Cash scarcity leaves shoppers, travellers stranded, ATMs, banking halls run dry
The acute scarcity of cash worsened on Friday, leaving many shoppers and travellers stranded and at the mercy of Points of Sales operators, who offered the small amounts of money available to them to desperate citizens for exorbitant fees.
Also on Friday, hundreds of intending passengers, who wanted to travel to different parts of the country for the Christmas and New Year festivities, were left stranded at train stations as the online ticketing portal of the Nigerian Railway Corporation suffered glitches due to an unprecedented rush.
The rush followed the announcement of free train rides for Nigerians travelling for the Yuletide by the Federal Government. Saturday PUNCH gathered that to qualify for the free rides, intending travellers had to book on the portal and the unprecedented number of people trying to book the rides made the portal suffer glitches.
At Automated Teller Machine galleries and banking halls in different parts of the country, desperate customers had difficulties getting cash, with bank workers having difficulty calming frayed nerves.
In Lagos, our correspondents report that customers besieged the few ATM galleries dispensing cash but the amount that could be withdrawn was restricted, while the same situation persisted in banking halls where cashiers limited the amount that each customer could withdraw over the counter to between N5,000 and N10,000.
At major motor parks, interstate travellers had a hectic time paying the fares as transport operators insisted on cash payment and desperate passengers resorted to patronising POS operators, who hiked their charges by over 100 per cent.
However, passengers, who took advantage of the Federal Government’s 50 per cent reduction of fares on select routes by qualified operators of luxury buses, commended the initiative and flooded many of the bus terminals.
Shoppers in various markets also battled high prices of foodstuffs and essential goods as well as cash scarcity, with many traders insisting on cash instead of electronic transfers for items purchased.
NRC explains glitches
The Managing Director, NRC, Fidet Okhiria, on Saturday, explained that whenever a train was filled, passengers who try to book tickets online would not be able to access the website.
He said the rush had been much since the government announced the free train rides and as such seats on NRC trains across the country had been fully booked.
Okhiria insisted that the NRC did not experience any downtime of the server, and stressed that passengers were unable to get tickets because the trains had been fully booked.
He said, “There is no downtime of our server; rather, the rush for tickets has been high and once the trains are fully booked, anyone who tries to access the website may not be able to get access to that train.
“We are implementing the directive of the government and we started it on the very day that we got the directive to start. We will continue to implement it as directed.”
The NRC boss urged passengers to keep trying, as the corporation was doing its best to handle the rush for tickets.
At the Mobolaji Johnson Station in Ebute Meta, on Friday, it was observed that the ticketing halls were largely empty as the train had departed at its scheduled time of 7am.
Passengers travelling to Abeokuta and Ibadan were required to book their tickets online, but it was gathered that the number of travellers on Friday exceeded the expected number, forcing the server to shut down.
Some passengers who did not book their tickets on time were seen loitering around the premises with their luggage as they had to wait till the next departure time.
One of the stranded passengers, Elijah Ajibola, told one of our correspondents, “Most of the passengers who boarded the train this morning had booked their tickets since Wednesday. I was not aware that there was an online portal where I had to register first until I got here this morning.
“I have been here since 6.47am and I witnessed the crowd here due to the free ride offered. I will say the number of passengers is unprecedented since I have been boarding the train to Ibadan. There were times I would get here by 7am yet I would still find a space on the train. Now, I have to wait till 4pm when the next train will depart.”
Another passenger at the station, Sunday Obatolu, complained, “Many of us here could not book our tickets and that is why you find some of us stranded here. I hope the situation will be resolved but we need to do these things right and be strategic about it.”