From Abiodun Alade (Lagos), Hameed Oyegbade (Osogbo) & Bassey Willie (Yenagoa)
The scarcity of naira notes occasioned by the cashless and naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has compounded the woes of beggars, porters, cart pushers, commercial motorcycle riders and several other daily low income earners.
Beggars have complained that public spirited individuals who were willing to give them money could not do so because of the lack of cash.
Beggars at the popular Ayetoro Junction in Osogbo, Osun State, lamented that the cash crunch was becoming unbearable.
A resident of Osogbo, Kazeem Adeoye, noted that beggars now stayed in front of restaurants and other eateries where they pleaded with people to buy food for them.
Adeoye said, “I was at a mall recently and a woman came to me and asked for money. I told her that I didn’t have cash. To my surprise, she pleaded with me to transfer money to a food vendor for her to eat. So, I paid for her food together with mine and the money for the food was debited from my account.”
In Bayelsa State, beggars have deserted the streets of Yenagoa, over the cash crunch as alms givers no longer rendered help to them.
Daily Trust gathered that the beggars that usually flooded the Ekeki Park axis, as well as Amarata, have since gone underground.
A beggar who usually sits in front of a filling station in the Ekeki axis of Yenagoa confided in Daily Trust that since the issue of cash crunch started many people that used to help him had not been responding to his greeting.
He said he used to make between N3,000 and N5,000 daily before the cash scarcity set in, noting that the change in the attitude of prospective givers was understood as many Nigerians were passing through hard times.
A young beggar in Ikeja, Lagos State, said the naira scarcity had compounded their woes in the city.
He said, “We are the most affected by the naira scarcity. People are complaining that they don’t have cash. In the past, I did make between N2,500 and N4,000 daily, but now, I don’t get enough to buy food,” stressing that hawkers who took advantage of traffic congestion in the city were also affected.
Another beggar, Taofeek, said some of them had had to stay off the streets due to the challenge caused by the naira crunch.
He said, “We get money when we clean the windshields of vehicles which stop by traffic lights, but nowadays we hardly get anything from most drivers. Some beggars have decided to stay off the roads because there is no cash.”
When asked if he has a bank account, he said, “Although there is an account number I can give, it is very strange to tell alms givers to do transfer.”
A female beggar at Ojota said, “We have had cases of food poisoning, but we don’t have an option. I have two kids with me that I have to take care off. A beggar who took ill died recently because there was no help. The boy that used to bring him to Ojota couldn’t come in the evening to take him home because there was no money for him to board a bus. By the following day, we met him sick and he later died.”
A porter in the Ile-Epo Market in Lagos, Ganiyu Ololade, said the scarcity of the naira had brought untold hardship to them.
He said, “Sometimes we hire wheelbarrows if the load is much, but nowadays, market women will tell us they don’t have cash. We always beg them to transfer to a PoS operator in the market, but without cash, our money is with him. Whenever we want to buy anything we have to ask him to transfer. This is unfair.
“Sometimes we will help people to carry their goods across the expressway but instead of giving N200, they will claim they have only N100 in cash, or we take N200 as transfer. Because we need cash, we will settle for N100.”
Praise singers, menial workers also affected
Augustine Alabi who is a praise singer in Osogbo lamented that he was suffering due to the cash crunch.
He said, “Before now, I made money when I went to functions and praised people by chanting their praises. People would give me money in appreciation, but things have changed since the problem of the new naira notes started and it has really affected me badly.
“Nowadays, parties are no longer as colourful as before. Musicians just sing without getting extra cash from guests.”
A manager in one of the companies in Ikeja, Dr Olawale Ajasa, said menial workers were the worst hit by the naira scarcity.
He said, “For some weeks now I have not been able to give any cash to the young cleaner in my office. We all know how much these little ‘tips’ help them in their day to day activities. Government should obey the Supreme Court order and consider the downtrodden who don’t operate bank accounts or need very little cash for their daily survival. We shouldn’t wait till they are pushed into crime.”