By: Emmanuel Utibe
On the 31st of January, the central bank announced a currency change policy that saw it reissue new currency denominations for the 200, 500, and 1000 notes. Like all other policy changes, the news was received with mixed reactions; different opinions about intended and possible economic implications flew around. Despite all of the arguments, not many saw the currency change lead to a severe scarcity of liquid currency in the country. Eventually, when the devil came out of the shadow to play, rarely visited ATM stands became makeshift camps for many. The resulting cash scarcity made many people camp out at ATM stands to get cash at any available opportunity.
POS vendors, who prior to this period were an alternative, suddenly became deities. Money buying became an alternative. Also, In the midst of the somewhat ensuing madness, the cluelessness of the government, and the disregard for the supreme court, there were UI students who – like every ordinary Nigerian – were caught in the storm.
Despite the relative cushion the University community provided, vendors and students still suffered the effects of the cash scarcity. Considering that there are no banks in the University, the Few ATM stands were not any help to students who needed cash for different purposes, especially transportation and feeding. The subsequent effect it then had on business within the school community was very telling. Speaking to some of the traders, they all illustrated – differently, and as vividly as they can – the significant drop in the volume of sales, and the corresponding imposition of digital transactions. According to the traders, the students have been reluctant to buy things as frequently as before; they were managing the little cash they have.
For the transport workers, the situation was very much telling. It became a common sight to see long lines of vehicles parked at various bus stops in school. Commuters were now forced to engage their legs due to the inability to pay for transportation. This, coupled with the gnawing fuel scarcity crisis in the country, significantly affected the transport economy at the University.
For the students, the complaints are similar and in some cases, worse. A.Y who lives outside campus spoke of having to deny himself transport just to save cash. According to him, the cost of the naira was becoming unbearable. He lamented about withdrawing 1000 naira with a charge of 300 naira. Promise who stays in Indy says he has not been able to withdraw cash by himself since the start of the year. He had to always rely on friends who had cash to spare and were willing to bargain a transfer refund. Mubarak from Zik complained about the frequency and cost of digital transactions. According to him, the POS vendors cannot be blamed for the charges, especially given the scarcity of cash. Mubarak believes that the government is at fault for proposing a not-well-thought-out policy in the first place.
Essentially, the cash redesign is a policy mishap across economic and social classes in the University. Also, despite the recent order from the supreme court, it does not seem to be letting up quickly. The resumption is likely to make the case worse for students and residents on the University Campus. To cope with the difficulty, it would not be strange to see students take personal actions in the hope of a quick resolution. Until then, all eyes are up to the Central bank, the financial institutions in the country and the government to see to distribution and economic ease in due time.