Monday, 25th September 2023

Nigerians groan as cash crunch induces bleak Easter

By Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Ahmad Muhammad (Kano), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Timothy Agbor (Osogbo), Tina Agosi Todo (Calabar) and  Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos)
08 April 2023   |   4:10 am
Most Nigerians, especially Christians, will celebrate this year’s Easter in a simple, low-keyed style as a lot of them are yet to recover from the disruptions to their socio-economic activities caused by the poorly implemented cash swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Christian faithful of St Kizitos Catholic, Church Iju Station during their drama sketch to commemorate good friday in lagos…yesterday PHOTOS; SUNDAY AKINLOLU<br />

Most Nigerians, especially Christians, will celebrate this year’s Easter in a simple, low-keyed style as a lot of them are yet to recover from the disruptions to their socio-economic activities caused by the poorly implemented cash swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Everyday, Nigerians still throng the banks to struggle to get cash to meet financial obligations in their many spheres of operation. In many money deposit banks, the customers are still limited to N5, 000 in terms of the amount of money they can withdraw. Some banks pay up to N10, 000 and N20, 000 while others complain of lack of cash to be paid out despite the promise by relevant authorities that the banks would be flooded with cash in obedience to the Supreme Court judgment.
In Kano State, a resident, John Musa, told The Guardian that Easter celebration would be done in a limited form considering the economic situation especially the cash crunch, which has adversely affected businesses and people’s capacity to purchase items.
“It is the little money you have at hand that you can use to buy things, not necessarily the huge amount you have in your bank account. One may just need to cook and eat in the house but going out for shopping or going to recreational centres and buying a new cloth is out of the calculation,” Musa said.

Another resident, Ayodele Mike, said: “I am preparing with the little fund I have and have bought the necessary food items to celebrate the festival. We thank God we are alive because only the living celebrates.”
In Kaduna State, preparations for the celebration also appeared to be in low key as few Christians patronised the major markets to procure clothing materials and other basic items to mark the season.
At the Central Market in the metropolis and Kasuwa Banchi, the traders who opened their shops complained of low sales.
At the Central Market, Hajiya Fatima Yusuf, who deals in children dresses told The Guardian, yesterday, that “this Easter is different from the other ones in the recent past because there is no sales for us in this place where we sell children dresses and other materials.”
According to her, “parents are not coming to buy new clothes from us for their children. Formerly, you will see many of them with their children to the market to buy for their children. But this Easter is very different because things are very bad. There is no money in circulation. The only money they have, they are keeping to buy food.”
A customer, David Kato at Kasuwa Banchi, who came to purchase Easter dresses for his two children, also said: “My brother, I can only buy second hand dresses for my children. That is why you see me and the children here.
“Even these second hand clothes are expensive. With the N5,000 naira I budgeted for the clothes and shoes for these children, I had to beg my customer before he gave me dresses for each of these children. There are no shoes. My children have to wear their old shoes this Easter.”
For Mary Luka, it was a different story, as she complained seriously about the cost of food items like rice, beans, pepper, tomatoes, vegetable oil, fish, meat etc, saying: “I can only manage the N10,000 to buy the things we need to cook for Easter at home.
“How can we continue like this in this country? I can tell you that with the money I cannot buy all the things I budgeted to buy for food items. Aside from all these problems, I have to go to the POS to cash the money with high charges. I pray that the government will help us in Nigeria and take away all the pains and suffering we are now experiencing.”

A visit to some markets in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, also showed that traders and consumers were not happy with the current economic situation of the country, as consumers could barely afford to buy goods because of the hike in prices.
Also, the markets were not in a festive mood as there was no hustling or bustling that usually characterises the season.
Some respondents told The Guardian that the ongoing Ramadan and the lingering cash crunch contributed to the lull at the markets.
A visit to some major markets in Oja-Oba, Alekunwodo, Igbona, Oluode and Old Garage yesterday showed skyrocketing prices of foodstuff have not ebbed. Prices of rice, beans, livestock, groundnut oil, tomatoes and pepper were still on the high side according to consumers and traders.
Speaking, a rice trader in Alekuwodo Market, Mrs. Muibat Adeola, said a bag of rice was sold between N36,000 and 37,000.
Lamenting low patronage, she said: “There is nothing to show that people want to celebrate this Easter. Unlike a few years back, by this time, our market would have been filled up with customers, but as you can see, it’s dry. We have goods to sell but people are not patronising us as we expect. I feel this naira scarcity also contributed to it and the poor economy. I sell a bag of rice for N36,000, but if you go to others, they sell either N36,500 or N37,000.”
A resident of the state, Michael Ifagbile, said: “Everyone knows that there is no money in Nigeria like before. So, we are managing. For instance, I had planned to buy chicken for my family for this Easter but when I got to the market, the price was very high. You hear the sellers calling a fowl N10,000 for you. Where do they expect me to get such an amount of money? So, we will celebrate Easter but on a low key. At least, I can afford fish.”
Meanwhile, checks by our correspondent revealed that motor parks in Osogbo were not different, as people were not traveling as expected for the celebration. 
At a motor park in Aregbe area, the few buses loading for Lagos and Ibadan had scanty passengers as drivers lamented low patronage. 
“Maybe because today is still Friday we have not been seeing passengers as we expected. We hope that Saturday will be better. We didn’t increase the transport fares,” a commercial bus driver, who simply identified himself as Bade, said.
In Owerri, the Imo State capital, a visit to some commercial banks revealed that they were dispensing between N5,000 and N10,000 to customers but some customers accused some bank officials of dispensing above N10,000 to only “known or favoured” customers.

