Nigeria’s economy literally entered pause mode in the first quarter of this year, in the aftermath of the cashless policy and currency redesign, which left many Nigerians with little or no cash to spend. The irony – people had monies in their bank accounts but could not access cash to do petty transactions here and there.
This is the first in a series of articles that narrate how different business owners coped through the two long months where this lasted.
Ms Felicity runs a grocery store with her mother in Warri, Delta state, and this is her recount of how the business fared during this period.
Before the policy
“We have always accepted transfers as a means of payment, but usually these transfers are for sums above 1000 naira and we would confirm receipts before letting customers go. Even then, these payments made up like 1% of the payment we received.
Then came the policy
Nothing changed at first, as we were already accepting transfers before then. But after a week or so, we started experiencing delays in receiving credit alerts. It did not help that we were using Zenith Bank, and there were general complaints at this time about the service. To ease business and avoid crowds, we started collecting customers’ names, phone numbers, and amounts sent, once they could show us their debit alerts. We would let them go with the stocks.
This turned out to be a big risk, as we were using Zenith Bank and in most cases, we could stay up to two days before getting the alerts. In a few cases, the money never got to us.
We lost a lot of money.
No exaggerations. There were times we did not see alerts, we called the people and found that the money was reversed to their accounts. Thankfully, some of them were good people and would redo the transfer. For a few others, we could not get the money back.
Over all, the transfer was difficult for both buyers and sellers. Some of our customers transfer their estimated budget to us before they leave the house. When they come and buy, we either give them change (if it is less) or to top up to pay for the balance. Some regulars have used transfer as an opportunity to take goods on credit with excuses like “my app no gree open. My POS person go help me do am later’
Like play like play, e don dey go 2 weeks.
And then, We stopped accepting transfers
Due to cases of reversed transactions and network errors, a lot of our neighbors were not accepting transfers, and with time, we had to toe the same line. What was the alternative? We had them use their ATM cards with the nearby POS operator, and then bring the printed slips to us. At the end of the day, we would settle accounts with the POS operator.
Practically every other vendor around us was doing the same thing, although a few still insisted on cash only, like the elderly woman selling fish. People selling Garri were accepting transfers for everything except Garri. When you ask them, they’d say you must pay cash for garri because the women in the village market do not accept transfers.
This POS slip worked well, although at some point, all we had in our apron pockets were POS slips and very little change. I know we should have gotten our own POS, but I just want to tell you that it is currently easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for you to get your own POS. The waiting time choke.
How to restock?
When it was time to restock, we got stuck. The wholesalers wanted us to pay with cash, and even for the ones that accepted transfer, we had to add ‘charges’ for them. It made us question our decision of accepting transfers from others without also asking for charges.
Finally! Something that worked.
We experienced all this ‘shege’ until we decided to go and try Opay. Jokes on the street say that while Zenith Bank was investing in Christmas decorations, and other banks were building many branches. Opay was investing in its digital banking.
Opay is swift. I no dey joke. When the transfer was coming from another bank to Opay, we could get the alert in minutes. But when it is from Opay to Opay, it literally dropped within seconds.
We were just adapting to this when the CBN governor finally announced that both old and new currencies could be used side by side.