Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nigeria: A Cashless Society?

One thing about us - we like to copy! And the newest thing in Nigeria is this lofty dream of making it a cashless society. Yes, I said lofty. Sue me!

Sure, living in a cashless society does have its perks. But I honestly do not think Nigerians are ready or equipped for the technicalities that come with it.

Uncle Sanusi, how far na?

Last I checked, Nigeria and America no dey the same level.

For starters, they have steady electricity and access to the internet. Transiting from a cash-based society to a cashless one means falling back on technology. It means human capital will be replaced with machines. Most, if not all machines require to use of electricity. Nigeria is nowhere near having steady electricity so wouldn't this be a case of putting the cart before the horse?

I read that some 300 Zenith Bank IT staff were sacked yesterday and the next set on the chopping board will be the bulk counters. Reason is, when we transit to a cashless society, we would no longer have need for those whose jobs are to count money.

For a country with a staggering rate of unemployment, it only gets worse.

From December 2011, CBN has mandated that it will restrict individual withdrawals to N150,000. Anybody who withdraws above the said amount will be charged N100 for every 1,000 exceeded by the limit. Seriously?! It is now a crime to withdraw your own money.

I read a Thisday columnist complain about her bank charging her because she gave someone a cheque for N50,000 and their justification was that she could have done an internet transfer instead. They conveniently assumed she had access to the internet and access to electricity for that matter.

As we speak, there are still villages in Nigeria that have no access to electricity. There are people who have never even seen a computer before talkless of knowing what the internet is.

What will happen is people will now start keeping large sums of money under their beds and armed robber will get enough motivation to remain in their trade.

Ordinary ATM that we use has caused enough wahala with lack of appropriate security measures employed by these banks. This new cashless society theory will be sure to see more yahoo boys repeatedly smiling to the banks.

Imagine doing something as simple as withdrawing cash from the ATM and having your bank debit your account twice and in some cases, not even dispensing cash at all. I remember when I wanted to pay my rent. The lawyer refused to accept a cheque for some odd reason. So i was left with the option of paying cash - I had to get some cash from the ATM to add to what I had already. I was about to make the last withdrawal of N20,000 and the cash wasn't dispensed yet I got a debit alert instantly.

I almost went crazy because I was working with a timeline - if I didn't pay for the house that day, someone else could take it and the lawyer was already waiting for me. I became almost frantic. I went into the bank whose ATM I had used and the Customer Service person looked at me sympathetically and said there was nothing he could do and instructed me to go clarify the issue with my bank

I got to my bank and they told me it could take up to 10 working days!!! 10days!! Why do I have to wait  2 weeks for an error caused by them. I was almost livid. I had to run around like a mad woman looking for where to borrow 20k because I had no other money.

This has happened to me more than once and I know a million people that have gone through similar situations. It's funny but I am beginning to suspect these banks do this deliberately.

Imagine if 100,000 Nigerians suffer this same thing everyday. And let's assume the amount is N20,000.

100,000 Nigerians X 20,000 = 2 billion Naira

And in most cases, they end up not giving you back your cash till 10 working days elapse.

Imagine what a bank can do with 2 billion Naira in 2 weeks. They could trade with that money and make insane interests in 2 weeks.

After they "borrow" 2 billion Naira from unsuspecting Nigerians, they give it back to us with 0% and we are supposed to go home smiling. Go and try to borrow money from your bank and hear the mad interest rates they'll give you.

So this issue of islamic banking (non-interest lending) didn't just crop up. They've been practicing it with unsuspecting customers since the beginning of time. Greedy people.

Mr Sanusi should know this though: Becoming a supposedly cashless society isn't going to make Nigeria one of the 20 most developed nations in the world as is his aim. Not even close.

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