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NEW NAIRA SCARCITY: SOKOTO, ZAMFARA, KATSINA BORDER RESIDENTS TRADE IN CFA

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Francs CFA. Source: Google

Residents of border communities in states including Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Adamawa and Kwara have opted for the CFA franc following the scarcity of the new naira notes across the country.

The residents, including traders and commercial drivers, are also rejecting the old naira notes, insisting that customers who do not have the new redesigned currency must pay for goods and services with CFAs.

The CFA franc is the legal tender in eight West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, which make up the West African Economic and Monetary Union, otherwise known as the Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine.

Findings by The PUNCH indicated that businessmen and traders in the Zurmi and Shinkafi local government areas of Zamfara State, which border the Niger Republic, prefer the franc to the naira.

Investigation revealed that traders in the two LGAs had been selling their commodities in CFA due to fear that they might not get the new naira notes.

A cattle dealer, Musa Shehu, said he stopped receiving the Nigerian currency since the Central Bank of Nigeria announced the deadline for the swap of the N1,000, N500 and N200 notes.

He stated, “I have since stopped receiving the old naira notes because I don’t have an account and I can’t go to the bank.”

A trader in Shinkafi town, who shuttles between Nigeria and Niger Republic, explained that most of his customers paid with the CFA.

“I cannot collect old naira notes and give out my commodities to any customer. But I will collect new naira notes and CFA because I am afraid of losing my money if the time for the exchange expires,’’ the trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

A grain seller in Dada village in Zurmi Local Government, Muhammadu Isa, disclosed that he stopped selling grains in the Nigerian currency after the CBN’s policy on new naira notes was unveiled.

He said that he sold only to those who possessed CFAs to avoid losing money as ‘’my father did in 1983 when the naira notes were hurriedly changed by the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari regime.’’

Isa explained that his late father lost all his money when Buhari changed the national currency in 1983.

The grain trader insisted that he would not accept the old naira notes as there was no bank or Point of Service terminal in his community where he could withdraw the new currencies.

“You see since our people and those from the Niger Republic are coming to buy the grains with the CFA, I see no reason why I should collect old naira notes. If anybody wants to buy grains from me, he must pay in CFA or forget it. I will not collect old naira notes because I don’t know what to do with them after the expiration of the deadline,” he noted.

In a related development, commercial drivers who ply the Niger Republic from Zurmi and Shinkafi LGAs have also stopped collecting the old notes.

They justified their decision with the argument that the CFA was the only legal tender accepted by the people along the Nigeria-Niger borders.

A driver, Alhaji Hamisu, stated that passengers had to pay in CFA if they wanted to travel to the Niger Republic or return to Nigeria ‘’because the old naira notes are unacceptable as legal tender.’’

Hamisu said, “I have on several occasions refused to collect the old naira notes from my passengers because I have no time to go to the bank or PoS to get the new notes.

“Another problem is that you can’t buy fuel with the old naira notes in Niger republic; as such, no commercial driver on cross-border journeys will agree to take the old notes from passengers.

“I was almost stranded in Malbaza town in Niger Republic when I wanted to buy fuel with the old naira notes because we have been doing so before the change of the Nigerian currency.

“I went to the filling station as usual and bought 30 litres of fuel and brought out the old notes but the fuel attendant told me that he would not accept the notes.

“I pleaded with him but he was not ready to collect the money from me. I was lucky as one of the commercial drivers, who is also my friend, came to buy fuel and he had enough CFAs. I bought the CFA from him and settled the fuel attendant.”

Sokoto border traders

Also, our correspondent discovered that border communities in Sokoto State preferred to sell their products in CFA due in part to the non-availability of the new notes and the continuous loss of naira value.

Speaking with The PUNCH, Mallam Sidi Isa, who trades in cattle in Illela, a border community with the Niger Republic, said he preferred the franc because of the introduction of the new naira notes and the cashless policy.

Also speaking, Mr Jamiu Ola, a motor mechanic, argued that the CFA holds more value than the naira.

