Even on a slow day at his small, battered kiosk sitting by the roadside near the popular Artillery Junction in Port Harcourt, the capital of oil-rich Rivers State in Southern Nigeria, Jude Okon handles hundreds of thousands of naira working as an agency banking operator. But, a recent, abrupt policy shift by Nigeria’s apex bank could cripple his livelihood of three years.
“On the days the market is dull, the withdrawals and deposits I handle can be up to two or three hundred thousand naira but the majority of it is usually cash-out,” he tells WT.
“If I can’t access enough cash anymore, the business is useless and the only source of income I use to support my family is gone,” he added, lamenting a directive that came earlier this month from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) placing tight restrictions on cash withdrawals across banking halls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), which would mean that agents like Okon can no longer withdraw substantial sums typically required as daily float to operate profitably.
“The work agents do is critical, it plays a crucial role in covering the many gaps of the banking system in Nigeria, and also provides a lot of jobs,” said Victor Olojo, National President of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria (AMMBAN), which is now seeking engagements with the decision-makers to protect the interests of agency banking operators across the country in the face of what has been described as looming disaster.