Amidst the scarcity of both new and old naira notes in the country, residents of rural communities have adopted the ancient trade by barter to survive, Daily Trust reports.
Petty traders of perishable goods have also opened a ledger for their customers who are unable to pay for what they buy, hoping that they would sort it out when the cash crunch improves.
Nigerians are experiencing scarcity of the naira following the introduction of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1, 000 notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which fixed February 10 as the deadline to phase out of old notes before some governors dragged the federal government to the Supreme Court that temporarily stopped the process of declaring the old notes illegal tender.
Borno, Yobe villagers resort to barter, Niger’s currency
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Villagers in Buhari and Damasak towns in Yusufari and Mobbar local government areas of Yobe and Borno states have resorted to trade by barter and using Niger’s CFA franc to transact businesses as naira notes cease to exist in the areas in the last two weeks.
These villages are far into the desert, bordering Diffa Province in Niger Republic.
Residents of the towns said they were already benefiting from the telecommunication and hospital services of the neighbouring country.
One of the residents, Modu Buhari, told our correspondent that a week before the earlier old currency swap deadline lapsed, many people that had reasonable cash deposited the money into their relative’s accounts to avoid losing them.
He said the account owners promised to help them withdraw the new notes to continue with their businesses.
“Unfortunately, we are in the third week now but the relatives still couldn’t withdraw the cash.
“Last week, some of us went to Gaidam with our grains and livestock to sell in exchange for cash for our daily spending, but we got into trouble instead.
“The buyers said they would only pay through bank transfer and none of us have bank accounts.
“In fact, we became stranded because the driver did not have money to refuel the car back home as he was waiting for us to sell our goods and settle him.
“Luckily, one of our customers stood for us before the car was refuelled and we returned home. We are stuck here; nobody goes anywhere.”
He said the situation was worse in adjoining villages because provision stores were forced out of business.
“To get condiments is now a problem. Oil, seasoning, detergent, rice, sugar, salt, matches and other essential items are not available because traders don’t have the cash to buy them,” he said.
He said people in villages had resorted to trade by barter.
“Initially, we would just ask if someone had what you wanted and he would gladly give it to you, but as the situation persisted, we started the exchange of foodstuffs and condiments amongst ourselves, which for now, has brought succour to many of us,” he said.
Another resident of the village, Mohammad Barama, told our correspondent that some residents and traders in border villages started using Niger Republic’s currency (CFA franc) to transact business.
“This has eased our suffering. Unfortunately, we are totally neglected by the Nigerian government; no one considers the kind of hardship we would go through if this policy continues,” he said.
Trade-by-barter becoming popular in South too
Daily Trust observed that traders in most neighbourhood markets in Lagos, the commercial hub of Nigeria, have decided to sell their goods on credit to customers owing to the scarcity of the old and new naira notes. Petty traders dealing in perishable goods are the most affected.
“We have decided to open debtors’ books for our customers. This is a neighbourhood market and we know customers who will pay when they have the naira notes,” Kafilat Ebiseni, a trader at Oto market, Agbara area of Lagos, said.
Ebenezer Ayantunde, who sells plantain at a neighbourhood market at the Ijoko area of Lagos, said he had to sell out the goods at a cheaper rate before they would get spoiled.
“I had no option but to sell the plantain at a reduced rate because it was almost ripe. I don’t have a bank account but I know the people that bought them. I was also lucky to get N1, 000 from one of them, who promised to pay the balance later.
“I needed N1, 000 to take home to my family,” he said.
In Bayelsa State, rural dwellers have adopted the oldest form of commerce by exchanging goods for goods owing to the scarcity of naira notes in their communities.
Daily Trust gathered that most residents in the rural and coastal communities exchange goods such as fish with garri, yam and pepper, among others, to have what to eat.
According to a local fisherman in the Ayama-Ijaw community, Austin Ebiere, since there was no money in circulation and customers hardly buy his fish, he rather used the fish for other food commodities with others who might not have the cash to buy.
He said, “It is a strategy for survival. They told us that the old naira note would not be used by the end of January, so we found a way and deposited what we had at the bank, but after the extension of the deadline, we could not even remove our money from the bank again.
“That’s why we think that instead of dying of hunger, let us use what we have to survive – if you have garri and I have fish, we can exchange part of it so that both of us will have garri and fish. Even if you want to drink it, it is better than eating fish alone.”
He lamented that there was no bank in the community, noting that they always travelled to the state capital, Yenagoa to access banking services.
“You can see how frustrating it would be if you used the little money you had to pay for transport down there and at the end of the day you would not be able to withdraw your money,” he said.
Another resident from Agu community in Yenagoa Local Government Area, Kingsley Taribowei, said that due to the scarcity of naira notes, he exchanged the plantain he planted at his farm with other food items to survive.
He said, “This is better for us because we use the little cash we have to pay bills while we source what we eat around our neighbourhood here.
“Our prayer is that this current situation would not lead to a crisis in Nigeria. People are really suffering.”
A civil rights activist, David-West Bekinwariy David, said that people were passing through hardship due to difficult procedures in getting their money.
He urged the government to intervene for the good of the masses.
He wondered why people could be rich in the bank and poor at home due to the policy of the CBN.
He said, “If those of us in urban areas can find it difficult getting our money, be it at Point of Sale (POS), Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or even at banking halls, imagine what those in rural areas are passing through. They are really suffering.”
Meanwhile, the CBN has been using agents to drive its cash swap policy in Bayelsa communities to ensure availability of the newly redesigned notes to rural communities.
The apex bank, which recently made arrangements with super agents, as well as mobile money operators, to swap the old N200, N500 and N1, 000 for the new redesigned notes under the policy, said they would sanction any operator that hoards the new naira notes.
According to the apex bank, they were expected to swap up to N10, 000 per person, while amounts above N10, 000 would be treated as deposits, an initiative aimed at increasing circulation of the new naira dominations, particularly in the rural areas.
A manager at the CBN, Abuja branch, Mr Nweke Jude, during a visit to commercial banks in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital to monitor compliance, said the critical part of the assignment was to actually assess the newly introduced cash swap policy introduced by the CBN to ensure that ordinary people and the under-banked, especially in rural areas, would also have access to new notes through super agents and the banks.
Nweke said the goal was to reverse the trend of having much currency outside the banking sector stashed in houses and other areas, which has impacted negatively on the economy, causing inflation in the process.
From Bassey Willie, Yenagoa, Yvonne Ugwuezuhoa (Lagos) & Hamisu K. Matazu (Maiduguri)