A concept, common among Nigerian university students used to refer to the unpleasant conditions or hardship experienced in their educational sojourn, “Shege”, is now popularized and widely used by Nigerians including nonstudents as a result of the cashless policy of the apex Bank.
It is no more news that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Cashless policy took effect on Monday, January 9 2023 placing restrictions on the N200, N500, and N1000 denominations. It was believed that the cashless policy would reduce the circulation of fake currency, insecurity, corruption, and prevent vote buying, eradicate money laundering and stockpiling—for over 85 percent of currency in distribution are outside the safety of commercial banks (the CBN claims), discourage ransom kidnapping, and stabilize the foreign exchange rate. Hence, the three highest currency notes are rendered illegal.
Causes and Consequences of the Boiling Temperature
The innocuous policy of the CBN, for economic aggrandizement, has been conspired by some Nigerians who are the supposed beneficiaries of the policy. Having outlawed the old aforementioned denominations, the Central Bank disbursed the new notes to other commercial banks throughout the country in order to enhance full implementation. Thus, the Nigerians are asked to deposit their ‘old’ currencies in banks and affecting the use of the new notes. Those Nigerians who were concurrently devising alternatives for their corrupt acts were quick to conspire with bank managers in order to acquire the new notes limitlessly. In Nigeria of course such managers or bank official is settled. This way, average Nigerians including the writer are left to face the inequities of their actions. It was so hard that its consequences reflect virtually all economic sectors. There was no free flow of trade. Buying and selling were almost limited to e-banking. As such, those “guguru sellers” and “alabaru” who work on a low wage to fill their stomachs and perhaps that of their families without a bank account and with no new notes could not buy anything to satisfy their needs. What an unimaginable reality! Quite funny is that even beggars feel the heat of the atmosphere. The blind and the deaf could conceive the atmospheric pressure. It was not a conducive atmosphere.
Yet another cause of the “shege” accrued from the cashless policy was cash trade which domicile the country. It is not a strange thing nor is it obnoxious to the Nigerians asking such unimaginable questions as: “how much did you buy N5000?” or please “Oga how much is N10,000?” It is so sad that the language “how much did you buy” and “please sell…” was now used for cash rather than goods as they are now the words of the day. The buying pass through two chains—from banks to POS agents to the common man. Traders, fuel attendants, drivers, and Okada men are now the ‘last hope’ of the common man. However, the federal government and the CBN are not to be garlanded as the policy receives poor implementation on their part. The CBN claims to monitor bank transactions yet, a bank manager in Abuja was able to hoard a sum of N29 million new naira notes. Do you wonder what happened to the monitoring when the obnoxious act was carried out? Thanks to the EFCC arrest of February 6.
Accidental Opportunities of the Policy
Nigerians are strong characters who get along with whatever circumstances posed to them by their beloved government, some Nigerians wouldn’t mind becoming a millionaire on a silver platter. Quite interesting is that the policy has served some other unintended purpose. It has turned into an appreciated opportunity on one hand and an obnoxious exploitative opportunity on another. POS agents and traders who acquire the ‘gold’ inevitably would consider the policy a messenger from God sent to them to aggrandize them. It was an aggrandizement indeed that, people pay thirty percent charges on every withdrawal (subject to the environment). POS agents are begging to sell money to owners. The situation is what can be tagged ”as he dey pain dem e dey sweet us.” Also, online transactions have appreciably increased which is also a benefit on the side of commercial banks as they frequently deduct charges on online payments made.
More importantly, the policy has served as a bury for the wretchedness of the poor. Opportunists easily hide under the shades of ‘No cash’ since it’s a matter concerning both the rich and the poor. ”I don’t have money” is no longer a big deal so far the policy exists. Even the niggardly can easily tell beggars they don’t have cash; it is not stinginess.
Funny enough, the cashless policy has helped curb extravagant spending. It is not an overstatement that some Nigerians, the writer being a testimony, now manage a thousand naira (that was usually a one-seating meal cost) for days, as not all payment is e-based. Parents now have excuses for not giving their children pocket money to school. “There is no cash!”
As I see things, the cashless policy of the CBN to manage the country’s currency for the benefit of the Nigerian economy and the Nigerians as granted by Section 17 of the CBN Act which provides that “the Bank shall have the sole right of issuing currency notes and coins throughout Nigeria, to the exclusion of the federal, state or local governments or any person or authority.” is not draconic as believed; it was made to seem so by the desperation of the Nigerians towards actualizing their interests on the one side, and the poor implementation of the nice policy by the CBN on the other.
Considering its effects on mass suffering and loss of lives, the government fast erred to have given a short range of time for carrying out such a fantastic but painstaking reform. However, I commend His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the CBN governor, Governor Godwin Emefiele, on the policy’s success in reducing vote buying during the just concluded elections, as I advise the body to devise a more efficient means towards achieving its ends. More importantly, Nigerians should learn to avoid inconveniencing themselves while they chant government. Not all opportunities are worthy of use. We should be considerate of how others feel. Hence, the shege that is being experienced now will seem like a preliminary for the days ahead.
Abdulkabir Muhammed is a writer and student at Lagos State University