Some traders who sell food items and perishable agricultural produce in Nigeria’s capital city have lamented the losses they incurred due to the scarcity of naira notes in the country.
In a market survey conducted by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), the traders explained how they have recorded losses in their businesses in recent time as customers face difficulties accessing cash to buy food items.
Although some of the traders adopted the use of electronic transfers in some of the markets, many of them complained about network challenges during online transactions while others do not even have bank accounts.
The most affected category of traders, the survey showed, are those who sell perishable food items such as tomatoes, vegetables, pepper, fruits, among others.
Multiple interviews with traders in the market showed that in recent weeks, many of them have had to slash the prices of their goods in order to minimise losses due to poor patronage.
“I do not have many sales this period; many customers are not coming to the market. I have to reduce the price of my fruits so as to sell them out immediately, if not, many of them will spoil,” Usman Mohammed, a fruit seller in Kubwa market, said.
In October 2022, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, announced the introduction of new N200, N500 and N1000 notes.
Mr Emefiele said that the decision would address cases of kidnapping, terrorism and other financial crimes.
However, since the policy took effect, the scarcity of both the old and new naira notes has affected a lot of businesses in the country.
The situation further worsened the problems being faced by traders in the market, especially due to the challenges of inadequate storage facilities that lead to post-harvest losses.
Salusi Sanni, a trader at Arab market, Abuja, said he loses about N3,000 to N4,000 daily due to poor sales and damaged farm produce, ostensibly due to the cash crunch.
“During this period, my goods spoil every day because I don’t sell much and people are not buying. Like these tomatoes, before tomorrow morning, many of them will spoil. Look at the floor, those ones spoiled yesterday, I separated them this morning,” he said.
“The spoiled goods are like 2000, 3000 to 4000 daily. Only onions can last longer for us here.
“Problems are too much now, someone will come and buy tomatoes and Tatashi (pepper) with no cash to pay, the person will try to transfer and even when I collect the transfer; when I go to the market to get new goods, some wholesale people will not collect transfer from me, ” he added.
Another trader, Mary Ann, who deals in yam and plantain in the same market, explained that the situation has affected her daily sales.
“Since morning, I have not sold any tuber of yam. Normally, I do sell up to 15 to 20 tubers of yam daily, but until now (5:13 pm) nothing has been sold,” Mrs Ann said.
“If I want to explain how it affects me, I will cry. You see this car, the owner of the car brought me back from where I bought yam now, what is keeping him now is money, he said he does not collect transfers, so currently, I’m looking for cash to give him. He said if he collects cash transfers now and they will charge him N1500 for N5000, what will be his gain? So the man said he will not collect. He has been here for more than one hour, he just left now for the mosque for prayers.”
But Samsu Abu, another trader who deals in tomatoes, okra, and onions, said the situation has not really affected him because he has more than one bank account for easy cash transfers from customers.
“The situation has affected many people but I am not much affected because I normally collect cash transfers,” he said.
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“I opened another bank account last week because of the situation so as to avoid network challenges in case of any in my previous bank during a transaction.”
In a national broadcast on Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the central bank to ensure the circulation of the old 200 naira notes to ease trade and business transactions.
On his part, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, argued that the policy of re-designing the naira has long-term economic and social benefits, even though the process comes with some challenges.
The Director of the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, Sam Amadi, urged Nigerians to exercise tolerance, hoping the situation will improve immediately after the general election.
“It is difficult to mitigate these sufferings until the election is over and the underlying reason for the distortion in the implementation of the policy is removed. The best the people can do is cope and hope that after the election cash will be more available from official sources,” Mr. Amadi said.
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