“I prefer CFA due to the fact that it is hardly devalued unlike our own naira which has been devalued,” he added.

A businessman, Mallam Haruna Abdulazeez, stated, “I shifted my business to the Niger Republic when I realised I can’t cope with the economy of this country anymore.

“If I buy goods from Nigeria and take same to Niger Republic, I make profits due to the value after the exchange. Even if you take sachet water there, you will make your profits due to the exchange rate.”

A Sokoto resident, Muhammad Auwal, submitted that the CFA holds more value than the naira, hence his preference for foreign currency.

“I normally exchange my naira for CFA as it is not reasonable for someone to keep naira at home due to loss of value,’’ he declared.

Adamawa cattle dealers

Speaking in an interview, the Chairman of Mubi International Cattle Market in Adamawa State, Jafaru Hamman, lamented the scarcity of newly redesigned naira notes, adding that the difficulties in getting the currency had affected commerce at the border communities.

The problem, according to him, is that most traders in Mubi are accustomed to cash transactions and the cashless policy may take time to get mass support.

Commenting on the decision of Adamawa communities to opt for the franc over the naira, a cattle dealer, Jafaru Hamman, explained that even before the CBN policy, some traders were using the West African CFA in business transactions.

He, however, noted the volume of trade in foreign currency was minimal before the introduction of the new naira redesign policy.

Jafaru said the development had made it increasingly difficult for most traders to get the new currency, thereby stifling their business operations.

According to him, as the deadline for the naira swap draws closer and the old currency is facing rejection, traders are faced with either accepting the CFA for their transactions or halting their business activities.

He said, “They (Traders) are collecting the naira but since it became increasingly difficult to get new notes, they resorted to collecting CFA. The traders have also refused to accept the old notes. If they come to sell their cattle, if you give them the old notes they will reject it.

‘’They would rather return with their cattle than accept the old notes. Nobody is seeing the new notes because they are scarce. Don’t forget that many of these traders don’t have bank accounts to accept transfers because our business is purely based on cash.’’

Katsina traders lament

The situation is not different at the cattle markets in Dankarma, Jibia and Maiadua, all in border communities in Katsina state.

Findings showed that trading was being carried out in these markets in both naira and CFA before the CBN policy.

But the naira notes scarcity had forced the majority of cattle dealers and traders to carry out all transactions in CFA.

However, a few traders accept electronic money transfers from those considered regular customers.

Mallam Ahmadu Ousseini who sells cattle and camels at Maiadua Kara International market, said he carried out most of his transactions in CFA because his customers said they could not get the new naira notes.

Ouseini said. “We accept naira and CFA here at Kara market. But in the past three weeks, I only accepted CFA for my transactions. There are a few customers I still accept cash transfers from as I have a PoS. When we conduct business in the CFA, we gain as the CFA is slightly higher (in value) than the naira.

“It is our customers who source for the CFA which they pay us. There are even those who help us change money in the market but they too cannot get the new naira notes now. This has made us transact business majorly in the CFA.”

Hajiya Bilikisu Ahmed, who is resident in the area but goes to sell cows in Lagos and other South-West cities, explained that the currency scarcity was affecting her business badly.

Ahmed stated, “I buy (cattle) from the dealers at Dankarma and Jibia with the naira. Occasionally, I exchanged my naira notes with the CFA in any of the cattle markets. But now, the scarcity of the new naira notes has worsened the matter.

‘’On Wednesday when I wanted to buy some cattle at Dankarma, I lost N3,000 on the N20,000 I exchanged for the CFA. The situation is compounded by the network challenges in many banks in Katsina. But I collected money from some of my customers down South, especially in Lagos and no matter the situation, I have to deliver to them, otherwise, they may not patronise me again.”

The cattle dealers further complained that the CBN policy had reduced the volume of cows being brought into the market in Borno State.

Recounting his pain, Mohammed Ali, a trans-border cattle merchant in Maiduguri, said, “I used to buy about 20 heads of cattle at Mada (a Cameroon market across the border from Gamboru in Borno State) and sell at least 15 weekly in the Maiduguri market.

