Cashless Policy Hits Hard

…Traders Bemoan Low Patronage

By Gloria Ibesi and Ogoo Nwaokafor

The recent scarcity of bank notes in Nigeria is biting hard on many Nigerians, with many now resorting to buying and selling of goods and services, using bank transfers through their mobile phones and Point of Sale (POS) terminals other than the use of cash.

According to CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, CBN introduced the cashless policy to have control of the currency in circulation, manage inflation, as well as tackle counterfeiting, although rumours abound that it is because of the general elections in order to eliminate vote buying.

Mr Emefiele also stressed that the move was to redistribute the new notes which would ultimately reduce the amount of cash in circulation and also discourage ransom payment, as well as large volumes of money.

The affected Naira notes include 200, 500 and 1000 which are among the most frequently used among the market women for their daily transactions. Thus the CBN decision to redesign new Naira notes has indeed affected the day to day business of the market women.

When Fides visited some local markets, many traders who believed they were at the receiving end of it all, complained of low patronage and losses, which, they said, they had been going through owing to the cashless policy.

At First Market, Ifite Awka, a foodstuffs retailer, who simply gave her name as Mrs Nzube, complained bitterly of how they no longer made sales like before and how some of their goods spoilt because of want of customers.

‘Sales these days are very low; people complain of not having cash, they make transfers which are not totally favouring us. When we go to buy goods from wholesalers, it costs a lot to withdraw cash through POS and when we decide to make transfers, they insist that we pay for charges as well.

A butcher, name undisclosed, lamented the policy. ‘Business has been stalling. Most of my customers opt to make transfers because they have no cash, but I do not have a bank account; therefore I don’t accept transfers. The policy is not benefiting us at all,’ he said.

Another trader said he bought goods in smaller quantities to avoid loss due to spoilage.

The consumers are not left out as a number of them have one concern or the other. According to them, buying commodities, especially groceries had become stressful. Some of the traders did not accept transfers and for the ones who did, poor network often hindered the transfers from going through, thus keeping them from buying things they needed or leaving them at the mercy of POS agents who charged them exorbitantly.

A consumer who gave his name as Joseph said, ‘Life has been difficult since the scarcity of bank notes. A woman whom I usually buy things from has refused to sell to me because I’m owing her due to lack of cash.

She doesn’t accept transfers and I have not been able to get enough cash to pay her. If this cashless policy continues this way, I don’t think it will benefit us because we can’t be making transfers for every little thing we want to buy.’

Fides noticed that the once booming market appeared to experience lower patronage owing to the cashless policy, despite its being a weekend. Only few customers were seen walking in and out of the market.

Mama Ebuka who sells fresh tomatoes and peppers at Nkwo Amaenyi Market in Awka narrated how she had been experiencing low patronage from her customers, leading to most of them perishing.

‘Since the new notes came out and we were asked to submit the old ones without any new money in return, my customers have not been able to buy in large quantities and due to this some of my tomatoes have been perishing, while my family consumes some and I also give out out some of my goods to avoid wasting them,’ she said.

Mama Ebuka also said the unavailability of the new notes made it difficult for her to restock as those she bought from demanded cash before doing business with her.

Another food stuffs seller, identified as Mama Chioma, said her sales had dropped sharply because of the prevailing cash situation.

‘I no dey sell as I dey sell before. This cashless something don spoil market for me well well oo. I no get account and I no sabi make transactions. The only people wey dey buy my market na people wey hold cash. If you no hold cash, I no dey sell. People wey hold cash no dey reach three a day. I don go bank make them open account, them say come today, come tomorrow; even no network,’ she bemoaned in pidgin English, while noting that going to the bank was also difficult because of the crowd of people.

‘Make them hold their account make I hold my money. My market no dey spoil, anytime they bring out money we go dey sell as we dey sell before,’ she quipped.

Chizoba, who owns a provision store at Eke Awka Market, said however that the cashless policy had not affected her badly. According to her, she sold both in cash and through her POS machine and people even bought things now more than before.

‘Maybe it’s because most sellers don’t have POS but I can’t tell. Anyway, the only way the situation affects me is when I go to the market to restock my shop. After picking my goods I end up leaving them because of bad network. Making transactions has been really difficult due to bad network. This is the only thing affecting me this period,’ she said.

A road side seller that sells fruits, known as Mama Abaa, explained how the cashless policy was affecting her.

‘This period don turn me to Mother Christmas. I now dash out goods every day due to no cash and people don’t make transfer to me due to the little price of my goods,’ she said in pidgin English, noting that sometimes, someone would buy an apple of N600 and won’t know how to make electronic transaction and would leave the apple and go.

She said instead of leaving the fruits to spoil, she also resort to giving them out to people.

‘This period is really hard on me and my family because this is where we feed. I don’t see money anymore not to talk of how to get new goods. Well, it’s only God that will save us in this country,’ Mama Abaa said.

Amid the confusion occasioned by the current cashless policy, it is indeed the poor masses who are bearing the brunt, especially the market women who sell perishable goods, as well as old people who don’t know anything about e-banking.