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PoS operators still in business as consumers weary of long queues in banks, ATM

PoS operators still in business as consumers weary of long queues in banks, ATM

Since December 2022, Nigerians have been grappling with the challenges of Naira scarcity and its direct impact on the economy.

Economic activities however, are gradually picking up following the relaxation of the naira redesigning policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The apex bank caved in to the intervention of the Supreme Court after the citizens had passed through a harrowing experience.

The withdrawal of the old banknotes in January triggered a cash shortage in the economy, causing long queues in banks and automated teller machine (ATM) points as the new notes in circulation were inadequate following the CBN’s plan to reduce money in circulation.

The Naira crunch has further impacted living standards and increased poverty levels resulting from a reduced purchasing power of Nigerians amid surging inflation.

The cashless policy however, became a blessing in disguise for Point of Sales (PoS) operators who profiteered from the Naira scarcity across the country.

With the relaxation of the policy, banks are now having money to dispense to their customers. BusinessDaySUNDAY checks showed that many people are weary of spending hours on queues inside banking halls or at automated teller machine (ATM) points.

They prefer quick services at PoS kiosks where they part with some amount of money as charges.

“PoS business in Nigeria is not just for making payments and transfers. You can use it for Airtel recharge, utility service payments and other taxes,” Deborah Oni, a PoS operator, said, disclosing that more people make transfers now than withdrawing.

According to her, PoS agents’ business or mobile money agents now offer banking services to Nigerians who are tired of queues in the banking hall without getting money after standing in the sun for hours.

She further disclosed that at a point some operators had to charge N3000 for N10, 000 in January. Oni, who operates her PoS in Maza-Maza, one of the communities in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos, told BusinessDay that she reverted to the old fees in February.

She also said that she relied on her mother in-law who is a trader within the neighbourhood for cash, which is why she can now charge between N100 and N200 for transactions depending on the person sending or receiving cash.

“I now charge N200 for N10, 000 and sometimes the charges depend on the customer. If it’s someone that usually patronises me, the charges are moderate,” she said.

Nkem Ihentuge, an Owerri-based mother of four, disclosed to BusinessDay that she paid N1000 for every N10,000. She disclosed that banks have started giving customers cash within the banking halls. But, further said that she was discouraged to go into the banking halls because of the queues and crowd.

“I have not been there since o,” she told BusinessDay.

Bolakale Benjamin, another Lagos resident based in Agbara told BusinessDay that she was charged N300 for N3000. According to her, paying the charges is far better than queuing under the sun for an ATM that will not dispense cash.

“I see people queue in front of the ATM as early as 7am and wonder if it is that they don’t have work to do or something. How will I stand under the sun for hours waiting to withdraw money and then the ATM will still not pay me?”

According to her, going inside the banking hall is worse compared to queuing in front of the ATM, as the banks have literally run out of cash since the Supreme Court intervened in February.

But, another PoS operator in Amuwo-Odofin that identified herself simply as Kaka told BusinessDay that she charges N200 for every N1000, and N300 for transactions between N5000 and N10, 000.

Odeghe Ifeanyi, another PoS operator in Maza-Maza charged N200 to transfer N8,000 for a customer on Friday, 14 April.

Ifeanyi disclosed to BusinessDay that he does more transfers for customers since the cashless policy of the CBN.

“Since the cashless policy started, getting physical cash has been a huge challenge for many of us operating PoS. However, I do more transfers for customers now since I don’t have cash for withdrawal services,” Ifeanyi said.

Checks by BusinessDay, within Asaba metropolis, Delta State capital, showed that PoS operators are making good money.

Chinyere Charles, a petty trader, lamented how she was charged N1,000 for a withdrawal of N10,000 by a PoS vendor whereas another charged her N300 for N10,000.

Though some say they either go to supermarkets where they could buy and pay through the PoS without extra charges, they also disclosed that at times situations push them to PoS shops where they spend more to have access to cash.

“I prefer doing transfers with my phone, said Kenneth Orusi, a journalist, while Frank Kachi, a civil servant said he prefers going to bank for cash transaction as there are no more queues in the banks for two weeks running.

“Although the operators at the heat of naira crisis charged as high as N3,000 to N4,000 for N10,000, we expect that now that naira notes are available in the banks, they should revert to charging N100 for cash transactions between N1,000 to N5,000; and N200 for transaction of N6,000 to N10,000.

Reacting to the development, Doris Okamgba, a PoS operator, told our correspondent that the reason they still collect higher charges was that they were being charged high tarrifs.

“Last week, we charged N1,000 for N10,000 because naira notes were still scarce though banks complied with the Federal Government and Central Bank policy to dispense money to customers.

“But this week, we reduced the charges from N1,000 to N500 now that there is more naira notes in circulatipn. We can only come down to N200 if tarrifs decrease,” she said.

In Benin City, Edo State capital, the situation is not different from what is happening in other places.

Augusta Eghosasere, a Benin resident, said: “We still gather in Automated Teller Machines (ATM) to withdraw cash. When will this end? You don’t expect me to pay over N1,000 to the PoS operators before I can get N10,000 when I am just a newspaper vendor with meager wage.

“After putting us in this condition, they no longer care if we access cash or not. No leader in other climes, especially developed countries, will treat his or her citizens the way we are being treated. Our leaders believe they can do what they like at the expense of those who put them in power.”

Eghosasere also wondered: “What are the gains of the policy?

According to her, the only change that was conspicuously observed is that Nigerians were further impoverished, some died as a result of social unrest while banking facilities were destroyed. In addition, there was deep-seated anger for this present administration and PoS operators, who leveraged on the situation to become the major money-dispensing office while enjoying higher service fee.”

Innocent Amaku, an agripreneur, said the fee charged by PoS operators is still on a high side irrespective of the stress the operators go through at the banks to withdraw.

Amaku explained that some operators get the money easily may charge less while majority still charge between N100 and N150 for every N1,000, a situation he described as “unbearable” for the common people.

“I went to the bank but they told me I can only withdraw N10,000 from the counter. So, since I needed more than that amount to carry on with my business, I decided to patronize the PoS operators, who we now look upto as our saviors.

“Sadly, I was told by the operator that they will charge me N100 per N10,000. I had no choice but to always do business with them since the commercial banking institutions we relied on have failed to execute their tasks diligently.

“The stress is still on with us despite what the authorities are saying. And, to a large extent, there is still unavailability of cash to the masses and that’s why you see the queue out there on ATMs and on the counter,” Amaku said.

For Yakubu Yusuf, a bureau de change operator, “majority of those who queue at the bank are PoS operators. I was in the bank yesterday and was paid N20,000. The PoS charges vary, some have reduced theirs while majority still maintains the old rate. Some collect N150 for N2000 while others collect N200 for N2,000. The business is now like pure water as everybody has now ventured into it.”

Godwin Igho, a barber, urged the government and those in charge of managing the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria to disburse more money to the commercial banks that will reduce the sufferings, pacify angry citizens and ease business transactions.

Funke Ajayi, who also is a PoS operator in part of Lagos, said that business for them are “going down” unlike two, three months ago.
“Yes, I can confirm to you that business is going down. It is no longer booming. We are gradually returning to the point where we were before Emefiele came up with the policy. Majority of those who patronise us now are those who do not have the patience to go queue at the banks’ ATMs or inside the banking halls,” she said.