.It affects our businesses- Traders
By Ishola Balogun, Moses Nosike, Ebun Sessou & Anozie Egole
How will Nigerian politics be in a cash light or cash less economy where carrying of raw cash in ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags is the order of the day? How will the Nigerian socialite spray his money at parties? How can a big family cope with money for its domestic needs on weekends?
How will the average trader in Alaba market or Main Market, Onitsha, who deals in millions of cash everyday cope with the policy when he has to make huge cash available to respond to quick businesses? How will the illiterate cow seller in the far North buy and sell his cow with the new policy as a cow costs more than the limit set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)?
Beginning from March 30, the CBN cash limit of N150,000 for deposits or withdrawals for individuals will kick-off.
It pegged that of corporate bodies at N1m with penalty fees of N100 per extra N1,000 and N200 per N1,000 on individual and corporate defaulters respectively. But churches, market women, traders, artisans and others in the small and medium scale industries of the economy are already complaining, saying the policy would do more harm than good, though financial experts and top businessmen give the policy a thumbs up.
A member of a big church along Oshodi Apapa express way told Saturday Vanguard how the policy has been affecting the church on launches, donations, tithes, offerings, vows and seed sowings. He said that because of this policy, members who promised to donate money to the growth of the church were advised to pay directly into the bank instead of bringing cash to the church.
“In the church,” he went on, “people can walk up to the altar and pledge say N4m and pay cash there. Some, during the church programme of sowing a seed, give N5m and above. “How do we go about with the sowing of seed? Is our church saying we go to the bank instead of the sowing seed?” he asked, stressing that the cash less economy is a very big stress to big churches. “Some big churches”, he went on, “make more than N5m on Sundays. Sometimes, bankers come to the churches to collect money for deposit. The question now is how will the churches cope with this huge deposit?”
A lady narrarted her recent church experience to Saturday Vanguard when she went to pay her tithe. She uses cheques in her financial transactions. She had written the amount for the tithe in a cheque but the pastor said the church only accepted cash. The lady left without paying the tithe.
“ I don’t carry cash, except on rare occasions and it is always minimal”, she said.
Another church member used to pay tithe of about N500, 000 after handling contracts but it is a problem for the member to pay now. One of the reaons for the member, Saturday Vanguard gathered, was because some of the churches are owned by couples who would not want to pay any tax. Some of them do not even have bank accounts. The member now decides to give cheques but the church because it does not have bank account is having problems with cashing it.
Apart from these small scale churches, the big churches also have their problems with issues of cheques. One of them is the case of one particular church that now said cheques will be allowed for pledges and others. But a branch of the church said it has become cumbersome getting the cash for projects the donations are meant for. For example, a branch of a church may have a building project and a member may pledge some money with a cheque for that project. The cheque will be written in the name of the church which is the parent church’s name. So, the cheque goes to the headquarters of the church. It will take months before the parent church will send the money back to the branch for the project to continue because of protocol.
Christian, Islamic leaders react
The miserly will become more stingy —Bishop Issac Afolayan
The Minister-in-charge of Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Ibadan, Oyo State, Bishop Issac Afolayan, said the policy would help the church curb prevalent robbery attacks on offering funds.
“It will help the ministry of God. It will help curb insecurity issues in the church. For instance, a church was robbed in Ibadan recently and all the money given as offering was taken away but with the cash less policy, there is confidence that such atrocity would reduce because members would now be giving their offerings in cheques as it were.”
He stated that people would no longer contend with the stress of going to church with huge amounts of money. “They can give their cards or issue cheques when they want to pay their tithe or give sacrificial offering.”
He maintained that the policy would present its own challenges especially to the church. He stressed that it will discourage the miserly ones in the church to give, finding excuse in the policy as it will make them more stingy while the generous ones will not be deterred by the policy.
Clerics should be carried along — Rev. Monsignor Bernard Okodua:
The chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, Rev. Monsignor Bernard Okodua, said though the policy was good, it needed intensive campaign. “Introducing cashless economy is never a bad idea but there is need for intensive campaign and enlightenment on the policy. The fact that the policy is not only for the bankers means it should be properly handled. It is for all Nigerians including the market women, who are selling tomatoes, onions, clothes, shoes.”
He however cautioned that government should not introduce a policy that will only benefit a section of the society, adding that the clerics should be carried along to further assist in the enlightenment of their followers.
“ We are not ready for the policy because the enlightenment that would guide the people to whom the policy is introduced is not enough. The clerics should be carried along because majority of the people, who are to implement this policy are in the church and if they are not properly informed, they will definitely misinterpret the message,” he said.
It is in line with Islamic injunctions — Sheikh Akinbode
For the Worldwide Chief Missioner of Nasrul-lahi-il Fathi Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Abdullahi Gbade Akinbode, it is a welcome development in that it is in line with the Islamic injunction of curbing wasteful spending. He said: “The role of the religious leaders is to support the laudable programme of the government. It is the duty of the apex bank to regulate and initiate programmes that will better the economy apart from issuing of notes and controlling of money while the Federal Government is there to back it up with legislation. So, our role is to support the laudable programme of the government. So, we will comply and adjust ourselves. If it is aimed at controlling the economy; Almighty Allah wants us to appraise, control and evaluate ourselves; then it is good. He does not want us to be wasteful. If operating cash less economy will restore sanity in our lives, then it is in line with Islamic injunction and it is commendable. The end will justify the means and when the end is good, that institution and the policy become good for us.”