“My problems as a cattle merchant are three: the CFA in the Cameroon market, which used to exchange at N560 per CFA, is now N680 per CFA, and in a few instances it is even more. The old naira notes are scarce and the new notes are nowhere to be found.’’

“In this situation, the majority of us have suspended the trade because we deal in hard cash, and it is not available; the sellers of the cattle across the border also deal in hard cash. They don’t accept bank transfers; they don’t even have bank accounts,” Ali explained.

Speaking further, he added, “By my estimates, between 500 to 700 heads of cattle arrive here daily from Chad and Cameroon to meet the number on the ground that has not been sold; but today (Monday, January 30), only about 50, according to what I saw, arrived.

“I sold only one cow today, and that is even on credit; the buyer said he could only pay by the end of February,’’ he lamented.

The chief cattle dealer of Bama, Mohammed Gwamna, said the situation had forced him to stop his cattle business.

“I have suspended the trade, whether trans-border or within the Nigerian border markets. The reason: if you go to the Cameroonian market with N1 million, you have to part with N100,000 to get it changed to CFA or new naira notes to enable you to buy the cattle, otherwise, the sellers will not even look at you.”

Stressing that the naira redesign policy had eroded his business and other people’s livelihoods, Gwamna observed that the cattle population in Maiduguri markets had reduced by about 80 per cent.

He added, “By my estimate, this difficult situation has slashed the cattle population in this market by about 80 per cent, because most of us can’t even go to Gubio, Monguno and Gaidam (cattle markets in Borno and Yobe) to buy talk less of Cameroon, Niger or Chad markets because we can’t source the new naira notes. Without the new notes, nobody will even answer your greetings,” he lamented.

Another trader, Abba Ali, noted, “At Monguno, Ngala, Gubio (in Borno State) and Kukareta and Gaidam (in Yobe State), cattle will not be sold to you if you do not brandish new naira notes; and in Cameroon, you must show CFA; and both are not easy to find. This is the situation,” he complained.

“Hitherto, sometimes between 20 and 30 trailers offload cattle daily in this market; but today (Monday, January 30), according to what I have seen so far, only two trailers offloaded,” he observed.

In Ipokia, a border town in Ogun state, traders were said to have been travelling to the Benin Republic to exchange the new currency with CFAs after selling their wares.

A youth leader in Ipokia, Deji Mawuntin, bemoaned the hardship the residents of Ihunbe, Ilara, Oja-Odan and others were going through to get the new notes.

He accused unnamed bank workers of selling the new currencies to racketeers in the Benin Republic.

He noted, “The bankers are selling new naira notes to Beninese and Nigerians are going there to exchange it with CFAs. People have called the DSS operatives to beam their searchlight on these bank officials.”

In Kwara State, in Chikanda, a border town between Nigeria and the Benin Republic, a trader, Alhaji Bashir Mohammed, said he preferred taking CFA as new naira notes were not easily available.

He said, “Since the change from old naira notes to new notes, there has been a shortage of the new notes, we are not getting the new notes, so it is easier to get the CFA than the naira notes, that is why we are accepting the CFA in exchange for our goods.”

Another trader, Mrs Mariam Hassan, who trades in Garri, local rice, beans and yam flour, said that the traders in the border towns were accepting CFA in exchange for their goods.

Mariam who is based in Yashikira in the Baruten local government area of Kwara State said that the traders made more profits when they accepted CFA.

The CBN spokesman, Osita Nwanisobi, had yet to respond to questions on the displacement of the naira by CFA in parts of the country as of the time of filing this report.

But the Managing Director, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Johnson Chukwu, described the move as the logical thing to do in face of the scarce availability of the new notes.

Also, the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises, Dr Muda Yusuf, noted that this was natural due to the lack of enough new notes for people to run their businesses in border regions.

