By Benjamin Alade
Despite the adoption of cashless payment systems across different segments of the economy, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has insisted on cash payment for its transactions, especially for fares along its Lagos-Ibadan route.
While other businesses are exploring the Point of Sale (PoS) and online banking services, it was observed that the NRC officials were not accepting bank transfers or using the PoS service. At the Babatunde Fashola station in Agege, there was a notice informing passengers of the deadline for the collection of old notes on Wednesday 15 February 2023.
A visit to the Mobolaji Johnson Station in Lagos revealed that ticket officials only accept the new naira notes for operations. Also, a visit to the Babatunde Fashola Station showed that the ticketing officials accepted the old notes only for Wednesday morning, noting that subsequent fares would be new notes.
One of the officials said the management does not allow bank transfers nor did they deploy the use of PoS machines, stating that it was against their policy.
It was observed that there was low patronage and officials at the Mobolaji Johnson station were working lean operations. Passengers who arrived from Ibadan to Lagos on Wednesday said officials of the NRC rejected the old notes, insisting that only new naira notes would be accepted. A passenger who identified herself as Mrs. Ogunsola said she had to pay with the little new notes with her alongside N100 notes to access the train. She said ticket officials rejected the old notes. Another passenger, Soji, who arrived from Ibadan said the officials at the train station in Ibadan insisted on the collection of new notes even as he lamented the stress he went through to get the new notes.
Speaking on the development, District Manager for Lagos, NRC, Augustine Arisa, said there was no cash anywhere and everybody was faced with the challenge. He confirmed that the NRC was collecting new notes. Speaking on the use of PoS, he said: “We are not using PoS. If it is not e-ticketing, you pay cash. That will remain in vogue until when we are given the go ahead on e-ticketing. The implication of this is that people who don’t have the new notes won’t be able to use the facility.”
The decision by the NRC management on Wednesday, that passengers on the narrow gauge should pay for tickets with new naira notes led to protests that forced the management to reverse the decision. Many passengers who had the old naira notes were stranded alongside few that purchased tickets with new notes just as the train was delayed at Kajola in Ogun State for over two and half hours for fear of attack by passengers with old notes before the reprieve came from management.
Findings showed that after receiving feedback on the possible consequences of the decision on ticket sale and violent reaction from stranded passengers with old naira notes, the management quickly directed the ticketing staff at railway train stations at Kajola, Ijoko, Agbado, Agege and Oshodi to sell tickets to passengers with old naira notes after about two hours delay from the normal 06.00 hours departure time from Kajola.
However passengers who relied on the train for early travel to their various places of work had no option than to look for an alternative. One of the passengers, John Paul, a trader at Yaba, said the decision of the management of the corporation to introduce collection of tickets with new naira notes was impromptu, ill-timed and embarrassing.
Managing Director, First Fit Nigeria Limited, Eric Umezurike, said a Federal Government agency like NRC is in a better position to collect old naira notes and exchange it seamlessly with a sister agency like Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). According to him, if a government agency is rejecting old notes at a period when the case is still pending in court, what would be the expectations from market women, supermarkets and petrol attendants?
Meanwhile, transportation companies who ply interstate shuttles have embraced the cashless policy of the CBN. Visits to some of the stations at Jibowu showed that the majority of the companies have adopted online transfers, PoS and other banking channels.
Transport companies like GIG Motors, GUO Motors, Okeyson, Young Shall Grow Motors, EFEX, Chisco Motors and Cross Country already have PoS machines for travellers who can’t access cash. Brand Manager, GUO Transport, Nweke Bernard, said the company is currently enjoying the dividends of pushing its online bookings and reservations.
Bernard said as a part of the cashless economy, the company has also equipped its drivers with smart customized cards for their virtual payments and fuel acquisitions.
Speaking on other alternative channels for passengers, he said: “We have our PoS machines, Bank Transfers and also our wallet system called the G-Wallet. We have quite a number of channels which makes us endure these hard cash flow times; we try to always adjust to make our customers happy.”