Naira Scarcity: Buhari, Bagudu, Tambuwal, Emefiele, Bawa Meet, Seek Solution

•President cancels meeting with NGF over Supreme Court action 

•CBN has no plan to thwart polls with naira shortage, says apex bank governor

•FG blames opposition for politicising policy 

•CBN has disbursed over N1bn to banks in Edo in three days, state govt reveals

•Ganduje alleges plot to disrupt democracy 

•TUC gives federal government 7-day ultimatum to address currency, fuel shortages

Deji  Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Sunday Aborisade, Olawale Ajimotokan, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

As concerns continue to mount over the scarcity of the naira, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met with the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal and the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu at the State House, Abuja.

The meeting at the instance of the president was also attended by Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele and the Chairman of  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa.

This was just as Emefiele has assured that the apex bank would not allow itself to be used or to be seen as an agent to frustrate the forthcoming polls.

Also, yesterday, the federal government flayed the opposition parties for turning the naira redesign issue into a political blame game. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the condemnation, yesterday, in Abuja, at the PMB Scorecard Series in the 2015-23 amid the hardship that has trailed fuel supply disruptions and the recent naira scarcity.

It also emerged yesterday that the CBN has disbursed over N1 billion to Edo State in a span of three days to cushion the cash crunch in the state.

But Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has lamented that those he termed elements of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election were regrouping and “dangerously masquerading in the prevailing crisis generated by the cash policy to scuttle the nation’s hard earned democracy.”

The meeting between Buhari, Tambuwal, Bagudu, Emefiele, Bawa, THISDAY learnt, was also attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha as well as the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari.

Although the details of the meeting with the president were not yet known, it may not be unconnected with the cash crunch as a result of the naira redesign project as the elections draw closer.

However, a scheduled meeting between Buhari and Governors under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors Forum was cancelled.

No reason was given for the cancellation of the meeting initially scheduled for yesterday, at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja.

The cancelled meeting with governors was coming four days after the president met with governors of his party, the APC, during which he had asked Nigerians to give him seven days to resolve the crisis associated with the naira scarcity.

There had been mixed reactions over the currency swap policy, due to the shortage of cash in the economy.

On Monday, Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states instituted a suit against the federal government seeking a restraining order to stop the full implementation of the naira redesign policy which has resulted in a cash crunch.

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory had on Monday, issued a restraining order on Buhari, the CBN Governor and 27 commercial banks from suspending the demonitisation policy of the federal government.

Emefiele: CBN Has No Plan to Thwart Polls with Naira Redesign Project

Also, Emefiele has assured Nigerians that the apex bank would not allow itself to be used or to be seen as an agent to frustrate the forthcoming polls.

To this end, Emefiele assured that the apex bank would provide the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the needed naira notes required to mobilise its personnel and for logistics during the elections.

The CBN governor gave the assurance yesterday, in Abuja, when he hosted delegation from INEC led by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

Emefiele said the relationship between the CBN and INEC started before he became the governor, saying the relationship borders purely on trust and confidence.

He said the apex bank appreciated the fact that INEC supported by the Nigerian populace have the trust and confidence in the ability of the CBN in playing the roles that it had played, “for you so far to ensure that elections hold without any hitches.”

Emefiele stressed that before now, the CBN had been involved in the storage of INEC election materials, which involved using of its armoured bullion van in transporting electoral materials.

He explained: “We are happy that in the course of this relationship, we have not disappointed you and that is the reason you have called me again this time. Now, just aside from the issue of storage of election materials together with transportation of election materials from CBN locations to your own specific or designated locations.

“I know that just a few months ago, I visited your office and you raised the issue of how foreign exchange can be procured to you to import Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other forms of election material needed to be imported and I gave you my word that foreign exchange will be provided for that purpose.

“I stand here to confirm that as at today, all dollars needed to import those items have been provided and those items have been imported. So, it’s all part of our commitment.

“Now this issue of logistics for people who are going to be transporting election materials, certainly, the assurance I give to you is that because we regard INEC project as a topmost or an urgent national assignment, and therefore, it cannot fail and the central bank would not allow itself either to be used or to be seen as an agent that frustrated a positive outcome of that election.

