Traders in agony as naira scarcity grounds businesses -
By Josephine Ogundeji
JOSEPHINE OGUNDEJI writes on the plight of traders who have been adversely affected due to the scarcity of the redesigned naira notes
The shortage of the newly introduced N200, N500, and N1000 currency notes has left millions of Nigerians struggling to survive. The worst hit were petty traders, artisans and labourers, who relied heavily on cash for their daily business. Most of them who do not have bank accounts have seen a significant drop in patronage.
“I have not been able to buy plantains in the past month because I have not been able to access cash. Point of Sales agents charge N15,000 for every N100,000 one wants to collect from them. I do not make N15,000 profit from N100,000 worth of plantain that I buy,” a plantain trader, Dotun Omotayo, told our correspondent during a visit to Folashade Tinubu-Ojo Plantain Market in Mile 12 area of Lagos.
Kehinde Ismail, a plantain trader, lamented that sales had not been very low, forcing her to stay away from the market for some time. She returned to the market after receiving the news that the Central Bank of Nigeria had approved the recirculation of the old naira notes, she said.
She added, “I have been doing different menial jobs to feed since I have been unable to sell plantains and they got spoiled.
“Despite the announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria that to the old notes remain legal lenders, the farmers are not collecting them, making it difficult for us to do our businesses.”
Also, Funmilayo Olanrewaju, a plantain trader, who is in her late 60s, lamented that she and her family members have had to rely on cassava flakes as meals.
According to her, the government is deliberately inflicting suffering on the traders.
She said, “This government is a government of pain. My children are hungry. What should people like me who are not literate do about the transfer issue? Most times we do not get these transfer alerts, and we end up with nothing. And due to the low patronage, because people do not have the cash to buy goods from us, we had to throw away our plantains as they rot away.”
Joke Lawal, a plantain trader, said the scarcity of the local currency had made life miserable for traders.
It was not only plantain sellers who have been affected by the naira scarcity. Other traders suffered the same fate.
A slippers’ trader, Opeyemi Azeez, said the government had grounded their businesses with its bad policies.
She said, “I have been here since 6:00 am and I have not had any sales. This issue has caused controversies in my home because my husband does not drop money anymore. He cannot even commute to work because of this naira scarcity. The only sale I have made is N1,200, which is my transportation fare back home.”
A food seller, Taiwo Abimbola, claimed she had been surviving on debts.
She added, “We do not have cash and the transfers have been having serious issues. I had to obtain a loan to survive. We agreed that repaying the loan will be from the profit I make. But unfortunately, patronage has been very poor.”
A plantain farmer, Paragon Alakiri, asserted that it had been a very difficult time for them in the village because the naira scarcity had made things very challenging for them.
He said, “I am from Edo State, Ovia South West area, and that area is a very small village. The lack of access to cash has made life very difficult for us. The only time we get money is when we go to the markets in the city to sell.
“Also, we reject transfers because people in the village need cash to transact business and working the whole day without cash is really discouraging because we have families to feed. Goods have been getting spoiled because of the difficulty in commuting.”
The government acknowledged the suffering of Nigerians as a result of the naira redesign.
In a statement, President Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, claimed that although Nigerians were suffering from the naira policy of the Mohammadu Buhari administration, many of them still support the policy.
He said, “As for the cashless system the CBN is determined to put in place, it is a known fact that many of the country’s citizens who bear the brunt of the sufferings, surprisingly support the policy as they believe that the action would cut corruption, fight terrorism, build an environment of honesty and reinforce the incorruptible leadership of the President,” he stated.
However, many believe there is a disconnect between the government and the reality, wondering how the government came to the conclusion that Nigerians gave their nods to the naira redesign policy which has crippled many businesses and led to the untimely death of many.
Olusesan Ajiboye, another plantain seller, is one of those who believed the government has lost touch with the reality regarding the naira redesign policy.
He said, “The redesign policy is a failure because it has not achieved anything other than loss of businesses, customers and goods, among others.”
Due to the negative impact of the policy has had on Nigerians, some state governments had to drag the Federal Government to court, requesting that its action on the naira notes should be declared illegal.
The Supreme Court on March 3 faulted the Federal Government on the way it went about the implementation of the naira redesign policy and ordered that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes remain legal lenders till December 31.
But for over a week, the government and the central bank failed to enforce the Supreme Court order and were mute over the issue.
It was until the Nigerian Bar lambasted the government and the Nigerian Labour Union threatened to embark on strike action in protest of the government’s failure to obey the court on the naira policy that the CBN was arm-twisted to order banks to recirculate the older naira notes on March 12.
The Market Head (Iya Oloja) of Folashade Tinubu-Ojo Plantain Market, Yemisi Akeredolu, told our correspondent that traders were still observing whether to start accepting the old notes or not.
She said, “This scarcity has affected our traders because the farmers bringing the goods from the village are rejecting the old notes and refusing transfers. As a result of this, our plantains have been spoiling. At this point, we are left with no choice but to collect transfers because we do not want our perishable goods to spoil, leaving us hungry and ending up not making any profits.”
Many of the farmers do not have bank accounts to receive transfers and the bad network has not been helping matters for the few who have bank accounts. has contributed immensely to it, Fatai Abiola, who is one of the heads in the market stated.
He added, “We got the news of the recirculation of old notes. However, our farmers are rejecting them and if the farmers are not accepting them, we cannot because the farmers dictate our market and without them, we cannot get goods to sell.”
Also, Tope Olorunfemi, a plantain trader, lamented that the farmers bringing the plantains from the villages were rejecting both the old notes and transfers because there were no banks around the villages.
He said, “The farmers are not collecting the old naira notes because there is no bank around there.”
In his reaction, an economist, Dr Ayo Teriba, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Economic Associate called for reforms in the Central Bank of Nigeria to make it into a law-respecting organisation.
According to Teriba, the naira redesign policy and its consequences have endangered the credibility of the CBN.
He claimed that the challenges associated with the naira redesign policy would impact on the banking sector’s trustworthiness, asserting that it is the CBN that is sabotaging its own credibility and that banks and their clients were equally affected by the policy.
“The sense of judgement of the central bank is on trial. So, the central bank is carrying on as a regulatory authority that people may think twice about taking it seriously. After all this unnecessary crisis that the central bank has fomented, it is going to be difficult. It is going to take time before that institution will regain the respect of the public. It is going to take time for them to regain the respect of domestic and international observers, who see the central bank on a wild goose chase, creating a crisis and breaking the law.”
According to him, the declaration of the Supreme Court that the CBN action on the naira redesign was unconstitutional is a dent on the apex bank’s image.
“It is almost pushing the nation to the realisation that instead of reforming the country’s currency, it is the CBN itself that needs to be reformed so that it would become a law-respecting agency. It recklessly announces unreasonable policies and demonstrates arrogance when you see riots all over the place, banks being attacked, and you kept quiet. That is arrogance,” Teriba argued.