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CBN Cashless Society Project

I was in Seoul, South Korea, in early August 2008 for the World Philosophy Congress, after a 10 day stay in Oxford at the attendance of the Oxford Round Table conference. A colleague from my Department joined me from Dubai at the Seoul Palace Hotel, which had been booked and paid for with a UBA PLC Master Card in Nigeria. Payment for registration for the Congress was made with the same UBA Master Card. The total payment made for both the 5day lodging and Congress fee was about a thousand and few hundred US dollars. Before leaving Nigeria for England and South Korea, I took the precaution to confirm from the bank that all payments had been received in Seoul. As a further precautionary measure, I called the management of the Seoul Palace Hotel, and the confirmation came that all payments had been received from my bank. I also checked the balance of my Domiciliary Account to find that the total sum paid had been deducted. This meant that a perfect electronic banking transaction had been executed. The idea was to operate cashless in South Korea.
Now, see what happened. My colleague and I arrived South Korea from different directions on the 2nd of August, 2008, he from Nigeria through Dubai and I from England. He got to the hotel before me and checked in. I checked in afterwards. The following day, we both left for the Seoul National University, venue of the Congress, where we completed the formal registration and accreditation process. Our electronic payment was then receipted. Feeling quite pleased with ourselves, we headed back to our five star hotel to relax and wear off the jetlag of the long air travel. Then, the dam burst!
 We arrived at the hotel to find a couple of plain clothes policemen hovering around. Oblivious of their mission, we headed for the reception desk to collect the key to our room. The hotel manager demanded immediate cash payment if we did not want any trouble. I demanded to know why he should be demanding another round of payment when we had completed the process before arrival. The manager produced a cash ledger, showing that although they had received our payment electronically, they needed to wait for our arrival before they could use our data or signature to access the cash from their system, which they had done all day to no avail. Unfortunately, we had only a few hundred dollars left on us after shopping in England and Dubai before arrival, since we had concluded our transactions electronically for a cashless stay in Seoul.
 On perusing the cash ledger of the hotel, we found that the four last security digits of my Master Card number to which I alone should be privy had been mistakenly sent to the hotel, and perhaps, realizing that, the UBA staff that processed the electronic transaction blocked the number, making it impossible for any one to access the cash. I n other words, the bank bungled the electronic transaction without getting back to us, leaving us high and dry and stranded in a foreign land. When we contacted the UBA in Nigeria to send cash to the hotel, after explaining what happened and how stranded we were, they said they could not help us. The hotel management was not ready to listen to our story either and threatened to call in the police if we did not make alternate arrangement to pay them. As a matter of fact, they gave us one day grace to pay up or get docked by the police.
Fortunately, I had 47 copies of one of my books on African Philosophy, and my colleague had about 40 copies of his own work also on African Philosophy. We then resolved to go sell the books the following day at the Congress. We turned ourselves into book vendors, and God being with us, we sold out and realized a little over a thousand US dollars each. That was how we escaped being incriminated and docked in a foreign land. When we returned to Nigeria after the Congress, the first thing I did was to go to the bank and cancel the Master Card.

Here is a word of caution for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The dream of a cashless society is a pleasant one, and electronic banking is a fantastic innovation, until you get a raw deal from the transaction. The platforms used in e-banking such as the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is fraught with problems. A lot of fraud can be perpetrated with most of the platforms. Money laundering is best discouraged through severe punitive measures, not merely by e-banking.

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