Ever since the Central Bank of Nigeria announced its plan to reduce the amount of physical cash in circulation through its cashless policy, banks and the apex bank have engaged in a lot of publicity to make the public accept the new policy.
The new policy is to be experimented in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano, Aba this year and will become operational in other parts of the country later.
The advantages of the new scheme, as enunciated by the CBN, include reduction in the amount of physical cash used in transactions; reduction in risk involved in moving large physical cash around, namely the high cases of robbery attacks, burglaries and the public’s propensity to abuse and mishandle currency notes are reduced to the barest minimum.
Apart from these, the scheme will also reduce the cost and frequent printing of new currency notes. It will reduce the banking cost of huge financial transactions involving physical cash.
The CBN also claimed that by adopting the policy, it will be able to meet genuine currency transaction demands and combat speculative market behaviours that may negatively affect economic growth and stabilisation measures.
The Lagos experiment dubbed Cashless Lagos is scheduled to take off in the state on 31 March.
The new policy aims to reduce usage of physical cash in financial transactions (both deposits and withdrawals).
When it becomes operational, a bank customer is allowed to withdraw a maximum of N150,000 only (individual accounts) and N1,000,000 (company accounts) daily without any charge. Any withdrawal above these amounts, according to the CBN, will attract penalty fees (N100 on every thousand (individual accounts) and N200 on every thousand (company accounts) above the threshold set by the CBN.
As much as we support the idea of a cashless society as obtained in other advanced societies all over the world, it is our contention that the time limit set to experiment the new scheme in the cities chosen for its implementation is too short.
Moreover, the publicity being employed to herald the scheme is inadequate and has not permeated the grassroots. The full pages of advertisements in newspapers daily are not enough. These serve to enlighten a certain segment of the public, not the entire populace. As at now, the CBN will be surprised to find out that not many people understand what the new scheme is all about and many at the grassroots have also not heard about it.
An important policy like the cashless or electronic banking that affects millions of bank customers ought to be given mass publicity and a long time for assimilation by the people to make it successful.
This is why we are calling on the CBN to rethink the deadline fixed for the implementation of the scheme. There should be an extension of time to enlighten members of the public on the policy.
The CBN should embark on massive publicity, using indigenous languages in the broadcast media to educate the people at the grassroots on the policy.
We expect that by now, less than a month to the implementation of the policy, the textile and provisions dealers at Idumota, Oke-Arin, Mushin, Oshodi, Agege who move large amount of naira around would have been convinced about the need to embrace cashless transactions.
These people and others at the grassroots should also be carried along in the implementation of a cashless society.