Underground Billionaire Money Hawkers Flourish As Nigerians Lament Over Naira Crunch

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The woman clutched her bag tightly against her chest, as if releasing it would reveal its hidden contents. Draped in a black scarf, her gown swayed gracefully in the wind as she sat under an umbrella with a point-of-sale machine at the Berger Bus Stop in the Ojodu area of Lagos State. Known as Madam Cash, she seemed to run a discreet business of selling new naira notes and exchanging dollars for naira.

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A Lagos State University student, Taimiyu, revealed Madam Cash’s popularity in the area, especially during cash scarcity. He described her as a reliable source of cash, particularly new notes, even in challenging times. Accessing her services without a referral was challenging, but for significant amounts, she would accommodate.

The search for Madam Cash led the correspondent to a PoS shop at Berger Bus Stop, guided by a food vendor. The young girl at the stand explained the charges for withdrawing cash, emphasizing lower fees for new notes. She also mentioned the possibility of exchanging old notes for the redesigned ones.

During a conversation about a potential transaction, Madam Cash revealed her business model and urged a return the next day due to limited funds. Meanwhile, a man in a black Toyota Tundra stopped by, greeted her, and both left in the vehicle.

Residents attested to Madam Cash’s popularity during the COVID-19 lockdown, highlighting her role in supplying the area. A PoS operator suggested exploring currency hawkers in Yaba, as Madam Cash seemed uninterested.

The investigation extended to the Yaba bus park, where a bus driver confirmed the presence of money hawkers, emphasizing the need for referrals. Video evidence online showcased open trading of new naira notes amid cash scarcity.

Celebrities like comedian Maleke and accountant Cosmos Ndubuisi shared experiences of struggling to access cash from banks but easily obtaining it from money hawkers at higher costs. Reports also surfaced from Kaduna, Katsina, Ibadan, and Owerri about the thriving trade of selling new naira notes by hawkers.

Despite the Central Bank of Nigeria’s warnings against abusing and buying naira notes at events, the practice continued. A lawyer emphasized the illegality of selling currency banknotes, punishable by law.

Amid assurances by the CBN about sufficient naira in circulation, reports of scarcity persisted in various states. Citizens expressed frustrations, facing challenges in accessing cash for daily transactions. PoS operators lamented difficulties in obtaining cash for their businesses.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) criticized the CBN and Federal Government for the cash crunch, calling for immediate solutions. The NLC accused the authorities of disregarding warnings, leading to increased hardships for Nigerians.

In response, the CBN cautioned banks and PoS operators about collusion affecting the availability of cash. The CBN warned of sanctions for those found colluding to disrupt the circulation of the naira.

The article delved into the money hawking business, revealing that some hawkers obtained new notes before banks registered them. Insider sources claimed collusion between hawkers and corrupt bank officials, contributing to the artificial scarcity.

The cash scarcity also led to the circulation of counterfeit naira notes. The CBN issued a circular warning about criminals circulating fake notes as newly-redesigned naira notes.

Financial analysts criticized the illegal acts, with allegations that some bank executives profited from selling new naira notes to hawkers. Suggestions were made to sustain the withdrawal of old notes and replace them with new ones to reduce the reliance on money hawkers.

In conclusion, the investigation exposed the thriving trade of selling new naira notes by hawkers amid cash scarcity, raising concerns about legality, security, and the overall impact on the economy.

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