Coming to work on Monday from Ikeja to Surulere, I had to board the popular Danfo buses plying the popular Ojuelegba-Stadium-Barracks route. When the surly conductor asked for the fare, I gave him a N1, 000 note.
Eyeing it meanly, he said,’ Mi o ni change’ (meaning No Change). I ignored him figuring that he would give me my change before I alighted at my bus stop. I kept reminding him that he was owing me a balance of N850. When I finally got to my bus stop, I announced loudly,’ Conductor gimme my change. Barracks owa o!’ He crumpled a handful of dirty and torn naira notes, handing them to me.
Feeling insulted, I rejected the notes. ‘Na your papa get CBN, ni. I no get change. No collect ya change, you dey mad! By this time, I was enraged. ‘Who you say na mad person? Oloshi! Oloribruku! As the bus stopped, I alighted and began to tussle with conductor. By the time the scuffle was separated, my white long sleeve shirt was a rumpled mess with two of the buttons missing.
The above scenario has been playing out in various sectors of the economy due to the scarcity of lower naira notes became noticed since Q2 of 2013, as a result of the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop the minting of the notes in polymer forms and replaced them with paper notes.
The CBN had, last year, announced it has stopped production of the polymer notes (available in only small denomination) to pave way for the production of the notes in paper forms.
The bank announced that the new notes of N5, N10, N20 and N50 would be moped out from circulation starting from June 2013.
This decision of the CBN was, however, greeted with mixed reactions from the people, especially traders.
For Kemi, a lady who sells recharge card at the busy Adeniran Ogunanya road in Surulere, the greatest challenge in her recharge card business is not patronage but to get “change” or lower Naira denominations when a customer brings N500 or a N 1,000 Naira note.
The issue of change has been a nightmare for most small businesses for a long time. Many transactions were terminated at the point of payment because of the failure of the buyer, or the seller, to produce a lower denomination.
Mrs. Joy Ndubusi, a foodstuffs seller in Ojodu market, Lagos, said it’s difficult for her to give change to her customers each time they make purchases. “If you could notice, I was struggling to get N30 change for a customer when you came around. I had to search among my fellow traders before I could get. This experience is almost a routine process among us now. Its really terrible,” she said.
Some other petty traders in the same market expressed same frustration.
They, however, said they were unaware of CBN’s decision to replace the lower denomination notes.
A visit to the fruit market in Ketu also revealed same situation. Most of the traders expressed their displeasure over the scarcity of smaller denominations.
Some cashiers in the GT Bank and Access Bank in Abuja who preferred anonymity said they have not accessed the lower denominations for a long time now.
According to them, the lower notes used to be more in circulation during yuletide period, but not this year.
When contacted, the spokesperson of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor, said the small notes have started coming, adding they will soon be plenty in circulation.
He said they are aware of the scarcity and the bank is doing everything possible to address the problem.
According to him, the supply of the smaller notes has increased significantly, urging Nigerians to embrace the cashless policy in order to avoid the problem.