Petty traders in many parts of the country have urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to flood the economy with N200, N100 and N50 to return life to normalcy.
The traders across many markets, as well as hawkers, taxi drivers and artisans, said the only way to ease the transition to a cashless society is to allow “ordinary Nigerians” to use the lower denominations in buying and selling basic needs, which will not in any way contravene all the issues raised by the CBN.
They said restricting the availability of N1, 000 and N500 would not have much impact on them because those who could afford holding the big notes were already conducting their big transactions through bank transfers.
Traders, artisans and other residents in Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Katsina, Uyo, Jos, among others, said they were finding it difficult to survive because many things could not be executed via cashless options like bank transfers.
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They said that with the availability of lower denominations, purchase of grains and groceries by households, movement via taxis and Keke NAPEP, payment of wages to labourers in construction sites, settling of medical bills in dispensaries, would not be hampered.
They also said that with lower denominations forming the bulk of the currency in circulation, it would be difficult to hoard money outside the banking system, which the CBN is trying to address.
On October 26, 2022, the CBN announced the redesign of N1,000, N500 and N200 notes, which are now very scarce, even as the old notes have been mopped up, leaving millions of Nigerians stranded.
But even before the new CBN policy, banks had long stopped loading their ATMs with lower denominations of the naira.
And despite the recent extension of time for phasing out the old notes, as well as the directive to commercial banks to release a maximum of N20,000 daily to individuals over the counter, confusion occasioned by long queues at bank halls and ATM points has continued to bug the transition.
Why small businesses are suffering
Baba Usman, a foreman at a construction site in Kano, said most labourers lived by the day because of the meagre wages they usually collected at the end of work.
“We pay most of our masons or bricklayers N3, 000 and labourers N1,500 after the day. Most of these people don’t even have accounts. They live by the day; they buy a measure or two of rice, maize flour, salt and Maggi cubes with what they earn before going home to feed their families. As a result of this, we pay them in cash. Sadly, we cannot do this anymore.
“I am not an economist but I want to make a suggestion to President Muhammadu Buhari and the CBN governor to make the smaller notes available. Big politicians don’t care about them but the poor man uses them to live a normal life,” he said.
Aminu Malam, who has a small rice mill at Brigade Area in Kano, said the availability of smaller notes would stimulate the economy.
“We pay those who supply rice paddy to us through banks, but the labourers working for us need cash.
“They need their pay to buy food, pay for taxi or Keke Napep and buy soap to wash their clothes. They cannot do all these things through bank transfers,” he said.
Mrs Adediran (Mama Sade), a trader at Agege market in Lagos said, “We are suffering. It is becoming almost impossible for us to do business. Most of us in this market live on our daily income. The CBN governor should flood markets with N100 and N50.”
Corroborating her view, a pepper seller at Alapeere market, Chinelo Anayo, noted that petty traders don’t need the N500 and N1,000 as much as the lower denominations.
“It is the lower denominations, especially N100 and N200 that are even more important to us because we need them to settle our customers. There are women in this market whose capital base is not more than N5,000,” she said.
A fish seller at Asejere market, Makoko, Senapon Abosede, added, “Are politicians also hoarding N50 and N100? The government is punishing us. I don’t have a bank account. Is it by force to use bank or do transfer?”
Speaking in the same vein, Nusaiba and Habiba Abdulkadir, who sell sweet potatoes and awara (a local delicacy made from soybean) at the Gadar Nayalli area of Katsina metropolis, appealed to the apex bank to release more lower denominations of the naira.
Habiba said petty traders had been at the receiving end of the cash crisis, saying, releasing lower denominations would bring succour to their businesses.
“We couldn’t come out for business for four good days because there is no money in circulation, particularly the one you can give out as ‘change’ if someone buys something for, let’s say, N100 or N150 and gave you N500 or N1,000.
“Even as we managed to come out now, the problem is still there,” Nusaiba said.
For Saiful Islam Ibrahim, a petty trader that sells oranges on a cart, the paucity of the lower denominations has been a great challenge for his business.
“As you can see, what I am selling is perishable and I have been going round and round without sales. It is seriously disheartening, and if I could not sell in two days, it becomes a waste.
“We are actually not against this policy, but honestly, adequate measures were not taken to tame the effects on the common man. I am, therefore, pleading with the CBN governor to make the lower denominations available for us to keep afloat,” he said.
In Akwa Ibom State, traders believe that releasing lower naira denominations would help cushion the effect of the cash crisis.
A hair dresser along Oku Street in Uyo, known as Peace Emmanuel, complained that lack of the naira notes had greatly affected her business as there were no customers.
“There are no customers; things are worst here. It would be better if the CBN just allowed us to access the smaller denomination of the naira,” she said.
A Point of Sale (PoS) operator in Uyo, simply known as Faith, who was eager to buy the naira notes to enable her transact her business, said she would accept lower denomination of N50, N20 or even N10.
“Can I get up to N200, 000? Any amount that is available, let me know. I have been going to the ATM without success,” she said.
Also, a food vendor in the University of Uyo cafeteria, Esther Ekpo, said it was difficult to transact business due to the scarcity of naira notes.
Ekpo said her customers had to pay her for services via bank transfer, adding that the release of lower denominations from the CBN would cushion the scarcity of funds for the day-to-day running of small businesses.
Traders in Jos, the Plateau State capital, also expressed frustration over the scarcity of the newly designed naira notes by the CBN, saying it is affecting their businesses tremendously.
Some of the traders who spoke with our correspondent said the CBN should ensure the availability lower notes, collaborate with internet providers and banks to ensure stability of network for transfer of bigger transactions.
A trader along Miango Road in Jos, Emmanuel Amidu, said he went to a bank to get the lower denomination of N5 notes to the tune of N10,000 but was only given N2,000, thereby making him still requiring N8,000.
He lamented that most of the lower denominations given to him were defaced, torn or faded, making people to always reject them.
‘It makes economic sense’
The national president of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, Ken Ukaoha, a lawyer, said flooding the market with lower denominations would solve a lot of problems.
He said, “Indeed, if we had sufficient supply of the smaller denomination we would have no challenge at all as traders.
“A lot of petty traders dwell largely on this band, so all the CBN needs to keep the people in this band going is to make smaller notes available.
“If you take a critical assessment of the value that most of those who seek cash at the ATM are looking for, it ranges largely around N5,000 to N20,000, so making this amount available in lower notes would solve this stampede we are seeing at the banks.”
Hamza Idris, Sunday Michael Ogwu (Abuja), Ayobami Balogun (Lagos), Iniabasi Umo (Uyo), Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina) & Dickson S. Adama (Jos)
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