• Businesses crumble in Taraba as traders, others groan
From Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the cashless policy, reemphasised by its naira redesign programme, businesses in Taraba State have been passing through difficult times. Traders such as vendors, restaurants and frozen, fruit and vegetable outlets as well as traders in different markets are groaning under the weight of the policy.
Not even recreational businesses are spared. There was a time they were flourishing, but that seemed like years ago. Many of them complained that the “market is bad and income has dropped.”
At Jalingo Market, traders wore long faces, waiting for sales to pick up. A vegetable seller at the market, Mercy Yakubu, told Daily Sun that since the beginning of the money crisis, her sales had continued to drop: “The situation has impacted negatively on my earnings and the overall wellbeing of my family.”
A widow and mother of four, she recalled that since she lost her husband, she had managed to cope from her sales of vegetables: “Things has become so hard and feeding is a great challenge.
“We usually buy vegetables from the farmers who are peasants and not educated. Most of them don’t have bank account. All the transactions are done with cash. Now that there is no cash, it is a major problem because you don’t even know how to transact with them.
“The worst part is that, even when you succeed in buying from them, the customers in the market don’t have the cash either. There is an unprecedented drop in the patronage in the market.
“Some customers will buy vegetables for say ₦300 and will ask for your account number. You know that you cannot hold them down until you see the alert. Some will enter, others will not. And there is no way of tracing them and so the losses keep accumulating.
“In the end, rather than make profit, one is incurring loss. It is for this reason that I decided to stop selling vegetables for now until things improve or normalise.”
As an agrarian state, most of the consumed food items are bought from local farmers. The bad side of the story, according to Abdul Mai-gari who sells tomatoes at Jalingo Market, is that “these farmers are not ready to take transfers or engage in any form of digital banking. This means that we, the marketers of consumables such as vegetables must get cash if they have to buy from the farmers.
Mama Chidima sells moimoi, kunu and zobo drinks in the metropolis. She had no bank account before now. But she forced open one she start queuing at ATM points: “The queues were unbearably long. The machines were rarely funded and unable to dispense. And because of all these, my business is grounded.
“Those women in the village markets like Iware, Mayo Reno and Minda, where we usually buy grains at cheaper prices, do not collect transfer. Many of them don’t have bank account.
“They also do not trust the banks. You cannot even convince them to open accounts. We are left with no option but to buy from the merchants in the main market here and they are very exploitative.
“Back home, people who ordinarily will just stop by and buy kunu with moimoi or buy zobo and walk away cannot do so because they don’t have cash.
“I do accept transfer. But it is not easy to come and stand for a long time just to do transfer of N100 to buy kunu. So the disadvantages are many, we are losing customers. We are buying at higher prices and people are not patronising us as before.
“Another problem is that, some people will come and buy things and do transfer. You will see their own alert, which is fake, nothing will come into your account. The banks are always too busy to attend to you even when you want to go and cross check the failed transfer.
Abdullahi Garba is a student at the Taraba State University. He also sells goat meat at the Jalingo Main M arket. Only recently, he suffered a loss of over N200,000 due to low patronage: “Sales has dropped to N20,000. Before, I used to sell meat worth over N20,0000 daily.
“I usually go to the village markets weekly and buy goats to take me through the week. So I brought my goats and slaughtered many as usual only for me to come to the market and there was no one here to buy.
For three days, I could not sell two goats. The bulk of the meat wasted. I had to dry it for use at home.
“In addition, the network is usually very bad. Sometimes, people do transfer and you don’t get the money. And there is no way to trace them because this is a big market.
“Another problem is that, we usually buy from the Fulani people in the village. They usually don’t collect transfer. I have to buy from merchants at the abattoir everyday just to keep the business going.”
At the Kasuwan Shanu in Iware, the story is the same, sad tale of low patronage. Lilian Genesis said: “Those rearing pigs are having a field day. They make use of their daily waste of vegetables, making profit out of their losses and pains.”