In Nigeria, the shortage of new banknotes has not yet been solved a week before the elections. The shortage of cash has left many people in trouble, and more voters than usual may be willing to sell their vote to the highest bidder, the International Crisis Group think tank warned. Tensions surrounding elections may also rise even more than usual.
Last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria thought it would be a good idea to replace low-value banknotes (up to 2.04 euros) with new ones. At the same time, a limit was set for cash withdrawals. That would make it more difficult to launder corruption money and accelerate the advance of digital banking, or so it was argued.
It ended in a debacle. According to the World Bank, 63 percent of Nigeria’s approximately 225 million people will be poor by 2021. Less than half of adults have a bank account. The rest are used to paying for everything with cash. The economy therefore suffers great damage if there is not enough cash available.
In mid-December the old notes became worthless, but there were not enough new ones available to meet the demand for new ones.
Long queues formed at banks and ATMs. The banks were also accused of charging too many transaction costs and illegal trade in new banknotes arose. In addition, digital payment platforms are not always reliable.
Nearly two months later, the problems have not been resolved.
Ten hours in line
AP news agency spoke to a woman who does not have enough cash to buy enough food and medicine for her eight-member family. She has 1.7 million naira (3471 euros) in the bank, but cannot access it because the bank keeps saying that the new notes are gone.
The news agency also spoke to a woman who had to queue for ten hours to withdraw 10,000 naira (20.40 euros) and a shopkeeper who had to close his shop for a day because he had to look for cash for his cash register.
President Buhari has instructed the central bank to make cash withdrawals possible for everyone. He need not fear the voter’s revenge: he is not eligible for re-election after two terms of office of four years.