Anger, chaos as Nigeria runs short of cash

People in Nige­ria have taken to sleeping outside banks. They want to be among the first in line to get notes from the cash machine once it is loaded up in the morning.

A lack of newly designed naira notes has led to a cash shortage and a growing sense of anxiety among those desperate to get hold of their money in a country where 40% of the population don’t have bank accounts.

The Supreme Court has even become involved and has ordered that the deadline to hand in old notes be extended but this has made little difference.

People here have long been used to the periodic bouts of fuel shortages leading to long lines of cars snaking from the petrol stations. But now long lines of frustrated, confused and angry people have become a common sight outside banks as the country builds up to a presidential election at the end of the month.

“I have not eaten today,” says Abraham Osundiran, 36, as he stands in one of two queues at a bank in Ikoyi, a district in the country’s main commercial hub, Lagos.

He has had to miss work at a construction company for a second day because he does not have the cash to pay the taxi fare. Some Nigerians have embraced digital payments, but many still rely heavily on cash.

“I don’t have any cash. I’ve had to skip breakfast so I could come here, and I don’t know what I will eat for the rest of the day.”

It is a similar situation for many others.

“It’s painful. I can’t go to the market, because they want cash. Buses want cash – now I have to trek everywhere,” hairdresser Lilian Ineh, 26, told the BBC from her salon.

“There’s no money to buy stock, so I have less products to sell. There are even less customers. Usually on a Saturday, I have a minimum of five.”

Nigerians were told last Octo­ber that the old notes were being replaced with new notes and they were encouraged to deposit any cash savings in the bank.

“They made us put all our money into our accounts, and now we can’t access it. It’s unbearable,” says Osarenoma Kolawole, 40. She works in telesales, but has not been able to access her salary since getting paid last week. —BBC

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