Nigeria is capping the amount of cash its citizens can withdraw from ATMs each day in an effort to control an economy where cash is still king.
The Central Bank of Nigeria said in a letter to banks on Tuesday that effective Jan. 9, the daily withdrawal cap will be 20,000 nairas, or $44.97, per day, according to Bloomberg.
Currently, the ceiling is 150,000 Naira.
The new decree caps weekly cash withdrawals at 100,000 nairas for individuals and 500,000 nairas for businesses. The notice states that any withdrawals that go beyond such caps will be subject to heavy fines.
Other restrictions include not being able to withdraw more than 20,000 nairas per day from point-of-sale terminals or cash checks worth more than 50,000 nairas over the counter.
The central bank wrote in its letter that customers “should be encouraged to use other channels (online banking, mobile banking apps, USSD, cards/POS, eNaira, etc.) to perform their financial activities.”
Through a program it calls Cash-less Nigeria, the Central Bank has been attempting to wean Nigerians off of cash.
According to the Central Bank’s website, “high cash usage facilitates corruption, leakages, and money laundering, among other cash-related illicit acts.”
According to Bloomberg, the strategy still needs work because around 85% of Nigeria’s cash is not kept in banks. A whopping 40 million adults lack bank accounts.
According to Reuters, the restriction is related to worries about gangs using kidnapping as a way to raise money through ransom.
According to a report by Agence France Presse published by Barrons, the bank has also mentioned counterfeiting as a problem.
The new actions were criticized by Victor Olojo, president of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents of Nigeria, according to the website Punch.
Olojo said “difficulty would be felt as we still have a lot of transactions done with cash, especially those that are below the pyramid such as the market women and men who are petty traders because this in essence means that once a bag of rice or flour is to be bought, which is above N20,000, it has to be via e-banking. Looking at it, how many of these people are technology-savvy?
“The CBN wants to achieve an agenda which is not exactly bad. However, a longer notice should have been given to those at the bottom of the pyramid. I believe that, eventually, the adoption would scale and people would have to get acquainted irrespective of the difficulty, embracing it in the long run,” he said.
“However, it is still very difficult because the technological infrastructure is still not there yet, and there are those who have had bad experiences with technology as well,” he said.