voice investigations revealed that there were long queues as persons thronged the banks to withdraw and or deposit cash in Makurdi, Otukpo and Gboko towns, as well as in other remote areas across the state.
It was observed that most of the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) at varied bank branches were unable to dispense cash.
Our correspondent witnessed few ATMs that were operational dishing out N5,000 as maximum cash withdrawal, with long queues.
The situation was seen to be worsened by the absence of Point Of Sale (POS) operators who, due to non-availability of cash, were charging between N1,000 and N1,500 for every issuance of N5,000.
A POS operator at High-Level area of Makurdi who simply gave his name as Odeh told The Voice in an interview that he got the cash from some top money merchants.
According to Odeh, the sum of N20, 000 was reportedly being charged for each N100,000 cash issuance, from the merchants. He said even at that, the cash was still very scarce and hard to get.
Customers decry naira notes scarcity
Terfa Nor, a customer who was met in one of the banks in Gboko said he “spent about three hours on the queue” before he was able to withdraw N5,000 on the ATM.
He lamented the hardship and said there was urgent need for government to review the policy to ameliorate the suffering of the masses.
Another POS customer, who identified herself as Juliet said the country was deteriorating into state of chaos and total hardship, going by the way banks and POS operators are taking advantage of the situation.
“It is disheartening that we are suffering in our own country, buying the naira at high price. This is failure of government that is insensitive to the plight of the poor masses and the leaders need a rethink,” she stated.
In her reaction, a businesswoman, Chinenye Obi said, “It is not a funny experience as it has negatively affected almost everybody. The new trend is now that new notes are not in circulation, the banks don’t dispense enough. It is very funny but pathetic.”
“Presently, sales has been very bad since the issue of swapping old naira notes for the new ones surfaced. The market is not only affecting the supply of goods but the purchasing power of buyers. It is now a game of the survival of the fittest at the moment and we don’t know the fate that await us in the coming days. The government should try and make life easy for us else, survival is getting tougher by the day,” she stated.
Why we resort to trade-by-barter, others narrate
Narrating his ordeal on how he managed to transact business, Mr. Uja Emmanuel, a media expert explained the difficulty he faced with his online application.
According Uja, he had no option than to transact on credit basis hence he could not access cash, even though he had money in his bank account. He said there was traffic on the online app and it was not going through.
“Today in my GTB, no funds transfer on my APP, I bought everything on credit – Thanks my customers who trusted me,” he said
Peter Jingali, a resident of Mbagbera community in Vandeikya Local Government Area of the state told our correspondent how he exchanged his goats in payment to some builders who handled his building project.
According to him, he took to trade-by-barter to do the transaction because he could not access cash for several days and the workers were in need of their wages.
“I had to do trade-by-barter. I gave goats to some persons that built my house. They needed their pay and there was no money anywhere in the bank or POS and so, I gave them my goats in exchange to the payment,” he narrated.
Extend deadline to June, 2023, Ortom tells Buhari, CBN
To cushion the negative effects, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has advised President Muhammadu Buhari and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to do more by extending the deadline for the facing out of the old naira notes to June, 2023.
His advice hinged on the adverse effects of the policy and said the masses are suffering due to lack of the new naira notes.
“There are no new notes in the banks and we cannot use the old notes. Extension of ten (10) days has been announced but it is grossly inadequate” he stated.
Governor Ortom while speaking at the commissioning of the newly completed laboratory of Bishop Murray medical center, Makurdi, urged President Buhari and the CBN to have a rethink.
“I join the National assembly in appealing to Mr President that the people are already in distress. We are suffering. The Change in currency is good. Countries all over the World do it from time to time, but the timing of this change in naira for our economy at this time is not just the best.
“I join the National Assembly to appeal to Mr President and the Central Bank to extend the dead line for return of old naira notes to June, 2023 when all the old naira notes would have been recouped from the villages and all over the place. And also the new naira notes should be printed enough to circulate so that everybody can have access. Otherwise I cannot imagine what will happen. You go to the bank, they do not have new notes to give you. It is a big a problem and it is already adding to the sufferings of the people,” Ortom stated.
Policy will trigger anger voting, says expert
A political economist, Dr. Denen Shija has said the naira redesign policy, coupled with the suffering the people are facing in accessing the cash will trigger anger voting.
According to Shija, the government had initiated the policy without envisaging the hardship that could follow its poor implementation.
He wants the government to devise alternative means of making the naira notes excessively available.
“Most of the people have this believe that the government in power brought the policy to deliberately punish them and the need to vote against it, even though it may not be true. Some eligible voters have started speaking against the government already while others are angry and have changed their minds to vote for other political parties. Of course, this would certainly trigger anger voting because the masses are suffering and they have every cause to be angry, unless something is done urgently,” Shija stated.
Also, a public affairs analyst, Rodgers Aôndoakaa, there is scarcity of new naira notes, it is not in circulation and POS is frustrating us, charging us double for any transaction.
“Although, President Buhari assured Nigerians through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu that the policy was targeted at individuals in possession of illicit funds and not ordinary Nigerians and we do not view it as a bad one either but certain arrangements would have been put in place before the polity because as it stands, the general masses are chiefly bearing the cost and this might trigger voting or change political calculations as election approaches,” he stated.