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Rivers traders go cashless, embrace POS

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Boli seller using POS in Port Harcourt PHOTO: ANN GODWIN


When the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), introduced the Point of Sale (POS) system in 2012, to further drive home its cashless policy, which is aimed at improving efficiency and enhancing the payment system, some persons at the informal sector, especially petty traders, market women, and artisans made jest of the initiative, arguing that the policy will not stand.

But six years down the line, some of those who made fun of the policy in Rivers State are beginning to embrace it in order to meet their customers’ demand, protect their income, and to remain in business.For instance, it was an exciting scene at Elekahia Housing Estate, in Port Harcourt, recently when a middle-aged woman in the area popularly called “Boli Vila,” was spotted using the POS machine to obtain payment from her teeming customers.

Roast plantain better known as boli in local parlance is a well-known delicacy in Port Harcourt. The plantain, be it unripe, barely ripe or ripe, is prepared and eaten alongside fresh fish. Yam and potatoes can also be prepared and consumed in this manner.

The history of boli in the state is traced to the riverine Kalabari, in the 1960, when women roasted fish and plantain as light meals for their returning husbands, who were returning from daily toil. From what was used to welcome their husbands home from work, the women gradually turned roast plantain and fish into money-making ventures, which has continued to grow in demand and popularity.

Interestingly, this tasty and nourishing delicacy is enjoyed by both the rich and the poor, as well as, old and young. But the culinary prowess displayed by each of the sellers in the sauce preparation, types/sizes of fishes prepared, has gradually become a major factor that attract patronage.Ingredients used to make the delicacy mouthwatering include, local palm oil, fresh pepper, fresh tomatoes, local seasoning cubes, onion, salt, utazi, and oil beans (ogba). 

In fact, some of the patrons, including lawmakers, bankers, oil worker, clerics, businessmen and women drive as long as 40 minutes to get to their “usual customers.”The acceptability of the delicacy across the state has seen many upgrade it to one of the meals they now serve at wedding ceremonies, birthdays, parties, and even burial ceremonies.

The delicacy’s increasing popularity, also finds expression in the celebration of local food, which has been named “Boli Festival.” The annual festival, among other things, showcases the rich and unique preparations of the indigenous delicacy.Now, it is generally said that a visitor to Port Harcourt, who misses a meal of roast plantain and fish has missed enjoying a vital part of what the oil-rich city has to offer.

Former Deputy Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Liyee Kwanee, is one of those, who enjoy the delicacy, and he confirmed, “I enjoy roast plantain a lot because it is a very delicious and highly nutritious meal. I find time go to Elekahia Housing Estate to enjoy it.“There has been a lot of criminal activities across the state, so, increasing use of POS by traders, including bole sellers would ensure the security of their money since they operate in an open environment and are vulnerable to all of these criminals,” he said.

Kingsley Wali, another Port Harcourt resident who drives several kilometres to feast on roast plantain with fish known as mackerel, said he detests the combination of roast plantain and groundnuts. “And that is why I drive several kilometres to Elekahia Housing Estate to enjoy the delicacy,” he said
He said the use of POS by some of the sellers was a clear pointer to the fact that high-net worth individuals were also patronizing the sellers. “In addition to that, due to cashless economy, not too many people go around with cash anymore. So this development is good business decision on the part of sellers.”
 
Samuel, an indigene of Edo State, who grew up in Lagos State confessed that he was introduced to the roast plantain and fish in Port Harcourt, having been used to roast plantain and groundnut in Lagos, where he grew up.

“This type of food is not common in Lagos. What is common there is plantain and groundnut. When I arrived Port Harcourt, I noticed that it was very popular among residents, so I tried it myself and found out that it was nice, rich and tasty, especially the sauce, which amplifies the native taste.”On the use of POS by bole sellers, he said it protects their sales “and also enables the sellers to remain in the market flow.”

But there is also one of the downsides of the use of the device by the traders, the reason some of them are not very enthusiastic about continuing poor network and lack of constant power.One of them, Mrs. Christiana LongJohn lamented: “I don’t know why things in this country are not working the way they ought to.

There is constant poor network due to lack of constant power supply and this affects network connectivity. And the problem with POS is that whether you use it or not, they are deducting your money.“Another discouraging factor is the same amount you sell for someone with cash is the same amount that you sell to a buyer that is paying electronically, and the bank will deduct charges each time the device is being used. So, we incur loses instead of gain.”
 
Mrs. LongJohn, who has in her employ six youths, disclosed that she started the business at 18, and has been able to send her children to universities from the proceeds as her husband died when they were in nursery schools.

“As you can see, I have employed some youths to work for me. Some of them I pay daily, while the others are paid monthly. To continue expanding, we need loans but government is not doing that for us. Our children who are graduates should also be considered for employment just as we are employing other peoples’ children. A financial expert said the use of POS by service providers and traders would go a long way in growing their businesses and challenged government to address the fluctuating network services.

 


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