Ahead of Nigeria’s Election, a Cash Shortage Causes Chaos and Suffering

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Normally, cash is Ms. Akor’s livelihood. Since Nigeria has few commercial bank branches and A.T.M.s, many people get their cash from professional agents who act as human A.T.M.s., known as P.O.S., or point of service, operators. Ms. Akor is among legions of such operators, who stand on street corners throughout the country with small stocks of cash and mobile card machines, offering cash to cardholders in return for a small fee.

Right now, though, cash is in such short supply that those fees are astronomical.

Prince Chibeze, 37, ducked under a P.O.S. operator’s umbrella in Lagos last week and asked the price for withdrawing 5,000 naira. A construction worker who earns around 9,000 naira daily, he had spent hours searching for cash to send home to his parents, who were running out of food. But every P.O.S. operator was demanding 30 percent — 1,500 naira — a huge jump from the usual fee of 100 naira.

Initially, Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank governor, said the currency had to be redesigned because Nigerians were hoarding notes in their houses. He then said it would help prevent counterfeiting and kidnappers’ ransom payments, and that it was a step toward achieving a cashless society. Later, he also claimed it would reduce inflation — which has risen to a crippling 21 percent.

But some analysts, politicians and dozens of Nigerian voters said that the real reason was to stem vote buying by foiling politicians who had stockpiled naira ahead of election day.

Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari said that it had reduced the influence of money on politics, and many Nigerians spoke approvingly of the policy in interviews. But some warned that voters might be so desperate for cash that they would more readily sell their votes.

President Buhari has served two terms, and could not run again. The governing All Progressives Congress (A.P.C.) party selected Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, as its candidate for president.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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