By Mustapha Usman, Kano
As Muslims around the world begin Eid-el-Fitr festivities on Sunday, scarcity of cash has hit Kano State.
Kano, the most populous city in Nigeria and predominantly a Muslim state is rich in religion and culture.
But many Muslims in the commercial city might observe a low-key celebration as they could not access cash as a result of long queues at ATM centres and banking halls.
DAILY NIGERIAN understood that the congestion might not be unconnected with the payment of salary by the state government since June 19.
Our correspondent observed on Saturday that customers who waited to withdraw cash thronged virtually all the banks and ATM centres around the Kano metropolis.
People were also seen queuing at the ATM spots as they reported to the points immediately after the dawn prayer; while others resorted to wait until after Sallah celebration to make the transactions.
Our reporter also gathered that some customers had already resorted to travelling away from Kano in order to make smooth transactions.
It was gathered that a number of Muslim faithful had traveled to the neighbouring Jigawa State and some local government areas that are far from the Kano metropolis to withdraw cash for their Sallah celebrations.
One of the affected customers, Salisu Bara’u, said “Let me tell you that accessing money in banks and ATMs in this town has become very hard. Look at how this ATM spot is overcrowded by customers. There is stampede and even some people fought here and reportedly at some centres.
“As I am speaking to you, I have been here since 5:00am but I am yet to make the transaction. I fear the machine would not be faulty.”
Another customer, Danjuma Yahya said he received his salary alert since Thursday but unable to access his cash due to overcrowding, adding that he wanted to use the money for the Sallah festivities on his family.
He attributed the problem to the failure of the banks to provide enabling environment that would favour the over population of customers in the state.
“Banks are aware of the population of Kano State. They need to create conducive atmosphere for the customers to withdraw cash without hitches. The network is also not helping matters.”
“The banks should upgrade the network to accommodate the high number of people for their daily transactions. It has become the order of the day whenever salary is paid in this state, so the banks need to take this into considerations,” he added.
Mr Yahaya, a secondary school principal also called on Consumer Protection Agency, CPA, to intervene into this matter, adding they should direct banks to increase hours of operations in during special periods to enable customers access their money.
He also called on the state government to as a matter of emergency review the salary payment by conducting ‘table payment’ procedure during an emergency period like the Sallah period.
A former manager at Intercontinental Bank, Zaharaddeen Abubakar, said the problem of transaction congestion was as a result of lower number of Automated Teller Machines in northern Nigeria.
According to him, the number of ATMs in Lagos alone was higher than the number of ATMs in all the northern states.
“So, the way forward is that the banks should introduce mobile ATM, especially using vans to be going round the city, including government ministries and agencies.
“Again, the government should vary the salary paydays. For instance, local governments should be paid on 20th, state workers should be paid on let’s say 24th, then the federal government workers be paid on 30th. This will reduce the congestion at the ATM centres and banks,” he suggested.