“So I stand here to give you that commitment. You have been responsible in the past anyway, it’s not just about cash, you’ve done electronic payments before and if in this case after making your electronic payments, you require some money to pay transporters in cash, the assurance I give to you is that we will make it available, so it’s nothing to worry about.

“I will make sure that I do not allow ourselves as a central bank to be seen as an agent that frustrated positive outcome of the elections,” Emefiele assured the electoral body.

Earlier, INEC Chairman said the commission was encouraged by the continuing willingness of the apex bank to support its determination to deliver credible elections on February 25, 2023, and March 11, 2023, particularly the facilitation of activities necessary for the success of the elections in an area where the CBN has exclusive responsibility.

The chairman said the Nigerian election was a huge and complex undertaking which required the engagement of critical services.

Yakubu, explained that in line with the provisions of extant laws and regulations, service providers are generally paid by means of electronic transfer to their accounts.

He said, however, there are equally critical areas such as transportation and human support services that have to be immediately remunerated either partially or in full before services are rendered.

The chairman stressed that emergency situations might arise requiring immediate cash payments, adding that some of the critical service providers are unbanked.

Yakubu noted that over the years, the commission had worked with the CBN and commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general election, as well as off-cycle and bye-elections.

He said the Commission had also migrated all its accounts at national and state levels to the CBN, adding that the arrangement had worked without encumbrances.

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The chairman said: “In view of the recent policy involving the redesign of some denominations of our national currency, and the limits placed on cash withdrawals, we consider this meeting important in addressing some of the areas of concern with just 17 days to the 2023 general election.

“We are confident that arising from this meeting, we can assuage the anxiety expressed by some of our service providers. We are determined to make the 2023 general election one of the best organised elections in Nigeria but we cannot do it alone.

“That is why the Commission is mobilising every critical national institution for the success of the election. This meeting is part of this effort.”

While at the office of the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, Yakubu said security was a critical moment for the 2023 general election with just 16 days to go.

The chairman said: “We want to welcome the assurances from the National security adviser, the Chief of Defence, the Inspector general of police and (other) security agencies.

“We are aware that additional security has been deployed to our facilities nationwide. We also note the increasing tempo of activities in many troubled spots nationwide. We are confident that these actions will further reassure voters, our personnel, service providers, stakeholders of their safety during elections and free, fair and peaceful process. We look forward to a comprehensive plan for the deployment of security personnel.”

Responding, Monguno assured that the security agencies were on ground.

He said all the security agencies were up to the task, while assuring that Nigerians would exercise their franchise in a peaceful atmosphere.

He stated:  “We know what we have done. We are sure of what we have on ground. All of us here who are the managers of security in the electoral process know what we’re doing.

“We are not in any way in doubt but we need to let the entire country know that agents of bad news peddling all kinds of stories around, we see these on social media. If these are intended to scare people, I want to dispel such illusions.

“Everybody that is concerned in carrying out his legitimate undertaking, casting his or her vote will do so in a secured atmosphere. It’s very important that Nigerians are not pushed to the limit where they will abandon their number one responsibility as citizens. All security agencies are up to the task.”

FG Blames Opposition for Politicising Naira Redesign Policy

In a related development, the federal government has flayed the opposition for turning the naira redesign issue into a political blame game.

Mohammed, who said this, criticised the opposition political parties for going to court to obtain an injunction, restraining Buhari and the CBN from extending the February 10 deadline for Nigerians to exchange their old N1,000, N500 and N200 for new ones after his meeting with Progressives’ Governors last Friday, where the president had urged citizens to give him a seven-day window to resolve the currency crunch that had emanated from the implementation of the policy.

The minister said the federal government was mindful of the inconveniences currently being endured by citizens as a result of fuel supply disruptions and the currency scarcity, saying government was working assiduously to restore normalcy to the critical enablers of economic activity and to take added measures, where necessary, to alleviate the pains of Nigerians.

“These curious actions by the parties concerned is clear evidence that the opposition has turned this whole issue into a political game, preferring to make Nigerians suffer more on the altar of an unconscionable political gamesmanship.

“Or how else can one explain the fact that these unscrupulous opposition parties do not want any action that could reduce the pains being experienced by Nigerians? How else can one explain the fact that they have decided to legally hamstring Mr. President, in particular, from providing any relief for Nigerians suffering from the cash crunch?

