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Naira Scarcity Hits Hard as Christmas Approaches

Nigerians Struggle to Access Cash Amid Bank Rationing and ATM Failure

by Victor Adetimilehin

Nigerians are facing a severe cash crunch as they prepare for the Christmas festivities, with many banks rationing cash over the counter and ATMs running out of money.


The PUNCH reporters visited several ATM galleries in Lagos, Abuja, Osogbo, Makurdi, Sokoto, Edo, and Gusau, and found that most of the machines were not dispensing cash.


Many bank customers expressed frustration over their inability to make vital purchases for the Yuletide celebration, as some traders and sellers insisted on cash payment.


A roadside trader in Abule Egba, Lagos, who identified herself as Mama Sule, said, “Many customers who want to buy onions are saying they don’t have cash. I don’t have a bank account, so I can’t accept transfers; sadly, it is affecting my business.”


A Christmas shopper, Remi Arowolo, said, “I was traveling from Abeokuta to Lagos, I saw cheap tomatoes on the road and when I stopped to buy, they said they could not accept transfer from me; they insisted on cash. I wanted to buy them in large quantities ahead of Christmas, but I could not buy them.”


CBN Blames Naira Redesign Policy for Cash Shortage

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has attributed the prevailing cash scarcity to the poor implementation of the naira redesign policy, which had resulted in hoarding by some Nigerians.


The CBN governor, Yemi Cardoso, said at the World Bank Nigeria Development Update, December 2023 edition, that the apprehension surrounding the policy’s end date, well before the third quarter, triggered widespread hoarding.


He said, “Many feared the old notes would lose legal tender status, prompting them to hold onto their cash. Unfortunately, the history of that lies with the naira redesign policy.”


He also assured Nigerians that the old notes would remain valid until further notice and urged them to deposit them in the banks.


PoS Operators Hike Charges, Customers Resort to E-Payment

The cash crunch has also affected the Point of Sale (PoS) operators, who have increased their service charge fee by at least 100 percent.


A PoS operator in the Mokola area of Ibadan, Oyo State, who simply identified himself as James, said, “I cannot get enough cash for my business; my business is suffering. I am not making a profit and Christmas is near, no money to spend this Christmas. It is sad.”


Many Nigerians have opted for bank transfers to make payments for goods due to the prolonged scarcity of naira.


Traders, who spoke to our correspondent, said they preferred cash payment to bank transfer due to the high bank transfer scams recorded earlier in the year.


A trader, who sells food items, said, “Even though I accept bank transfers, I am afraid of the possible rise in the number of bank transfer scams that happened earlier in the year. So, I look at my customers well before I accept a transfer.”


A Lagos resident who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said, “I mostly use electronic payment and it has been hassle-free, no hike in the charges.”


Despite the challenges posed by the cash scarcity, some Nigerians are hopeful that the situation will improve soon and that they will enjoy the Christmas season.


A resident in Bwari Area Council of the FCT, who identified himself as Tunde Ogunde, said, “I have been trying to get cash from the ATMs but none of them is dispensing. I have to rely on e-payment for most of my transactions. But I am not giving up on celebrating Christmas with my family and friends. I believe things will get better soon.”


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