March 22, 2023

Naira redesign: Nothing has changed; we’re still suffering — South East residents

cash payout

•We pay bank officials to get cash-POS operator
•I operate only three times a week-Food vendor
•Many transfers end up hanging
•We find it difficult to eat two square meals- Mrs. Olikeze

By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Chinedu Adonu, Ikechukwu Odu & Emmanuel Iheaka

RESIDENTS of the South-East region say they are still groaning under the hardship occasioned by the Federal Government’s naira redesign policy. They lamented that despite the Central Bank declaration, they are yet to witness any serious relief in both their lifestyle and businesses, rather, they still find it difficult to have access to their money and difficult to buy things to run their families.

People who are in need of cash still spend hours in the banks and receive paltry N3,000 to N5,000 as the banks still claim that they are short of cash.

Residents react

Point of Sale, POS, machines operators have suddenly become lords as people queue to receive cash from them at a fee. For instance, the operators are still charging N1000 for every N5,000 in most places and N2,000 for N10,000. A POS operator in Awka, Miss Nneka Okeke said it is not easy getting cash from the banks, adding that they pay the bank officials to be able to get cash.

According to her: “Anytime you see me dispensing money, just know that I am doing it for a staff in my bank. We reached an agreement with them on how much we will pay for getting cash. Those who do not have such connection have run out of business.

“But generally, the business is good. Only those who refuse to be sharing the profit with bank officials are the people who are complaining that they do not have cash to give to people.”

A resident of Awka, Mr. Casmir Okoli said the scarcity of cash in circulation has forced him to adjust to the new reality.

“I was one of those who never trusted mobile banking because of the fear of fraudsters, but when it became inevitable, I had to acquire the ATM card. I have also activated my mobile apps and I now do transfers for most of the things I buy.

“Surprisingly, it is becoming smoother to operate without cash as even women who sell food items also accept transfers. It is only when I want to buy something like cigarettes that I require cash desperately and that one is even slowing down my rate of smoking.”

I now operate 3 times a week—Food seller

A middle aged woman who runs a restaurant in Owerri, Imo State, Mrs. Chizoba Okoro, said the situation has forced her to operate only three times a week.

Mrs. Okoro lamented that her sales have reduced by more than 50 per cent since 14th January when the old naira notes stopped circulating.

If the return of the old naira notes following the Supreme Court judgment was to offer some respite, not for Mrs. Okoro, as she said sales were yet to improve. Beyond dwindling sales, the food seller also has litany of pending/failed electronic money transfers done by customers, a development she said, has seized part of her business capital, describing it as frustrating.

She stated: “The situation is very frustrating. I now operate three times a week because of low sales and issue of cash. You hardly see any customer coming with cash. The worst of it is that many of the transfers end up hanging or failing. I have many transfers hanging. So, how do I access the money to buy the food to cook?

“I don’t buy in large quantities because I just started the business about seven months ago. I go to market everyday and buy things directly from the women who come from the villages, and many of these women don’t even have bank accounts. For them, there is no alternative to paying with cash.

“So, I sell today, I take the next day to look for cash to enable me return to the market to buy again. I wonder why government has refused to release this money. Let them do something about this situation, please.”

Ugochukwu Umanu, who deals on phones, lamented the effects of cash crunch on his business. He said he records low patronage as most of his customers spend most of the day in the bank in an effort to get cash.

Also, he said that poor network from the telecommunication providers have equally hampered smooth transfer of funds between business owners and buyers. He said that Nigeria is not yet mature for the cashless policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“Our businesses have been suffering since the introduction of cashless policy by the CBN. Most of my customers spend reasonable hours of their day trying to get cash from banks. At the end of the day, they won’t have time to come and patronize me.

“Because of the cashless policy, those who want to transfer money through their electronic gadgets are equally frustrated due to poor network from the providers.

“People now have little or no cash on them; as a result, they spend the little money on them to meet pressing needs. They won’t have physical cash to pay for phones or accessories, thereby making our businesses to suffer,” he said. He urged the Federal Government and CBN, to reconsider the cashless policy because of the suffering it has brought on Nigerians.

We find it difficult to eat two square meals in a day since this money redesign —Mrs. Olikeze

Petty traders who spoke with SEV at Ose Okwodu Market, Slaughter Market and Ajas, Onitsha, including Mrs. Grace Olikeze, Margaret Chukwu and Rita Nwosu, lamented that their businesses have been adversely affected by the policy. They said they barely manage to feed their families.

According to Mrs. Olikeze: “We find it difficult to eat two square meals since this policy was introduced. The policy has crumbled my business, we feed from the business capital as customers have stopped coming and we no longer make profit; and when you are not making profit in your business, the next thing is to spend from your capital.”

For Mrs. Chukwu: “The naira redesign achieved nothing except setback, business collapse and loss of business capital; it has exposed the emptiness of this administration.

“I am a graduate of accountancy, and five years after graduation, I could not find a job to do and I decided to delve into this business which I am now comfortable with, but this government has come to destroy what people like me have set up. The policy has not brought anything good except suffering and gnashing of teeth. What has it changed, what impact has it made in the lives of the people except setback, business collapse and loss of business capital?

“It will not be well with them; a government that seems to be happy seeing the citizens suffer. The same government came up with BVN, NIN and currency redesign and other policies that never in any way, added value to the lives of the people, all to divert attention from their misrule.”

According to Mrs. Nwosu, everything about naira redesign policy is a failure. If you look at the denominations of money printed, they don’t look good, their circulation is poor and the policy ended up destroying businesses and causing crisis in homes.

“You asked people to deposit the old money they had and you refused to give them the new money to transact their businesses and feed their families. People are made to spend the time they should invest in their business and work at the banks and still end up not getting money.

“They have succeeded in killing businesses, increasing the level of hardship the people are going through and worsening the economic situation of the people. People like me have struggled to surmount the hard economic situation in Nigeria with personal effort but this Naira redesign has thrown us back to square one,” she said.

No hope for poor asses in Nigeria— Chief Ugwu

A civil servant in Enugu State, Chief Lawrence Ugwu said the policy was targeted at the poor masses. According to him, only politicians and top government officials now have access to the money while the middle and lower class citizens do not have and continue to suffer.

He accused commercial banks of giving money to government officials.

“Are you asking me how the situation is? Are you not affected by the whole thing? You will have money in your account but you go to the bank and they tell you no money. I wonder where the POS operators get the money they are selling.

“The poor masses have suffered in this country. Every policy is targeted at the poor masses. We don’t have hope in Nigeria any longer. Politicians are sharing the new notes which banks said is scarce.

We don’t know the reasons behind the policy. They seized people’s money and even when the court ordered them to start accepting the old notes, banks refused. There is confusion everywhere,” Ugwu said.