CBN Planned Blanket Cashless Society: How Ready are Nigerians?

On the 24th of February, The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, under the leadership, of Mr Emefiele announced the expansion of the cashless society strategy to include more 30 states by April 2017. Just like the management of FOREX, CBN decision makers hardly assemble Nigerians in the form of town hall meetings to seek their views on policies and weigh the impact of such policies. This is standard practice abroad and CBN–Nigeria’s apex financial institutions– should do well to maintain an international outlook and standard in most of its policy implementation methods.

Admittedly, six states were used as a pilot study, the question we must ask, hopefully, to get an answer is how ready are Nigerians towards accepting cashless society? Readiness in this context means infrastructure wise and orientation of the masses in these six states talk more of expanding to the remaining 30 states. Do we have a genuine reason to impose charges on legitimate business women and men who are unwilling to use online transfer for large transactions due to challenges of mobile payments? Why charge a market woman 1.5% for depositing above N500, 000 she made selling Ankara at Onitsha? What alternative does she have? Tell her customer to make an online transfer to her? With Nigerian banks internet network that is as unstable as electricity supply in Nigeria. Why is CBN treating depositors as if Banks are doing them a favour?

While many benefits of Cashless Society exists, putting a stop to large-scale cash transactions (withdrawal and deposits) which seemingly is the hotbed of societal ills and criminality, including its ability to bring Auditability –especialy serving as a deterrent to crimes (terrorism, money laundering, kidnapping, drug and trafficking, tax evasion, etc.) should be embraced by all. A cashless society is believed to be the future of money with the growth and acceptability by consumers and retailers mobile payments including the trending fascination for alternative money like Bitcoins.

Preserving the above argument, it behoves on us to agree that cashless policy is the closest plan capable of mitigating societal ills. Howbeit, it comes with its challenges–privacy is being lost. Most transactions can easily be monitored not only by security officials but bankers who have access to your BVN. A run through the system would reveal all transactions from a particular account as long as it links to a single BVN.

Without dwelling much on the weakness of cashless society, the question remains unanswered. Are Nigerians ready for complete cashless society? Should CBN force people to adopt a cashless policy and in the situation they refuse, huge deductions are made from the customers’ account, a proceed CBN and Banks would share equally. Really Emefiele?

Personally, CBN would have adopted India’s demonetization approach towards curtailing the movement of large-scale cash transaction by simply eradicating 200, 500 and 1000 naira denomination. By so doing, movement of money would become cumbersome and risky for the customers leaving them with limited options not to embrace cashless policy. This approach would be fair as no one is being compelled to adopt NO MORE CASH TRANSACTIONS because of charges.

Submitted by J Duke Anago

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