Still the Scarcity in Lower Currencies Persists

Sarah Alade, acting governor, CBN

In spite of the reported directives by the Central Bank of Nigeria to deposit money banks to increase the supply of lower denomination banknotes through their branches, the scarcity still persists

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun. 9, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

ONE month after the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, stepped in to address the complaints by many Nigerians over the scarcity of lower naira denominations across the country, the currency scarcity still persists. The CBN had, on Sunday, April 13, ordered its branches in the country to increase the supply of the banknotes to Deposit Money Banks, DMBs.

But the intervention of the apex bank has not changed the ugly situation that affects mostly the informal sector. At bus stops, shopping malls , market places and among road side hawkers, the situation is still what it was. Many Nigerians have continued to fight with bus conductors, tricycle riders and shop attendants over their balances, while others were made to forfeit theirs.  There is now what bus conductors in Lagos call ‘joint balance’ whereby passengers are bunched together and given a bulk balance at the terminal points to sort out themselves while they speed away with their drivers. Investigation has confirmed the persistent scarcity of N5, N10, N20, N50 and N100 in circulation.

Realnews story on the scarcity of lower denomination of naira published in its March 14, 2014, issue, revealed that the shortage of lower naira denominations in circulation was   very noticeable among retailers, bus conductors and petty traders in the last one year. For this reason, many traders and commuters had been forced to abandon their balances after purchase or exchange of services when the sellers or bus conductors could not raise the necessary balance to complete the transaction.

Bus Conductor telling passenger to come back
Bus Conductor telling passenger to come back

Kingsley Azubuike, a tricycle rider at Ojo military cantonment, told Realnews that the scarcity of lower denomination was affecting his business almost daily. He said that he had forfeited his balances on many occasions during rush hours whenever the passengers hadn’t the actual transport fare to pay. According to him, the scarcity has forced him to always buy lower denomination bank notes from currency vendors. “During the rush hours, in fact, my bus conductors have made it a habit to always shout to forewarn passengers with higher denomination bank notes not to enter the buses if they haven’t the correct fare to pay.  If they had informed me early, it would have enabled to look for change before leaving the park. But if a passenger does not inform me before boarding that he/she has a higher denomination banknote, I will likely make some trouble with the passenger. I spend N200 every day just to get the lower denomination currency notes against the following morning. We buy N1000 notes in any denomination for N1200,” he said.

Uzorchi, a bus driver, said the scarcity of lower denominations of the currency in circulation has been a major issue between bus operators and commuters. “We have to contend with abuses and curses from passengers who are not able to get their balances after our service. In most cases, we have to forgo our own fare for peace to reign and often we do advise passengers to board with their ‘change’ to avoid any quarrel. Often times we join the balances of passengers and let them sort themselves out.” he said.

On his part, John, a bus conductor, said he had refused to carry many passengers because they had higher denominations of the Naira to pay for their bus fares. John, who declined to disclose the losses he incurred so far, said the shortage of the lower denominations of the Naira had made the transportation business cumbersome.

Peter Igattah, a commuter, said the situation was applicable everywhere even in major shops and eateries in the state. “Retrieving your balance after transaction is not easy nowadays. Even at the banks, it is becoming a major crisis point and I have witnessed a major fracas break out because of as little as N10. It is a big problem and I think government should do something about it before it becomes an economic challenge,” he said.

Some Nigerians have attributed the shortage to the inability of banks to upload lower currency denominations in the automated teller machines. They argued that the ATM dispenses only higher currency denominations. Still, others have attributed the development to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s cashless policy.

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