• Thursday, April 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Inbound travellers squeezed on naira scarcity

Inbound travellers squeezed on naira scarcity

Nigerians who travelled back to the country for the general election have been restricted in their spending as a result of the scarcity of naira notes.

Typically, inbound travellers change their foreign currencies to naira at the Bureau de Change outlets at the airport or the black market but the scarcity of banknotes prevented many from doing that.

Aside from patronising Point of Sale (PoS) agents, who now charge higher fees, travellers without active bank accounts in Nigeria rely on family members or friends for cash.

“I was in Nigeria a year ago and I enjoyed my stay back then because I had money to spend around and give to my family and friends. But this is not happening again as I have to go through the strenuous process of first getting an account number of someone who is reliable and the exchange value of the dollar would be sent into the person’s account,” Onyema Ugochukwu told BusinessDay.

He added: “The second hurdle will then be to get the physical cash. I can’t get more than N20,000 cash daily because of the limit on the card. Most times, even to get the stipulated N20,000 is difficult because banks are not able to give that amount.

“Most times, transferring money to PoS agents would mean drastically reducing the amount of money I can collect. This has been really frustrating.”

Ugochukwu said since his arrival in Nigeria more than a week ago, he has had to go through third parties to get money to give his family, which is costing him so much.

“My mum doesn’t have a bank account and I don’t think it’s necessary to open one for her since she is old and I can always send money to her through neighbours and sometimes church members. But coming back home, it’s frustrating that I can’t even get enough physical cash for my mum and myself daily,” he said.

He said while a cashless economy is good for Nigeria, it should be done gradually and there should be means to get cash when people need it.

Ugochukwu described as frustrating the N20,000 cash limit placed on withdrawals from ATMs.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had on December 15 introduced new naira notes but they have been in short supply across banks since then – a development that has affected spending across the country.

Kingsley Okonwko, another inbound traveller, told BusinessDay that since he got back, he has cut down on expenditure as a result of the amount he has to pay to get cash or make a transfer through another person’s account.

“Before now, I had budgeted some amount of money to send to people at home but I really have to cut down my spending as it is costing me more than I envisaged,” Okonkwo said.

Read also: Poor facilities at old Lagos airport terminal irk travellers

He said he came back with few goods to sell but he has had to bring down the prices to encourage people to buy because of the cash scarcity.

“Each time I come back to Nigeria, I return with few things I can sell. This is mostly how I get the money I spend in Nigeria but with the scarce naira, the patronage has dropped and the few people who are buying are making transfers and it is costing me more money to use a third-party account to send and receive the money,” Okonkwo said.

Susan Akporiaye, president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, said a few of her clients had complained about the effects of the scarcity of naira.

According to her Akporiaye, many travellers coming back to Nigeria make arrangements with their family members who have dollar accounts and send money to them and when they get back, the value of the money is converted to naira.

She said: “Most of my clients said they have stopped giving out cash as gifts, rather they ask their third-party agent or family member to transfer the money to whoever they want to give the money to.

“One of my clients had to transfer money to one of my accounts that is not very active. When she came, I just gave her my ATM card to use during her stay in Nigeria and when she was done and about to return, she gave the card back to me. She told me to keep whatever was left for the charges and inconveniences.”

She said travellers would always find a way to navigate the current cash crunch as people keep money issues private and they make their own personal arrangements because of security issues.

A staff at the Lagos airport who would not want his name mentioned told BusinessDay that banks stationed at airports were struggling to make available cash for travellers.