Anger, frustration in Kano over cash crunch and fuel scarcity

It was just after dawn and tempers were fraying outside the First Bank in the northern Nigerian town of Kano, where scores of customers jostled to get on a waiting list to withdraw money.

Long before the branch had opened its doors, crowds had formed of people desperate to take out cash, which was being limited to 10,000 naira — just $20 — per person.

The reason a government plan to swap old banknotes for a new design has run into chaos, limiting the number of bills in circulation and creating a cash shortage.

READ MORE: Cash scarcity affects tithes, collections, services – Pastors complain

Near the bank, hundreds of cars, motorbikes and rickshaw taxis had sat since early morning outside filling stations waiting to fill their tanks because of another shortage: petrol.

Little more than two weeks before an election to pick President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, the twin shortages in Africa’s largest economy are overshadowing campaigning, angering voters and causing jitters over vote preparations.

Riots erupted in frustration over the cash crunch last week when Buhari visited Kano state, one of his power bases and a key election battleground with the second largest number of registered voters.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Mahmood Yakubu on Wednesday reassured Nigerians the February 25 ballot would happen, with three major presidential candidates in a tight race.

But watching the lines outside Kano’s banks, market trader Mohammed Ali Danazumi said elections were far from his mind. He was on a second hours-long wait to get cash after failing to get naira the day before.

“Today, I am number 290, what can I do?” he asked after joining the waiting list to get access to the cash machine.

“We need change, we need some serious change.”

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