“It is bad politics when you put the interest of desperate political parties over and above that of Nigerians, the same Nigerians whose votes you earnestly seek,” Mohammed said

He said the desperate actions would, “not save the sinking political parties,” saying voters had already seen that they were the real enemies of the people and not Buhari or the All Progressive Congress (APC).

According to him, despite their antics government was willing and able to take decisive steps to bring succour to Nigerians in the shortest possible time.

CBN Disburse over N1bn to Banks in Edo in Three Days

The CBN said over N1 billion had been disbursed to Edo State in a span of three days to cushion the hardship faced by bank customers.

The Director, Risk Management, CBN, Abuja, Dr. Blaise Ijebor, disclosed this in Benin City, yesterday, where he implored citizens to explore alternative means of transactions to ease the demand for cash in the economy.

He said: “We are pushing out money regularly. On Sunday, we gave banks N400 million. That is why they were paying money on Monday. We gave out N200 million on Monday and today we have given out N460 million.

“We are doing everything within our power to improve the situation. We have allowed banks to pay over the counter with the limit of N20,000 payable to each person. We also gave money to microfinance banks to pay over the counter with a maximum of N10,000. The microfinance banks are to concentrate on the rural communities.

“I have been around the metropolis this morning to inspect bank branches and ATMs and I can tell you the crowds are reducing because we are making payments. We will continue to do everything within our power to improve the situation.”

He noted that the CBN was expecting a shipment of new notes, which would be dispensed through ATMs, adding that by tomorrow, the ATMs that were empty would start working.

“If we are a little bit patient, very soon, the money will be everywhere and there will be no need for these problems,” he added.

Explaining the need for bank customers to explore alternative means of transactions, Ijebor said: “We are working with the Edo State Government for people to be able to make transactions with their residency cards when it is introduced to the economy. It’s a laudable project and we are supporting the state government on that.

“We are encouraging everybody to use alternative means of payments, such as bank apps, ATMs, USSD, POS, among others. For those without a bank account, this is a good opportunity to open one. We have authorised agents to do that for customers.”

He also called on POS operators and others selling the new naira notes to desist from such acts, as actions will be taken against anyone caught engaged in such acts.

On his part, Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Hon. Chris Nehikhare stated that the state government was interested in ensuring the citizens find relief, urging Edo residents to explore alternative payment options.

Ganduje Raises the Alarm Over Plot to Disrupt the Democracy

But Ganduje has lamented that elements of the annulled June 12, 1992 presidential election were regrouping and dangerously masquerading in the prevailing crisis generated by the cash scarcity to allegedly scuttle the nation’s hard earned democracy.

He said the group’s latest attempt at that was camouflaging in unknown political parties through the use of legal instruments to further impose unfeasible cash policy that was taking its toll on the masses in the country.

Reacting to an interim injunction issued by a federal high court in Abuja, stopping the CBN from extending the 10-day deadline set for the currency swap, the governor noted that the unknown political parties were also allegedly colluding with the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to execute this fiendish scheme.

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In a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information, Kano State, Malam Muhammad Garba and made available to THISDAY, yesterday, the governor further observed that the open support for the policy by the main opposition party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, also laid bare the alleged grand complicity between the opposition and apex bank to deliberately thwart the nation’s hard earned democracy by imposing harsh policies calculated to weaken the masses.

He said it was unfortunate that the CBN was insisting on the imposition of the time frame for the old naira notes to cease to be legal tender, in total refutation of the obvious national dearth in the necessary technological infrastructure for the process.

TUC Gives FG 7-Day Ultimatum to Address Currency, Fuel Shortages.

The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has given the federal government within seven days, beginning from yesterday, to provide a solution to the twin problems of currency unavailability and fuel shortages.

It said it was bewildered that the country was being dragged through the twin crises of currency and fuel shortages.

In a statement jointly signed by the TUC president, Festus Osifo and General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, the union said Nigerians have never been subjected to the nightmare of being unable to access their hard-earned money in the banks.

It said: “Congress is however, not going to wait in perpetuity for the political leadership to put on its thinking cap. Therefore, we demand that the federal government within seven days, beginning from Tuesday 7th February, 2023 provides a solution to the twin problems of currency unavailability and fuel shortages.

“The leadership of TUC shall be monitoring the situation closely and will give further directive should the situation not improve. All State Council executives are hereby put on red alert.