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THE IGBO CULTURE OF I KPÓPÙ (TAKING SOMEONE OUT)

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The Igbo culture of I kpópù is one such lingo in the Igbo language that cannot be given an easy, direct translation, just as it is somehow complex in its simplicity, for the non-Igbo to understand, replicate, or practice.

One can only contextually approximate an interpretation, like to say it is about ‘taking someone out’, which as a normal English language expression could mean to kill someone. But here, it is directly opposite to the above, to mean or at least suggest, to take someone to another clime, to teach or help him secure a means of livelihood, for a better future.

The Igbo culture of I kpópù is very well different from I gba boyi, which is the popular system where a lad is taken into apprenticeship in a business by an established person he serves for some time, usually going into years, and is thereafter settled with a start-up at the end of the term of his learning. There are usually agreements that are followed, even when nothing is cast in stone.

In I Kpópù, a person, younger or older, simply follows someone, a relative, friend, or just somebody persuaded to assist, to his base, within the country or abroad, to help him ‘find his feet.’ He could take him into his business or give him out to someone else who does the kind of business the young man is interested in. Whatever, he serves as his guardian and mentor hence he oversees everything he does, to ensure he is well and achieves his aspirations.

Most times when people are taken out, it is an epic, destiny-shaping journey. While the benefactor makes everything available within his powers, to make the beneficiary succeed, it is expected of the latter to apply himself fully and with diligence to his hustling. Most times, they are taught trades or skills, or even become boyi (apprentice), depending on many factors, ranging from personal preferences to available opportunities. Of course, the conditions are usually not a bed of roses, of which the indomitable Igbo spirit of can-do, overcomes.

In most cases, whoever is taken out is not expected to pay back as it is usually help just offered to a kinsman, friend, or even a recommended stranger, keen to succeed in life. However, appreciation is usually shown in many ways, like acknowledging the benefactor’s intervention through verbal testimonies, presentation of gifts as well as hosting of such individuals and friends, among others, while also making oneself available as an instrument of help to others. That is why for everyone who takes out someone, someone else had possibly taken him out, just as the last in the chain is expected to take someone out too in the future.

Igbo people, especially the youths, value this Igbo culture of I kpópù a lot. Many lives have been changed through this practice. Today in Igbo land, it is therefore common to rate people, not necessarily by what they have for themselves, but by the number of those they have helped to also become successful. And this is one of the means. So, now the seasons and celebrations are over and people are returning to their bases, many have in tow youngsters who are going to pursue their dreams and destinies across the world. And rest assured by this time next year, many of them would come back successful.

And they would be very much ready to take yet other scores of young men with them, to take their shots at life. This is one of the ways the South East of Nigeria has continued to have the highest per capita income in the country. As such, while it is everyone’s right to hustle, it is expected of every brother to extend that privilege of assistance to a brother, to make his dreams come true.

Written by Wordshot Amaechi Ugwele

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EEDC NOTIFIES CUSTOMERS OF PLANNED PREPAID METER UPGRADE

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Below is an official statement to that effect:

The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC (EEDC) has notified its customers that by 24th November 2024, all prepaid meters in its network will cease to accept credit tokens, unless they are upgraded.

This is as a result of a software upgrade which will be affecting all Standard Transfer Specification (STS) compliant prepaid meters across the globe.

The upgrade will be implemented through a special ‘reset token’ known as “Key Change Token” (KCT), which will be loaded on their meters, to have them upgraded.

Customers of EEDC that are using prepaid meters are therefore advised to ensure that their meters are upgraded before the set date of 24th November 2024, to avoid losing them.

The management of EEDC appeals to its customers to remain calm and not panic, as they will be notified of the process and modalities for the upgrade.

For enquiries and further clarification, customers are to call: 084 700 100, SMS/Whatsapp: 0815 082 6060 or 0815 082 6061, or send email to: customerservice@enugudisco.com

EMEKA EZEH
HEAD, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, EEDC
24/07/2023

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[TACKLING HARD TIMES] HERE ARE VEGETABLES YOU CAN GROW IN POTS ON YOUR BALCONY

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Today, many Nigerians are particularly challenged as to how to make ends meet. It is therefore important to think of simple and creative ways to boost your standard of living without spending more. As vegetables are what we need all the time, sourcing them can be quite expensive and time-consuming too.

