Saturday, 30th September 2023

Poor awareness, fear of fraudsters bug eNaira’s take off

By Tobi Awodipe (Lagos), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Ahmad Muhammad (Kano), Agosi Todo (Calabar) and Timothy Agbor (Osogbo)
30 October 2021   |   4:23 am
Despite the glitz with which President Muhammadu Buhari launched Nigeria’s digital currency, eNaira, last Monday, indications have emerged that Nigerians have not embraced the use of the currency.....

eNaira … Photos:Tekedia

Despite the glitz with which President Muhammadu Buhari launched Nigeria’s digital currency, eNaira, last Monday, indications have emerged that Nigerians have not embraced the use of the currency because they were yet to be properly informed about it.

This is even as those who said they were willing to transact with the digital currency noted that they were still very skeptical as a result of the activities of fraudsters popularly known as “Yahoo Boys” in the country.

At the launch of the currency four days ago, President Buhari had said that alongside digital innovations, the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) could foster economic growth through better economic activities, increase remittances, improve financial inclusion and make monetary policy more effective.

“Let me note that aside from the global trend to create Digital Currencies, we believe that there are Nigeria-specific benefits that cut across different sectors of and concerns of the economy.

“The use of CBDCs can help move many more people and businesses from the informal into the formal sector, thereby increasing the tax base of the country,” he said.

However, few Nigerians who have so far identified with the currency gave it knocks, describing it as “glorified internet banking, no different form the usual bank apps.”

Aside from the difficulty many had with downloading the app and registering, they said the app has been difficult to use for many. Speaking with The Guardian, Alabi Ismael said it was clear the CBN was simply looking for a way to generate revenue for the Federal Government through transaction fees, similar to what commercial banks enjoy.

“Apart from the fact that it wasn’t well explained and detailed before and when it was launched, many people thought it would be crypto or coin based and use block chain technology. Alas, it is just a normal app that can send and receive money. I struggled to download, struggled to register and link my details; it is so cumbersome and I wasn’t surprised when it was taken down. Banks generate billions of naira through their app transactions and they want to tap into that by force. They cannot look inward to cut the cost of governance, instead they want to use back door to wrestle revenue from the bank apps. This government is unserious; the eNaira is not solving any problem or doing anything different from what we already have so why would I bother with it?’ he asked.

Another respondent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he didn’t bother with the app because it is only free for 90 days after which they would begin to charge for its usage.

“The money in my purse is free to spend. Why should I pay to use the digital version that doesn’t have any added-on benefits? It would have been great for micro-transactions but seeing that it is not free to use while other fintech apps are with added benefits too, it doesn’t make any sense at all. I wouldn’t advise anyone to bother with it really. This is another pointless policy from a government that lacks direction.”

Another user, Samuel Alade, said although the eNaira app looks like a good idea on paper, it doesn’t look like it would help stabilise the weak naira in any way.

“I filled everything correctly and the app still refused to sign me up. I even thought after it was taken down and restored, all those issues would have been fixed but it’s still the same for me and others around me. I heard that some people have been able to use it. However, there is still hope. I would advise the government to make it safer, cheaper and faster than the regular bank apps and watch how people would embrace it.”

In Owerri, the Imo State capital, The Guardian checks at branches of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), United Bank for Africa (UBA), Access Bank, Union Bank, First Bank and Polaris Bank revealed that scores of their customers and intending customers had been visiting the banks seeking to be informed properly about the operations and benefits of eNaira.

Many also expressed reservations about the currency, citing the activities of scammers. An account holder with UBA, John Okoro, told The Guardian: “We have heard much about the launch of eNaira. We are still studying that banking system introduced by the CBN. Since they have given 90 days free-of-charge window, for me, I am taking my time to know about it. I do not want to rush into it.”

Another of the bank, Okechukwu Njoku, expressed fears and misgiving over the activities of scammers. He alleged that young Nigerians were scamming a lot of digital platforms, hence his apprehension about eNaira.

“For me, scammers are on the prowl. What are the assurances that this eNaira platform will not be invaded by these boys? Let me watch first,” he said.

According to an employee of First Bank Plc in the state, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, customers have been approaching the bank in large numbers to make enquiries about the digital currency.

“It has been more of enquiries since eNaira was launched by President Buhari, last Monday. While some have indicated interest, others are skeptical about its operations. We are ready to serve our customers,” he said.

In Kano State, a resident, Aminu Yahaya, said he encountered some challenges while trying to download the app few minutes after the President launched it.

Yahaya explained that his attempt to download the app on Google Playstore was like the proverbial camel passing through the eye of a needle. He added that he had since seen a “different eNaira app” and could not ascertain which one was genuine or fake. 

According to him, even when he went to his bank, the system could not verify and confirm his Bank Verification Number (BVN).

“After I filled all my account details, the system was telling me I have encountered problem with BVN validation,” he said. Another resident, Mallam Mustapha Bello, a trader in Kwari textile market, said he was still skeptical about the digital currency.

“I am afraid of scammers; one needs to be careful. Just yesterday, one application was sent to our WhatsApp group in the name of eNaira app. In fact, I wanted to sign in but somebody warned me not try it.

“Based on this and other challenges encountered with the application, government needs to address these issues and embark on serious campaign so that Nigerians would accept the new digital currency platform,” he said.

Account owners in Cross River State also stated that they knew little or nothing about eNaira. When The Guardian sampled the opinion of customers of some commercial banks in Calabar, a business man who just finished transacting business with one of the banks, said he had no information whatsoever about the digital currency.

He said: “I am not aware of this development but as the name implies, I think I will be interested but I need to find out more about it. I am a businessman; I think it will help in making international transactions easier. I have to make enquiry in the bank.”

Another account owner simply said: “I heard about it in the news but I’m not interested in anything that concerns this government. They are fraud. I am okay with the account am using.”

On her part, one Mrs. Thelma Akaninyene asked: “What is the eNaira for? What am I supposed to do with eNaira if I have it? Is that going to put food on my table? Is that going to change the hardship the masses are going through?”

Also, many residents of Osun State were yet to open the eNaira wallet as at yesterday. Some of them also stated that they lacked the necessary information on the proper procedures for operating the new digital currency.

For Omotola Ayegbo, the procedures for opening the eNaira wallet appeared like a scam to her when a friend sent the details to her through her WhatsApp line.

“I have not opened it. Someone sent the details of how to open it to me but I thought it was a scam. So, I ignored it. I won’t do it until I see people doing it and it’s safe,” Omotola said.

Another resident, who simply identified herself as Keme, said the e-Naira wallet was still strange to her. “I have not opened it because I don’t know much about it,” she said.

When The Guardian visited the Osogbo branch of Polaris Bank, it was discovered that it was yet to commence marketing the eNaira wallet to customers. At the customer care unit if the bank, a staff of the bank simply said: “We will soon start to send out messages to our customers.”