• Abuja traders groan, slash prices
From Fred Ezeh and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
Against the backdrop of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cashless policy, customers in markets and other service centres now prefer customers with cash. So valued are these customers that they are entitled to discount in their purchases and other services in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Outside the markets, it has also been observed that other service providers, notably, taxi drivers, food vendors, commercial motorcyclists and even commercial sex workers. Other kinds of small businesses have also slashed prices for customers who present cash for purchase of services or commodities.
Some of the traders, obviously, never saw the cash crunch coming.
Neither did they prepare for online banking and payment system. They were taken unawares with the cash policy.
Traders lamented the situation where they had to “buy” naira notes with naira at a high cost, in addition to the cases of fake bank transfer alerts and incomplete electronic transactions. Some Point of Sales (PoS) operators also took advantage of the situation to make brisk gains, while customers lamented of high charges.
Susan Adewole, a trader in Wuse Market, said: “I don’t know how to describe this policy because it is affecting everybody, both the buyers and the sellers. It has made life unbearable for all of us. The other day I refused to collect bank transfer but what did I get at the end of the day? No sales. Now that I have made sales and collected payment through the bank transfer, my shop is empty but nowhere to get cash to restock the shop.
“I have decided to sell my items on high discounted rate if a customer present cash. With cash I sell cheaper because it saves me a lot of stress and worries. Now, I am in the middle of nowhere.
“Even as I am ready to buy, there is no cash anywhere. And even if you see small one, you will be expected to pay 20 or 30 per cent as charges.”
A food vendor Bose, said: “All I hear from customer now is I don’t have cash, will you accept transfer? I have been rejecting transfer because I don’t know where I will cash it even if my account is okay.
Now, you use N20,000 and in some cases above, to buy N100,000. What then is my profit?
“It is frustrating that you have to hustle to sell and hustle to buy your own money before you can spend it. If they say we should go digital and the transfer is fast and the cash is available, there won’t be any problem.
“Most civil servants resort to either trekking or staying at home because of lack of cash for transportation. The bank transfer is failing everybody. Lots of people complain even though I am not even using it.”
Israel Ayaku, sells foodstuffs at Dutse Alhaji Market. He said: “The frustration is increasing by the day with little or no improvement.
Government should increase cash in circulation to enable small businesses to survive.
“I don’t like the transfer or this PoS payment thing. This is because
I am forced to use my money to buy my money before I can be able to spend it.”
A businesswoman in Utako, who declined to be named, said: “This policy is really crippling our businesses. It is better you sell a commodity for N300 in cash instead of selling it for N500 with transfer.
“Since this transfer thing started, I have lost lots of money debited from my bank account without being received by the customers. In some cases, customers made transfer that I never received the alert since the past two weeks. As it is today, I can sell everything for transfer but for few items like garri. You must bring cash to buy it.
“The last time I went to the village market to buy goods, I bought N80,000 for N100,000 after a lot of stress and pleading. I had to buy money before going to buy goods.
“Most of these rural traders don’t have bank accounts. Even those who have are refusing the transfer option. To them, after selling with transfer there is nowhere to withdraw their money.
“As I speak, I no longer have goods in my shop. What is keeping me is where to get money, that is cash, to travel to restock my shop.”
A commercial sex worker in Karimo, who pleaded anonymity, said: “We can open for you once you appear with cash. This is because if we insist on collecting our normal amount, we will end up spending large percentage of it at PoS as charges before we access cash for use.
Besides, the cash is nowhere to be found.”