“Nigeria belongs to the people, not to the government or the birds of passage who hold power.  We should therefore be willing to make the needed sacrifices, if necessary, to salvage the country”.

TUC said never in the history of the country have Nigerians been subjected to so much pain, sorrow and anger which threatens to boil over into the streets.

“Indeed, pockets of protests have broken out in some states. Nigerians have never been subjected to the nightmare of being unable to access their hard-earned money in the banks leading to business closures and inability to pay for food, transportation and medical bills amongst other necessities.

“Also, the situation where the populace is forced to buy Nigerian currency or part with a significant percentage of cash just to get access to their own money is disheartening and evil. It is unacceptable that a country of laws with a plethora of government and security services in place is unable to curb these crimes against the people and bring perpetrators to book,” it added.

ACJHR Hails Court Order Barring Shift in Deadline

A Civil Society Organisation, the African Center for Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) has said the court order barring further shift in the deadline set for the monetary policies of the federal government would sanitise financial markets and help to achieve credible polls.

The group in a statement by its strategic communication consultant Mr. Abubakar Isa, said the order of the court had rendered futile all the behind-the-scene efforts by some state governors to force the hand of the president to reverse the policy or at least extend same.

The ACJR cited possible end to currency hoarding, inflation, and counterfeiting as key reasons why they support CBN decision.

The group expressed optimism that redesigned naira would further take the CBN cashless policy initiative a nudge higher by raising the bar for more stakeholders’ onboarding of the Central Bank Digital Currency.

Part of the statement read, “The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele had argued that an estimated N2.73 trillion of the N3.23 trillion currency in circulation in Nigeria, representing about 85 per cent of the total had remained outside the bank vaults.

“The decision taken by CBN as it relates to the new banknote and time stipulated for the removal of the old note is timely, patriotic, it will not only curb crime, it will help to ensure that the N2 trillion cash outside the economy would be brought in, and dry septic tanks and other places where the notes have been piled.

“The court order is the first step in sanitizing the country’s financial market and help in conducting very credible polls as politicians will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to have access to cash to compromise elections.”

Similarly, ethnic youth groups, including the Arewa, Ohanaeze, Oduduwa youths have also hailed the high Court of the Federal Capital Territory which barred any interference with the currency redesign terminal date of February 10th or issue any directive contrary to the February 10 date.

The socio cultural groups in a joint statement signed by Ohanaeze Youth group Secretary General, Nwada Amaka said looters of commonwealth have lost.

The groups said the order was best for the country and would afford the stakeholders opportunity to now concentrate on how to ameliorate the hardship occasioned by the policy.

APC Professional Forum Demands Review of Deadline

The APC Professional Forum has called on Buhari to further extend the deadline for the old currency to cease to be legal tender so as not to further overheat the economy with the likelihood of unintended consequences.

The Board of Trustee (BoT) Chairman of APC and former Governor of Bauchi state, Isa Yuguda, while addressing a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, said the forum was compelled to address the media on the current tensed socio-economic environment in the nation occasioned by the twin factors of persistent scarcity of petrol and widespread discontent and difficulties arising from the implementation of the well-intended currency redesign policy of the federal government.

He said while the forum saw nothing entirely wrong with the government’s decision to embark on the currency redesign policy to address the distortions in the economy, but expressed concern about the mode of implementation, which was causing the citizens untold hardship in virtually every part of the country.

Yuguda, commended Buhari for heeding the call for an adjustment in the deadline for the old currency to cease to be legal tender till February 10 2023.

His words: “But in view of the chaos and near anarchy in some parts of the country, we are of the view that the situation may require more efforts and steps in order to address the possibility of major social upheavals as the elasticity of the average citizen is stretched to a breaking point.

“It is our considered view that the timing of the implementation of this laudable policy should be urgently reviewed.

“We call on President Buhari to consider all options including but not limited to a further extension of the time for the old currency to cease to be legal tender so as not to further overheat the economy with the likelihood of unintended consequences.”

Yuguda noted that rightly or wrongly, the disruption was being viewed in many quarters as sabotage, saying the forum was eagerly looking forward to a return to normalcy across the country and not only in Abuja. 

“This is especially as the situation is being milked for political mileage which is clearly not good for the ruling party in the run up to the forthcoming elections,” he added.

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