A petty trader, Mrs. Bolade Inuwa, has narrated how she was spared huge embarrassments and inconveniencies in the wake of the recent policy pronouncement on the redesign of select denominations of the national currency – the Naira, specifically referencing how KongaPay, a mobile money wallet operated by Nigeria’s leading e-commerce giant, the Konga Group, came to her rescue.
Nigerians from all walks of life have had to contend with severe difficulties in the wake of the announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which initially pegged January 31, 2023, as the deadline for the return of old series of 200, 500 and 1000-Naira notes. Amid concerns raised in various quarters, the CBN had stuck to its guns, insisting there are no plans to shift the deadline, prompting some businesses to stop receiving the old series of affected denominations even ahead of the deadline for their return.
In a video from a media briefing held on January 24, 2023, after the apex bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was quoted as saying: “I must say here that unfortunately, I don’t have good news for those who feel that we should shift the deadline. My apologies. The reason is that just as the president has said on more than two occasions, and even to people privately, for us, 90 days — in fact, we feel it’s 100 days — is enough for anybody who has the old currency to deposit the money in the banks.
“And we took every measure to ensure that all the banks were open or remain still open to receive all old currencies; 100 days, we believe is more than adequate…’’
However, the CBN had later revised its earlier stance, announcing a 10-day extension of the deadline for the use of old naira notes across Nigeria.
Emefiele, who disclosed he had received the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the extension, revealed that the new deadline is now 10 February 2023 instead of the former 31 January deadline, while adding that those who are yet to change their naira notes from the old to new ones, now have an opportunity to do so. Furthermore, the CBN Governor had urged Nigerians to utilise the opportunity because the deadline will not be extended again.
In the wake of this development, events quickly escalated.
Nigerians had intensified the process of returning their old currencies to the banks, but the new/redesigned denominations were not so forthcoming or readily available, resulting in a scarcity that saw much resort to desperate measures. Point of Sales (POS) terminal operators led the charge, hiking their service charges astronomically for the new denominations and even the old notes, blaming the excess charges on the difficulties they face in getting cash. A few banks also had to shut down some of their branches as a result of insufficient cash to treat the deluge of visitors who throng the halls daily, some as early as the wee hours of the morning, in search of cash. Some branches were also subjected to attacks by increasingly desperate customers. Owing to the associated pressure from a growing number of Nigerians who now sought refuge in online transfers, several bank apps consistently recorded failures, leaving many stranded and frustrated.
Mrs. Inuwa was one of the millions of Nigerians affected.
‘‘When I learned of the deadline for the return of the old notes, I immediately notified my family members and made plans to have all the affected denominations with me lodged in the bank even before the initial January 31 deadline. It proved to be a costly move as I was now virtually cashless and unable to access either the old currencies or the new notes. For five consecutive days, I had to leave the house very early to go and queue up at a bank in my vicinity, yet I was unable to withdraw any money. The queues were very long and before you know it, a representative of the bank would come out to announce that they have exhausted the cash sum for the day.
‘‘Patronizing the POS operators around me also proved to be another very costly venture. Some of them were charging as high as N1000 for N5000 worth of the old notes and even higher for the new notes. Transfers initiated to and from various commercial banking apps were also failing and at best, erratic. My kids could not go to school and my business was suffering. It was not just a frustrating experience but one of the worst times I have experienced.’’
Succour, however, came the way of Mrs. Inuwa when a friend of hers introduced her to KongaPay.
‘‘I had stumbled across KongaPay at a party late last year when one of my colleagues used it to process a transfer to the hosts. Back then, everyone had commented on how swiftly the transfer went through and the seamless experience. So, when my friend cited how KongaPay has helped her navigate the difficulties with cash scarcity and failing bank transfers, I saw light at the end of the tunnel.
‘‘It was very signing up for an account at www.kongapay.com and upgrade my account after complying with the KYC document requirements. Thereafter, I was able to not only say goodbye to the challenges of failed transfers, but I was amazed at all the other things I could do with my KongaPay account, including purchasing airtime, paying for DSTV bills, recharging my prepaid meter line, all without extra charges. It was indeed an eye-opener.
‘‘Most importantly, I have been able to pay my suppliers and resume my business after signing up as a merchant, while my children have also been able to return to school. Surprisingly, I have processed well over 90 transfers since I started using KongaPay in early February and I am yet to experience one failed transfer. I can also access and generate my statement of account with ease. It has been a gem of a discovery,’’ she concluded.
Launched in 2015, KongaPay debuted as a pilot product in partnership with Nigerian commercial banks in response to concerns expressed by customers about the confidentiality of their details while trying to make payment for products on the Konga website. Since inception, the platform has grown immensely and under the drive of the new management of Konga, is leading the new-found appetite for digital payments among e-commerce patrons and other subscribers, processing tons of transactions on a daily basis. KongaPay was recently identified as the leading provider of digital payment services for e-commerce transactions in Nigeria. The rating came from Statista, a globally renowned market and consumer data firm.