Not Having Change In Lagos Is A Sin

The Rule

There is an unwritten rule in the buzzing metro-city of Lagos that is only found in the look the road side seller gives you when you offer her any denomination higher than 200 naira or in the dressing down that the bus conductor gives you that might escalate into him refusing to let you on the bus. And that rule is YOU MUST HAVE CHANGE.

For the sake of those who are not familiar with Lagos terminologies, the word ‘change’ in Lagos and in Nigeria in general refers to any denomination of the naira from 200 and below.


The Cause

Now, the banking Industry is the cause of the lack of change in Lagos. They only  give you 500 or 1000 naira in cash on withdrawal and the ATMs are no different. In fact, there are only a very few number of ATMs that dispense 500 naira (although I have heard of a First Bank ATM in Ife that dispenses 100 naira, true?)

The very few times that a bank in Nigeria will give you change when you make a withdrawal is usually when you specifically ask for change or when they force a highly unwanted bundle 10 naira into your hand.

The Advantages

Having this very elusive change is an advantage to anyone who is fortunate or smart enough to get it.

Many times, a bus conductor or ‘okada’ rider will refuse to carry you if you don’t have change and will carry someone else who has.

Another advantage is when you are ‘pricing’ (trying to beat down the price of an item in the market); you will usually say something along the lines of “50 naira? Why not 30 naira?“ and the market woman will usually follow with “Do you have change?”

What this means is that if you have the specific amount of 30 naira, you get to save 20 naira and if you don’t, you don’t.

“Do you have change?”

How To Get Change

Now, if surly bank teller just gave you a waddle of 1000 naira notes without even a glance at your pained face, or the cold-hearted ATM machine just spat it into your hand, you have a huge problem if you intend to enter public transportation.

The first thing that comes to your mind (and is the most sure-fire way of getting out of the situation) is to buy ‘credit’ which is the word for phone airtime recharge cards.

And in the modern world of Instant Messaging (WhatsApp and BBM), this is probably the only thing what keeps the recharge card industry afloat.

If that doesn’t work, you have only one harrowing option only attempted by the bravest of hearts.

Get on the bus despite the conductor’s screaming warnings of, “Enter with your 100 naira change! I no get change oh!” and hope that he is not absolutely pissed that you defied is warnings. You then proceed to beg for him to accept your big note and give you change.

Now, seeing as bravery is a requirement to living in Lagos, many people go for the third option but they have invented a means to avoid the screams and yells of the conductor which I have named ‘The Exchange’.

The exchange is a little artistic endeavour whereby you get into a bus, get comfortable and hoping that one or more people seated close to you have the required change for the fee. You then collect the person’s money and pay for two or whatever it amounts to.

Hopefully, this sufficiently reduces the wrath of the conductor towards you.

I hope this post helps the average Lagosian and any visitor to Lagos. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CHANGE.

“Enter with your 100 naira change! I no get change oh!”