2nd February, 2023, was a day I can never forget. Before then I had been agonizing over my next post for weeks. I had wanted to express my sadness on the state of Nigeria. Should the title be, ‘They Have Killed Nigeria’, or, ‘How To Run A Country Aground’? Simply put, everything that could possibly go wrong here seems to have gone wrong! I may still write that post.

Well, that morning, I needed to get money from my bank. We are still a cash economy, not yet the cashless one we are dreaming of. Our rulers were, over a very short time, trying to force everybody to key into their cashless economic policy. Large denomination notes above one hundred naira were being replaced by new notes. And the banks were not paying out new notes. And the lower denomination notes were hardly available. And the deadline for paying in the old large denomination notes was eight days away. There was simply chaos and panic. To make matters worse worse there was scarcity of petrol.

I needed to buy petrol, cooking gas and other things. Government approved petrol pump price was one hundred and forty-five naira per litre before the recent increase to one hundred and eighty-five naira. What a laugh. Some days ago when I last purchased petrol the queue at the station selling at government price was nearly a mile long! The other station open near where I live was selling at three hundred and fifteen naira and there was a short queue!

Not wanting to spend two days on the queue I bought at the other one. Crafty buggers! They were only collecting cash. They had a young lady doing business with her POS on standby. So you buy cash from her and pay for your petrol. In a corny way everybody was happy. The POS girl made her money, the station had their cash and I was relieved to have some petrol for my over-flogged generator!

When I got to my nearest branch bank, Access, it was deserted. The lone security guard said, ‘sorry, sir, no work here today. Try the new branch on 2nd Avenue or the 4th Avenue branch.’ I was shocked. But off to 2nd Avenue I went with my car bouncing up and down on the potholed road. I did not need to drive into the branch premises. There was a mammoth crowd under where the bold ATM sign was displayed above on the wall. So I was jolted up and down in my car over the potholes all the way to the 4th Avenue Branch. Last time the security guard there had taken permission for this senior citizen to jump the ATM queue. I had thought, what a nice man!

At the ATM gallery there was a large crowd! And I was told no money was being dispensed. They were all gathered, this time not queuing, in anticipation of the machines being fed with cash. The security guard suggested, ‘try inside the bank, sir’. Inside there was another crowd. One of the girls behind the counter said, ‘sorry, sir, no new notes’. I saw an older woman within the staff area and beckoned to her. She came and answered my query, ‘sir, if you have patience the girl will give you some money.’

I was relieved when the girl said, ‘sir, have a seat. Let me finish with this military man.’ Yes, she had been attending to a man in army uniform. Luckily there was, surprisingly, one vacant seat. I gladly sat in it. Then I realized that the man next to me carrying a toddler had also come with his wife. Apparently she had left her seat for something. I also sensed it when a lady coming towards me turned away, perhaps noticing that a very senior citizen had occupied her seat. But I sat there for fully thirty minutes and the military man was still there!

Then I walked to the counter. The girl said,’ I have not forgotten you.’

I replied, ‘I know. But I have been here for a long time. Should I go home?’ Then the military man left.

The girl turned to me. She said, ‘give me your ATM card.’

I was relieved and gave it to her. She inserted it in the POS, typed in some things and gave me back my card. I was shocked when she said, ‘what I have for you is two thousand naira in fifty naira notes.’ And she brought out the wad to give me. I hesitated to take the money. Inside me I was fuming, having wasted over two hours of my time all I can get from my bank is two thousand naira in fifty naira notes. I took the money in disgust and left. Outside, the crowd at the ATM was still there. But I found out they were now dispensing money. How much? Five thousand naira maximum. I went home dejected ruing what was happening to me and wondering what would become of our country.

Now for any reader who knows nothing about the naira I would relate the money to dollars. These days you can hardly get dollars from the bank. You buy at the black market rate of eight hundred naira to one dollar! In effect I had spent my whole morning collecting two dollars fifty cents equivalent of my money from my bank! And the people at the ATM, rich or the poor, spent their whole morning only to get the equivalent of six dollars and twenty-five cents of their money. May the Almighty help us. Amen.

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