Also, some Point of Sale (PoS) operators were still charging N500 for any N5,000 withdrawn by a customer.
A retired Permanent Secretary in the state, Fabian Agba, decried the non-dispensing of cash to him by his bank.
He told The Guardian: “It is unfortunate that the banks are reneging on the directive to dispense money to us depositors. I was at the bank I deposited my money with. Unfortunately, after two days I could not withdraw. Some could not get beyond N5,000. The bank officials were accused of dispensing to those known to them favourably.
“I have some money in the bank but I can’t access it. This is Easter. How do we enjoy the celebration?”
At loading bays of some commercial vehicles, a journey from Owerri to Aba, Abia State, takes about N2,000 against the usual N1,000.
Similarly, a journey from Owerri to Amara, just an outskirt of the city, costs about N800 against N300.
A commercial motor driver, John Igwe, said: “We are taking this amount from passengers because of the high pump price of fuel and cost of spare parts. We buy fuel between N300 and N400. How do you break even without increasing fares?”
Some residents of Calabar, the Cross River State capital, also told The Guardian that they were not contemplating having a lively Easter celebration this year following the cash scarcity being experienced across the country.
According to some residents, the three months long cash crunch has not only forced some businesses to shut down, but has also had dwindling effects on individual finances.
Speaking, a nursing mother, who simply identified herself as Mary, said this year’s Easter would be celebrated at low key because she and her household were still recovering from the negative effects of the cash scarcity. 
She recalled with anger how the situation forced her family to spend extra because they had to buy cash to survive.

“This year’s Easter will be low key because we don’t have enough cash to spend. The cash scarcity made us spend almost all our savings purchasing cash in our own country.
“There are goods in the markets, but the cash is not just available because people have been strained to a choking level. We just pray that Nigeria does not experience such a harsh policy again. Indeed, it was a policy devoid of human face, and a bad legacy the Buhari’s administration is leaving behind,” she said.
Also reacting, a federal public servant in the state, Mr. Etim Sunny, decried the negative effects of the cash scarcity on Nigerians.
He explained that the situation has made many people unable to save for Easter celebrations, disclosing that the little savings he had was used to pay extra transportation fare to his office during the period of acute cash scarcity. 
According to him, he bought money several times from POS operators to the extent that he got angry with the government for being insensitive to the plight of the masses.
Consequently, he urged the incoming government to improve on the welfare of the masses as well as the remuneration of public servants as a way of assuaging the ripple effects the unpopular policy had on Nigerians.
Another resident, who identified himself as Mr. Daniel, stated that he was forced to shut down his shop for about three months due to low patronage caused by the cash scarcity. 
The father of two kids, who is a fashion designer, said he had no plan whatsoever to mark the 2023 Easter celebration because of the ineptitude of the Buhari administration.

He said: “My sister, I have no plan for this year’s Easter because the cash is still not available the way it ought to be. When you go to the banks you will still find a crowd. Besides, people are still struggling to recover from the bad policy of President Buhari’s inept government.”
A visit to some banks in the metropolis indicated that even though some banks paid out as much as N100,000 to some customers over the counter, the unusual crowd at the banks as a result the cash scarcity was yet to abate.
However, the ATMs at some banks occasionally dispensed cash, but many more were yet to, thereby causing crowds at the few ones dispensing.
Also, during a visit to some markets on Good Friday in Calabar, traders were lamenting slow patronage. They were however happy that customers could buy and pay with cash.
A meat seller at the Marian Market, popularly called Romanus, said he was optimistic that before the day ran out customers would patronise him. 
“The day is still young and I’m sure sales will still come because people can now easily get cash from the ATM or POS. This Easter may not be like the previous ones but it will be better than when there was no cash to spend,” he said.
Another market woman, who sells chicken, said: “Customers are not patronising us the way we expected, but we thank God that they are bringing cash to buy from us.”