He opined that “it may be very difficult in the beginning but according to the words of God, with every difficulty, there is relief – after any difficulty, there will be relief. (Quran 94:5-6) May God help us.”
In the same vein, the Chief Imam of Ikorodu, Sheikh Seifudeen Olowooribi said it concerns the rich who have the money to deposit and withdraw at will. For those who are poor, they don’t even have the maximum cash limit.
Cash less economy,a threat to us—Traders, artisans
In the same vein, some businessmen, traders, market women and artisans, who make huge financial transactions on a daily basis, are also complaining. Many of them expressed displeasure over the introduction of the policy, asking how they were to go about without cash for their daily transactions. Some of them, without mincing words, stressed that there were several other important issues to deal with other than introducing the cash less policy.
Ben Okiri, a Delta born tyre seller, who operates his business in Ejigbo, Lagos State, said the policy would affect his business. But he appeared to have devised a method of dealing with the situation in order to stay in business. According to him, he would embark on a bit by bit withdrawal of his cash in the bank if he wants to replenish his stock.
According to Okiri, “Our type of business is not what you go to market and buy. You must always make complete payment before the goods will be delivered to you. There is no room for credit. Sometimes, it depends on the importers as they are always in need of money to plough back into the business,” he said.
He stated that the policy does not only affect business transactions, but it affects other aspects of our lives, citing the need for accommodation and payment of rents. He said there are some landlords who do not receive cheques.
“If you are looking for a house, where you have to pay more than N300,000 a year, excluding the agency and agreement fee, are we expected to be moving about with that huge amount of money since most of the owners do not accept cheques?” he queried.
He said that cash less economy, if finally implemented, will stifle small and medium scale industries as there will be no enough money to make quick purchases, adding that government should rather peg the maximum withdrawal to N1million for individuals and N2m for corporate bodies.
Amaka Ojukwu, a trader, said N150,000 is a very small money for her to withdraw if she wants to make purchases in order to stock wares in her boutique. She added that sometimes, one might be in an urgent need for more money to do other businesses, and one might lose the business in the process of several withdrawals if cash is demanded.
Another man, Dickson Brown who spoke with anger on the issue said that the policy was not meant for him. According to him, “This kind of policy is not meant for small and medium scale business owners in Nigeria. It is operative in advanced countries but they failed to realise that we are not there yet.”
Grace Olatu nji, a caterer based in Lagos corroborated Brown’s idea, saying Nigerians are not yet ripe for this policy. She advised that government should first put in place a lot of security measures and give a policy statement on corruption, especially in the banking industry.
A legal practi-tioner, who pleaded anonymity said the government was chasing shadows instead of tackling the security challenges crippling the economy. He maintained that the policy has no effect on him and his law firm but advised that the decision deserves to be examined properly before being implemented.
Why CBN floated Cash less policy —Experts
Those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard said the rationale behind the introduction of the policy is to stem the tide of financial crime, such as money laundering, fraud, illicit financial activity among others. One of them was former governorship candidate on the platform of DPA in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, who stated that the reason behind this policy could be because the CBN wants to check money laundering and illicit activity, inflation, cost of maintaining an economy that is predominately cash-based, or merely because change which is one factor that is always constant in life is necessary at this point. He stressed that the policy is capable of addressing issues like security, robbery, fraud, among others. According to him, the advantages of a cashless society range from regulating, controlling, to securing the financial system of our economy.
National President, Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), Dr Gani Enahoro, corroborated the views of Agbaje. However he stated that for the policy to benefit Nigerians, they should not be fined for large withdrawals as prescribed by the Central Bank. “It is another form of taxation, whose proceeds would not get to the Federal Inland Revenue Service. It also gives the negative impression that Nigerians are never able to do good things except they are coerced, a mentality that should not be given official coloration,” he stated.
It’ll lead to loss of jobs — Oladapo
According to Siyanbola Oladapo, Managing Director/ CEO of Bowill Errands Limited, the idea of cash less economy may not be new to advanced countries but it is an entirely new concept in Nigeria where over 23.8 million adults save their money at home for reasons of irregular income, unemployment, rural dwellers, challenge of bank distances, etc. With new ideas come certain risks which must be addressed for a successful implementation.
CBN should embark on massive enlightenment — Nweze
Dr. Austin Nweze, a former gubernatorial candidate in Ebonyi State said, “The cash light economy means that banks will be more liquid since almost all transactions will be routed through the banking system. Most high volume transactions will be captured in the system unlike what is presently obtainable. It will help in a small way to curb corrupt payments that are usually made in cash to and by government officials, businesses, politicians paying to hold or contest or seeking nominations, government contracts, etc.
“It will also reduce the cost of handling cash by the CBN and the banks. Usually, cash in transit carries insurance cover due to the risk of armed robbery attacks in the course of moving cash from one point to another. This will be reduced drastically. The downside should also be noted because of the state of our infrastructure and low level of educated population and poverty especially in the rural areas. Religion and other cultural issues could also hinder the success or nationwide introduction of the cashless system. Easy adaptability of the technology and functionality due to power outages should be a concern.”