Lower currency denominations are meant to facilitate ease of doing business in the market place and other places where such currency notes are very vital as medium of exchange. That is why the Central Bank of Nigeria prints currency denominations as low as N5, N10 and N20. However, inflation has highly eroded the value of these lower currency notes to the point that some of them, like the N5 and N10 notes are becoming useless.
Consumers and retailers and those who offer all forms of services on the streets now rely more on higher denominations such as N50, N100 and N200. Among these three, the most difficult to come by in Calabar, the Cross River state capital, is the N100 note. Even when the N100 note is available, it is so tattered that it is usually rejected by parties during transactions.
Those at the receiving end of this scarcity are cab drivers and retailers. Cab drivers in the city charge N50 for the shortest trip within the metropolis and between N100 and N150 for longer distance. For this reason they usually need N100 note to give as balance to commuters who offer either N200 or N500 note to them. But the scarcity of the N100 note is causing serious friction between cab drivers and commuters.
The first question cab drivers ask whenever someone wants to enter their cabs is: “please do you have your change?” They will zoom off without a word if you dangle N500 or N1000 note in their face, especially in the morning when business has just started. You may be lucky in the afternoon or late in the evening to board a cab with N500 or N1000 note and have balance from the driver without any complaint.
Sometimes, cab drivers have to park by the roadside to look for change from their colleagues or traders to give to commuters when they alight at their destinations.
A cab driver, Celestine Ekwu told TNN that “the issue of N100 note is a big one for us. Every day we find it difficult to get the note for those who enter our taxis. Tell government to help us solve the problem by printing more notes.”
A newspaper vendor, Chukwuemeka Okah from Enugu State, said “I also face a similar problem. Taxi drivers complain about the tattered N100 notes and its scarcity any time you enter their vehicles. The federal government has to print new notes to solve the problem. As a newspaper vendor, I am also suffering from it because there is no new N100 note. Most of my customers reject the bad note I give them. And when they do that, I am the loser as I will not sell the newspapers.”
Jeremiah Ezekiel, another newspaper vendor said: “The N100 notes in circulation now are torn. They are not good enough. They should print more notes and put them into circulation to ease the problem we are facing. We lose customers when there is no balance to give them.”
Ogbonna Christian, a youth who sells hats, wallet and other items near Mobil Filling Station close to WAPI Junction said: “The N100 notes in circulation are not good. The solution should come from the government. The Central Bank should print new notes. They could rebrand the currencies. They could change the colour of the currency notes. Why not bring in new ones?”
But what could be responsible for this acute shortage of N100 notes? TNN findings at Zenith Bank opposite WAPI junction revealed that the Central Bank is responsible for the scarcity.
An official of the bank who pleaded for anonymity, said: “It is the Central Bank that mints the nation's currency notes. Commercial banks make do with what is available.”
He declined to speak further about whether commercial banks don't inform the Central Bank when there is scarcity of particular currency notes as is the case with the N100 notes in Calabar.