But you can create your own little garden within the building and have fun too in having handy those fresh veggies you desire. This is all too easy if you have water as we already have enough sunlight here to provide the ideal weather needed for the plants to grow and do well.

hot peppers growing in a container

Indeed, there are many people that would love to start a vegetable garden but simply don’t have the outdoor space to do it. These days, many people live in apartments and high rises and simply don’t have any outdoor space to work with for gardening. Luckily, gardeners are no longer relegated to building raised beds or starting in-ground gardens, and there are a wide variety of vegetables that are well-suited to container gardening. 

Growing vegetables in containers gives you the option of creating a vegetable garden on your balcony or patio, or even indoors near a sunny window.

Just about every vegetable that you could ever want to grow outdoors in a garden can also be grown in a container garden on your balcony, and your vegetables will thrive in containers as well, as long as you provide the proper growing conditions and care, and select a container that is large enough to house the plant comfortably, and allows plenty of space for its roots to expand as it matures. 

In this article, we’ll tell you which vegetables are great for growing in pots in a balcony or patio garden setup, go over each vegetables basic growing preferences, highlight the best varieties of each vegetable for container gardening, and finally, we’ll give a few tips and pointers about starting your own balcony vegetable garden.

red tomatoes

TOMATOES

Tomatoes are some of the easiest vegetables to grow in containers. As long as you have a location that receives at least five to six hours of sunlight per day, you can grow tomatoes in your balcony container garden with ease. If you have limited space, try growing a dwarf variety, or cherry tomatoes instead of one of the larger tomato varieties. Tomato varieties that are well suited to container gardening include Patio Princess, BushSteak, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbler, and Glacier. 

For more on how to grow tomatoes in containers, click here.


BEANS

Pole beans and bush beans are both well-suited to container gardens. All you need is a spot that gets lots of sunlight, a pot that is at least one foot deep, and a trellis-like structure for the vines to grow on (for climbing varieties), and you can expect to see a good crop of beans that are ready to harvest within just a few short weeks. Good bush bean varieties to grow in containers include Bush Blue Lake, or Contender. For pole beans that are well-suited to containers, try Cherokee Trail of Tears. For green bean varieties that grow well in pots, try out Mascotte Green Beans.  

For more information on how to grow green beans in containers, click here. For more on how to grow other types of beans, click here.


PEPPERS

Aside from tomatoes and radishes, peppers are the easiest vegetable to grow in containers, and they are voracious producers as well. You will need to provide a large, deep pot, preferably at least one foot deep for ideal growth. Keep your peppers in full sun and start providing fertilizer when the plant flowers until it is done producing fruit. The best pepper plants for containers are Jalapeno, Yellow Spice Jalapeno, Early Jalapeno, Shishito, Poblano, Bolivian Rainbow, Numex Twilight, Fushimi, and Devil’s Tongue peppers

To learn more about growing hot or sweet pepper plants in containers, click here.

CARROTS

Carrots are easy to grow in containers as long as you select the right varieties. You want to pick carrots that are short instead of the standard carrot types, as the standard carrot varieties need more room for their roots to grow. Also, make sure to select a container that is deep enough to support their long taproots. Avoid overwatering and keep foliage dry to avoid issues with mildew. The best carrot varieties for pots are Romeo, Tonda di Parigi, and Little Finger. 

