Change of naira notes leaves students stranded without cash
“It has caused a lot of harm to my academic life. I had to miss lectures for two consecutive days – all because I was queuing in the bank all day to get money,” Azeezat told University World News. A naira note scarcity, she believes, has subsequently affected her progress on her final project.
The change of some Nigerian currencies by the government has been hitting citizens, including students, hard since the beginning of 2023.
Towards the end of last year, the Nigerian government announced the redesigning of the country’s currencies, which include 200, 500 and 1,000 naira denominations. On 23 November 2022, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s outgoing president, launched the redesigned naira notes which came into use on 15 December 2022.
During the launch of the new notes, Buhari stated that the development is meant to curb corruption and illegal financial flows, and to improve the economy and the value of the Nigerian currency.
The old notes, except the 200 denomination, have ceased to be legal since 10 February 2023, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which regulates the local currency. But the CBN is unable to inject enough new notes into circulation.
This situation led to the scarcity of new naira notes and triggered violent protests across the country. On campuses, students are frustrated about their inability to buy necessities because they do not have cash.
While some students complained that the development has caused them hunger and resulted in them missing lectures and poor attendance, as well as lateness in getting to class, others highlighted the lack of alternative payment methods. Due to the absence of stable internet networks, coupled with the fact that local vendors such as bus drivers, cafeterias, mini-mart agents and cafe centre operators do not accept online transfers, students are facing difficulties in buying necessities.
Murtadho Taofeeq Magaji, an art education student at the University of Ilorin, is among those students who told University World News that attending lectures and efforts to meet personal upkeep have been extremely difficult as he lacks new notes at his disposal.
“I’ve stopped attending lectures for the past two weeks. It is tiresome looking for cash. No thanks to the new policy,” he said, noting that, since he stays off campus, he has relied on getting funds from POS (point of sales) agents domiciled around his residence.
That’s not the end of Magaji’s problems. He has also encountered challenges with a poor network, online transfer difficulties and transactions that do not go through, or the online hanging of money transfers.
“There was a day when I had to wait for two hours for the confirmation of an online transfer I made to a cafeteria when I had lectures to attend,” he told University World News.
Abdulrahman Habeeb, a student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, had exhausted his stock of foodstuffs, so approached a local shop selling raw staple foods at the height of the scarcity.
Left with no option, the vendor had to accept an online transfer for his commodities. Unknown to this fourth-year student of Islamic Studies, the network would not allow his money to drop to the vendor’s account, therefore beginning his travails.
“I transferred NGN3,000 (about US$6.5) to him but he said he was not credited, while I had been debited instantly. He kept telling me he had not received the alert,” Habeeb recounted, noting that he waited for more than a week without any positive result.
However, the Nigerian government is not unaware of the problems. In a nationwide address on 16 February 2023, Buhari apologised to Nigerians.
“I am not unaware of the obstacles placed in the path of innocent Nigerians by unscrupulous officials in the banking industry entrusted with the process of implementation of the new monetary policy. I am deeply pained and sincerely sympathise with you all over these unintended outcomes,” he said.
Speaking about his administration’s efforts to salvage the situation, he said: “To stem this tide, I have directed the CBN to deploy all legitimate resources and legal means to ensure that our citizens are adequately educated on the policy; enjoy easy access to cash withdrawal through availability of appropriate amounts of currency; and [have the] ability to make deposits.”
The president of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Usman Umar Barambu, told University World News that the students’ body is committed to finding solutions to the problem.
“We have deployed our people across the country to investigate the situation and come up with recommendations. We are still waiting for the outcome,” he said.
Jide Ojo, a development consultant, said the ripple effect of the scarcity of the redesigned naira notes on students is worrisome as they have limited access to banks and are far away from their homes.
“It is a distraction from their academic activities,” he said, urging the management of each institution to step up by liaising with the Central Bank of Nigeria to change old naira notes to new ones, ensure the automatic teller machines of the operating banks on campuses are well stocked with funds regularly and that the banks appoint more point of sale operators, who are licensed by operating banks to perform financial transactions (to give and collect funds) using the banks’ approved electronic devices.