Many Nigerians in the north of the country are sleeping in the cubicles of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in banks and other places as the scarcity of the new naira notes bites harder.
While some are residents of urban areas, most of those who spend the night at the ATM points are mostly from communities without bank services and have to wait till they get the cash before they can return home, PREMIUM TIMES gathered.
“I left my home around 5:12 a.m. on Tuesday with the hope of being number one on the queue because one of my friends who works at the bank told me to come early, but when I reached there, I met 15 people that spent the night there,” said Umar Ashura, a non-academic staffer at the Federal University Dustin Ma in Katsina, who has an account with Unity Bank.
He said that was the first time he came to know that people spend nights at banks to get money.
“It’s surprising because the highest you can get is N20,000. That day I could only get N10,000 because the bank officials said there was not enough cash. This is our new reality,” Mr Ashura told this reporter.
In October last year, the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced that it would redesign the N200, N500 and N1000 notes to, among other things, promote a cashless society, tackle counterfeit money in circulation and manage inflation in the country.
A deadline of 31 January was given but it was later extended to 10 February following public outrage. Three governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ran to the Supreme Court to oppose the policy and after the first sitting on 15 February a new date, 22 February was fixed for a hearing.
Since the January deadline, Nigerians have been queueing to get cash from their banks while the number of Point of Sale (POS) operators with available cash keeps reducing as the scarcity worsens.
Sleeping at banks new reality
In Talata Mafara area of Zamfara State, a POS operator, Fahad Aminu said he has slept at the bank thrice to get cash.
“I went to the Access Bank beside the local government Secretariat around 12 midnight, then slept. This was the third time I’m doing that for three straight days. I was given N20,000 each which I gave out to my customers in the morning,” he said told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone.
Nazifi Yahaya, a football viewing centre attendant in Talata Mafara, said he went to the bank around 2:00 a.m. and left “very early in the morning” when bank officials loaded money into the machine.
Banks usually load cash in ATMs in the evening and morning. Most of the money loaded in the evening is withdrawn before night and some residents say they spend the night there so that when the machines are loaded in the morning, they will be first to withdraw.
“I slept outside Zenith Bank walahi but I didn’t get the money in the morning. It’s funny now but I nearly cried that day,” Umar Sulaiman, a teacher in Gusau, Zamfara State capital told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone.
Once the queue reached him, he said, the ATM stopped dispensing cash. He stayed for over an hour after some bank officials promised that money would be loaded into the ATM. They did not fulfil the promise. He left brokenhearted.
Some residents said they preferred spending the night at the banks than joining long queues in the day when one is not certain of getting the money. Others who come from faraway communities without banks also have no choice but to spend the night there.
Some from the urban areas said they experience the cold weather at night at the bank because they need money for basic services.
“Some people still don’t accept transfer or use POS,” a car wash attendant in Katsina, Bashir Dan Waire, told PREMIUM TIMES. “To settle small services like Okada, you need the cash because you can’t tell someone you want to transfer N200 or N100 to him.”
Idris Abdurashid slept at the Jaiz Bank branch on Kofar Kaura in Katsina and he got N10,000. He insisted it was worth the trouble because he now had money in his pocket.
In the Sokoto metropolis, residents of local communities have been trooping into the state capital to get cash but most of them have to spend the night there before they could get it.
Yahaya Alhaji was seen at a Unity Bank on Kano road in the metropolis where he said he would be spending the night since he knew no one in the metropolis. He is from Dange, a community 35 kilometres from the Sokoto metropolis.
“I’ve been here since 10 a.m. When the cash they loaded finished, I went to other banks in the city but couldn’t get so I was informed that they would load more money in the night or very early in the morning and since I don’t have anything (cash) to return to Dange this night, I’ll spend the night here so I could get it on time but as you can see, they’re other people on the queue before me,” he said.
Umar Shehu is from Yabo town, which is 54 kilometres from Sokoto metropolis and has joined the list of those trooping into the city to get cash.
“It’s very hard for me to be spending the night here. If not in Nigeria, where would anybody be suffering just to get hold of his hard-earned money? We defy insecurity to leave our hometown and sleep on the street just to get money, our own money for that matter. This is not the first time I’m even spending the night here,” Mr Shehu, who was at Union Bank on Bello Way, said.
Adamu Ali is from Kurya in the Rabah area on the border with Zamfara State, some 47 kilometres from the Sokoto metropolis. He said there was one POS operator in his community who has now run out of cash.
“I had to come here and I’ll take any cash whether new or old because nobody will accept transfers in our community,” Mr Ali said. He said he was number 102 on the list being written for those hoping to get money Saturday morning.
Others, according to him, have put down their names and left but those who have nowhere to spend the night prefer to sleep outside the bank
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