Cashless society: Clueless society
Presumably, this principle is being pushed on us because the West believes that it is an effective way to stop corruption but more importantly by pursuing the money, they are better able to find those fomenting radicalisation and paying for terrorism.
No sooner had these statements been made than the fallacies and contradictions inherent in them became clear. The guns used by the terrorists are not manufactured by them. When the West wishes to pursue their national interest, for example, overthrowing non-friendly regimes – they do not do so by using cheques. Cash contributions in the West, in Churches and Mosques are not large but small cash donations.
AlI agree with the principle of following the money to catch terrorists. I am unable to say how this policy had been successful. Many of the terrorists were financed by States’ Governments: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, The Pentagon were carried out by 15 Saudi Arabians who flew the suicide planes. I am yet to be informed that such trace had stopped further radicalism. In the Spanish train bombing all of the culprits were from one village in Morocco. It cost less than US$6000 for the whole operation.
The West and Nigeria itself must devote massive investment in education for the next 15 years – pushing up literacy to well over 60%. Then cashless society would begin to make sense.
As it is now, it is a marketing tool to keep us poor. What part of the general programme of cashless society would Nigerian businesses benefit from? Which devices would we manufacture locally? The cards and chips, technology and infrastructure will all come from outside Nigeria for which we will pay in foreign exchange – the cards, the rentals of the intellectual property that goes with the technology, the security – codes, monitors, encryption and the hackers and gate men – every single part of the whole apparatus will not get one single input from Nigeria. Not now, not in the future. It is a lucrative cash cow for the West and a debilitating disease for the underdeveloped world whose citizens lose jobs and money.
Would the cashless society reduce corruption? Probably – but I do not see discount cards in Abonnema, my village, when I want to buy fish. Bakana, Buguma, Abonnema, Degema, Dekema, Obonnema, Tombia and at least 20 other Kalabari villages have only one bank, UBA and one cash-dispensing machine located in Abonnema. Even if you have to introduce the vending machines to all these towns, the POS machines to all the traders and market women we would still have to buy all of that, use the technology of the internet to transact the business. So what would we gain in terms of manufactured equipment in this business?
As for corruption and its effect on everybody having a traceable income, the 10 years of recurrent banking scandals and the near collapse of world economy in 2008 had nothing to do with those societies being cashless or having traceable accounts.
How would our manufacturing be of benefit to workers in these enterprises? When GSM was first introduced in Nigeria, a number of companies bought expensive, elaborate machines to make the chips and cards in Nigeria. It did not take these GSM services industries more than a few years to find that they no longer had jobs. The GSM companies MTN, GLO and AIRTEL companies went from machine produced recharge cards to printed papers recharge dockets to sell as recharge cards. Many of us who had invested heavily in the business had hoped that it would develop into the making of credit, discount cards, NEPA payment cards, new technology to pay for metering all kinds of – water, gas, electricity and so on. None has worked. Instead, meters are manufactured from South Africa, India and China, despite the exponential growth of these industries and usage devices. The world is changing and we must catch up with it – but how and with what? You need hands to catch. What is happening is that our hands have been looped off, cut off, they are stumps. We need prosthesis, and even these are manufactured overseas!! Modern communications through computers, e-mail, etc. are efficient – but at what price – how many lost jobs?
In the West, the land line telephones are all still working; their postal systems are still working, jobs are still important: Lance Armstrong was supported by US Post. Which Post Office in Nigeria can support a kindergarten bicycle race?
We have no electricity? What is our response? Import generators, solar power and last week someone was talking about nuclear power? Meanwhile, thousands of coal miners are dead or jobless.
We have no electricity, so we import cordless torchlight with rechargeable batteries from China, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Turkey, etc. We do not make torchlight batteries and bulbs for a large country of 380,000sq miles – 180 million people like Nigeria, which has the needs, the people and the money.
We have rubber yet we import tyres. We have Cocoa and we import chocolate. We could process cocoa in West Africa and sell the butter to Europe – but the EU blocked our semi-processed cocoa.
In 1977 when the first indigenisation decrees were introduced in Nigeria, we had textile mills as plentiful as in Indonesia and India. We grew cotton to feed these mills. The labour unions were strong; they demanded workers transport, low cost houses. We had the workers package (land, transport, houses). Companies of a certain size provided transport, food and canteen for their workers. Government donated land for building of Low Cost Houses – Amuwo Odofin, FESTAC, all the land down to Mile 2 to Badagry. Central Bank and other banks built houses for workers which were sold to them. Low cost houses were built in other states although the experience varied.
The old Coal, Electricity and Railways corporations had quarters which were later sold to them. No new ones, however, were built for some time now. All the political parties in 1979 were committed to Low Cost Housing for workers, saleable to them. What turned some of these houses to ghettos is that they were not owned by the workers. If the police barracks were owned by policemen, there would be more of them, better discipline, upkeep and a steadier, more effective Police Force.
Lack of steady electricity should have encouraged the making of torchlight (batteries, bulb and rechargeable batteries), kerosene lamps and umbrellas: quite apart from building new generators with capacity to meet our needs. Our rubber should have turned into tyres and a hundred other manufactured products. Our groundnut into vegetable oils, animal feed and other products.
Loss of Post and Telegraph had serious consequences for our economy. How did it happen? We stopped manufacturing and thus there was the loss of all the technologies dependent on the industries, including transportation; ability to repair machines. Since the arrival of digital watches, no one knows how to repair a normal watch anymore. Battery operated shavers cannot be repaired.
E-mails are a faster and even better way to communicate but we need devices to read e-mails and other supporting equipment and infrastructure which we have to buy and install, so that our smart phones can work. We need investment, repeater stations and so on. The nation is blighted in and with darkness, but does this darkness also blight our minds?
We closed the Iddo Coal fired power station and with that we also closed supporting institutions and infrastructure – rail, tally clerks, workers, and shipping. Coal from Enugu was moved by rail to Port Harcourt and Lagos. Some coal was moved to Port Harcourt then transported by sea to Iddo power station in Lagos.
The auto industries overseas pay for defectively manufactured VWS Toyota cars. Who claims in Nigeria? Have the Ministers of Trade and Industries, Foreign Affairs made a statement? Why should we be unable to claim for these mal-manufactured cars and for which the manufacturers are willing to pay compensation? We simply have no clue!
Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, an Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic
(OFR), is also a former Ambassador to Brazil