Patience, innovation and risk taking have become the order of the day, as the liquidity squeeze brought about by the Federal Government’s cash swap exercise continues to cramp homes and businesses across Nigeria.
This follows on the redesign of Nigeria’s currency, the naira, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says is to forestall, counterfeiting, terrorism and other unwholesome acts.
This is as some governors across the country have made interventions on behalf of the people.Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, last week directed the state transport service to henceforth convey passengers free of charge. Obaseki has also made interventions with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with a view to easing cash flow bottlenecks.
In Benin City, the Edo State Capital, Tuesday morning, the banks witnessed milling crowds desperate to draw cash for personal and business needs, amidst a glaring scarcity. At the UBA, Access and Zenith Bank branches on Airport Road Benin, there were upwards of 200 people on each queue, which soon became disorderly as customers scrambled in desperation.
Bank security personnel restored a semblance of order by issuing out tallies to sequence a ‘first come, first served’ arrangement.
At Zenith Bank, one woman who wore a gloomy face told our reporter that her tally placed her at number 162 on the queue.
The woman said she was howver encouraged when she saw another customer with tally 305.
At the said banks, cash was being handed out over the counter, as the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) were not dispensing.
At most of the banks, the maximum a customer could withdraw at a time was N5,000.
The Point of Sale service operators who made brisk business a fortnight ago, dispensing cash and charging commissions of N2,000 for every N10,000 and N1,000 for N5,000 had since run out of cash and adjusted their business model.
They now roam the markets and shopping districts, transferring money electronically for a token from card holding shoppers to sellers who do not have PoS facilities.
More and more buyers and sellers are embracing internet banking technology as a way out of the cash squeeze and appear to be the better for it.
Bank networks and enabling switches are however frequently overloaded by the unusual traffic and often become painfully slow or stall altogether, leading to failed transactions and monies suspended in the channel.
This often leads to delays, disappointments and heated arguments among buyers, sellers and facilitators.
One restauranteur on Ekenhuan Road told our reporter that she had much of her monies stranded in such transactions and was barely able to keep her business up and running.
An artisan on Maho Street, off Ekenhuan Road, was heard saying he had had a customer pay N100,000 into a friends bank account for onward remittance to himself because he did not have an account. He added that when it was time to retrieve the money, the friend handed over only N95,000.
At Mama Nosa’s eatery behind Vegetable Market on Airport Road, Benin, Thursday afternoon, three teenage boys sauntered in and ordered three plates peppered rice and beef.
After eating their fill, they dashed out without paying.
One of them was caught, given a few slaps and let off. He walked away with a full belly and a contented look.
Explaining the glitches experienced in e-payment services in Nigeria of recent, Sola Fanowopo, founder and CEO of eMaginations Limited, a communications company specialising in financial technology said:”Its all about capacity. The systems were built for a few thousand transactions at a time. Now almost everyone is turning to them. Nobody expected that everyone will start using epayment platforms overnight.
“Ïts impossible to expand the system immediately. My sympathies go to banks and fintech companies.”
Meat markets around the city were milling, Tuesday morning with people seeking to buy cash from butchers and pay interest.
Three financial associations have assured that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and commercial banks would do everything possible to ensure availability of the naira to the general public.
The associations are Chief Security Officers in Banks (CSOs), Committee of Heads of Operations of Banks (CHOBs) and Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB),
In a statement on Monday Rasheed Bolarinwa, President, ACAMB, said the three bodies gave the assurance in a communique at the end of their tripartite meeting on Sunday.
The meeting was held in Lagos and convened by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).
The three associations assured the general public that the apex bank and commercial banks were doing everything possible to make the naira available.
They also expressed hope of a return to normalcy in the shortest possible time.