Globally, the number of what
people know as alternative payments
options has grown exponentially in
the last few years due to the ever
growing need for payment solutions.
In the wake of the 2008/09 global
financial crisis and the reforms
carried out by the CBN and the
Federal Government of Nigeria
to enhance the national payments
system, alternative payments
opportunities were introduced
to reinforce electronic payments
options, particularly in line with the
vision of being among the twenty
best economies in the world by 2020.
As it is in advanced economies,
the policy is aimed to revolutionize
and modernize Nigeria’s payments
system, reduce cost of banking
services, promote financial inclusion,
reduce high security and safety
risks, foster transparency and curb
corruption and other leakages. More
importantly, it was also to improve
the effectiveness of monetary policy
by reducing the amount of physical
cash circulating in the economy by
encouraging more electronic-based
transactions.
Laudable as the policy is, some
Nigerians however loathe it and
their aversion and distaste towards
these alternative payment systems
was one of the major reasons the
Naira, sometimes back, exchanged at
N525/$1 as a result speculation and
round tripping. As the 2019 general
elections approach, attempts are on
in some quarters to tinker with the
CBN Act 2007, which if allowed to
succeed, may erode the economic
gains so far made and diminish
Nigeria in the comity of nations.
Several payments solutions,
including online payments, have
been devised to support and
access distant markets. Alternative
payments options are used in
Europe, the Americas, Asia and quite
a number of Africa countries, and if
Nigeria prides itself as the hope of
the continent’s economic hub, all and
sundry should support the efforts of
the nation’s monetary authority in
seeing the policy through to fruition.
There are quite a number of these
options worldwide, but the most
common are: debit cards, charge
cards, prepaid cards, direct debit,
bank transfer, phone and mobile
payments, cheques, money orders
and cash payments. The CBN, while
initiating the payments channels,
sensitized both the banked and the
unbanked segments of the economy
to embrace it as part of its financial
inclusion strategy programme. The
alternative payments system would
have developed astronomically but
for the infrastructure challenge,
particularly power, which has
hindered and excluded people in the
rural and remote areas in the country
from the benefits of electronic means
of transaction.
Policies introduced by the Federal
Government such as the TSA and the
BVN have helped to check corruption
and leakages in the economy,
however, what has remained current
since the enactment of the Act in 2007
is that every successive National
Assembly regime has always
labored to tinker with the Act. The
independence accorded CBN made
it possible for the Bank to save the
financial sector from collapse during
the 2008/9 global financial crisis. The
Bank Consolidation exercise gave
Nigeria strong and viable banks. The
same CBN if allowed to carry out to
a logical and safe end its cash-less
policy program for the growth of the
economy and a stronger Naira, has
the capacity to make Nigeria great.
The independence enjoyed by CBN
enabled it to embark on development
and intervention projects which has
not only helped in the provision
of infrastructure and economic
development of the country, but also
played a critical role in Nigeria’s
exit from recession. It is also of
importance to note that when the
economy entered recession coupled
with the forex crisis, the CBN was
able to dish out some ingenious home
grown forex management policy – flexible
exchange rate as well as creating a window
for the importers and exporters, the I & E
Window.
Since the introduction of the policy
(but for its temporary suspension due to
opposition from certain quarters) and now,
issues of bank robbery or customers getting
robbed as soon as they leave bank premises
have disappeared, because people no
longer carry huge sums of money about.
People no longer keep huge sums of
money at home. Queues at banking halls
have long disappeared.
Understandably, the initial resistance
to the Cashless policy was due to lack of
understanding amongst the banked and
the unbanked segment of the economy,
the prevalent cash culture, technology
phobia, illiteracy (including the lettered)
and distrust in banking system and some
other factors. Today with the help of
mobile phones in your hand or from the
comfort of your office or bedroom one can
do transactions worth billions in a jiffy. It is
safe and secure, seamless and convenient.
Cash as we all know is an integral
element that fuels quite a number of vices
in Nigeria, but with the introduction of
alternative payments channels that has
brought positive impact to the economy,
some of these vices have given way.
In today’s Nigeria financial space,
there is the Point-Of-Sale (POS), Mobile
Payments, Multi-functional ATMs and
Internet Banking. There is also Electronic
Funds Transfer and Direct Debits, among
others, available for easy and seamless
transactions.
And to hone its determination and vision
of making Nigeria counted among the
twenty best economies in the world by
2020 and make Nigeria Africa’s financial
hub, the CBN needs the support of every
stakeholder in the Nigeria project. Anything
otherwise will amount to reversing the
gains so far recorded. Its independence
has enabled it to intervene in the economy
at critical periods not only as the nation’s
banker but economic development advisor
to the country.

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