For more on how to grow carrots in containers, click here


PEAS

Pretty much all varieties of peas are good for container gardening, but dwarf varieties and bush varieties are preferred, especially if you are limited on space for your vegetable garden. Peas enjoy moist soil and cool weather and containers that are six to 12 inches deep depending on the cultivar. If your container is at least one foot in diameter, you can fit four to six pea plants in it comfortably. The best peas for container gardening are Peas-in-a-Pot, Tom Thumb, Snowbird, and Little SnapPea Crunch

To learn more about growing peas, click here


EGGPLANT/GARDEN EGG

Eggplants are fairly large vegetables, but as long as you provide at least a five-gallon pot that is wide enough to provide plenty of room for each eggplant you grow, they will perform very well in pots on your balcony. Eggplants require six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day and regular fertilization. Eggplant plants require support when they start producing fruit, so make sure to remember to provide stakes or cages to help support the weight of the heavy eggplant fruits. The best varieties of eggplant for container gardening are Fairy Tale, Bambino, Crescent Moon, Hansel, and Gretel. 

To learn more about growing eggplants, click here.


TIPS FOR GROWING VEGETABLES IN POTS ON YOUR BALCONY


  • Do not use soil from the ground when growing in containers, as it is typically heavy and may cause drainage issues, and it may contain pests or soil-borne diseases that could hurt your crops. Instead, use potting soil, preferably potting soil that is specifically formulated for vegetables. A top of the line, organic potting soil is ideal, and feel free to mix in some well-rotted compost, or worm castings to increase the organic matter and improve water retention and drainage. 
  • Make sure that your balcony gets plenty of sunlight, as the majority of vegetables and herbs enjoy at least eight hours of sunlight per day. If your balcony or patio area doesn’t get that much sun, you will need to adjust what you are growing in that area. A handful of root vegetables, like carrots and radishes, as well as leafy greens like lettuce, chard, and kale, only need four to six hours of sunlight to thrive. Look for a spot on the porch, deck, or driveway area that does get eight hours of sun for your other vegetables and herbs that thrive in full sun conditions. 
  • Make sure that you have a water source nearby, as vegetables are very thirsty plants and they will need a lot of water during the growing season to develop plenty of fruit for harvests. Having a water source nearby will keep you from having to lug watering cans full of water for long distances to keep your plants hydrated. 
  • Take a look above the location where you are planning on keeping your containers for your vegetable garden and try to avoid placing them under the awning of your balcony or right up against the house. Making sure your plants have access to rainfall can cut a lot of work out of caring for your plants, as you won’t need to manually water them after a heavy rain, as long as they are in a position where they are receiving that rainfall whenever it comes along. 
  • Pick containers that are large enough to support the root systems of the plants that you are wanting to grow and large enough so that the plants have plenty of room to grow to full size without needing to be repotted. Make sure that the containers that you choose have ample drainage. Here is a quick guide to selecting the right size pots for the vegetables and herbs that you want to grow:

One to two gallon containers (for small plants) – Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, chard, collards, and spinach. Other plants that work for one to two gallon containers include grape and cherry tomatoes, kohlrabi, and individual herb plants.

Five to eight gallon containers (for medium plants) – Most brassicas fit into this size container, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, as well as medium-sized tomato plants, okra, and bush-style cucumber plants. 

Eight to ten gallon containers (for large plants) – Most large vegetables will fit into these size containers, including peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, tomatillos, large tomatoes, and bush type winter squash varieties. 

Ten to fifteen gallon containers (for extra large plants) – These extra large containers will suffice for individual plants of extra large tomatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, and artichokes. 

  • Good companion plants for pairing up veggies in extra large containers or for growing near to each other in separate containers:
    • Plant beans with carrots and squash, or pair beans with eggplants. 
    • Plant tomatoes with basil, garlic, and onions. 
    • Pair lettuce with herb plants like basil, rosemary, and thyme. 
    • Plant spinach with chard and onions.
  • Avoid planting these plants near one another, even in separate containers:
    • Keep bean plants away from onion and garlic.
    • Keep carrots away from dill or fennel.
    • Don’t plant tomatoes near squash or potatoes.
    • Don’t plant onions near beans or peas.

Starting your own vegetable garden on your balcony or patio space is fun and easy. Growing vegetables in containers can be nearly as prolific as growing them directly in the ground, and container gardening can drastically reduce issues with pests and soil-borne diseases. If you have a balcony or patio with ample space and plenty of sunlight, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start your own container garden today. 

Source: Gardening Channel

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