Hope of a quick end to the suffering of Nigerians due to the scarcity of naira notes dimmed yesterday following President Muhammadu Buhari private meeting with the chairmen of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, and the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Atiku Bagudu.
Also in attendance at the meeting was the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele; the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa; as well as the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor.
The meeting was held at the President’s office at the State House, Abuja. It was originally scheduled with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum but was cancelled for reasons not clearly stated.
The presence of the CBN governor, however, gave indication that the meeting was organised ostensibly to discuss the cash swap policy which has for days elicited public outcry, particularly from the governors.
The president had on February 3, 2023, met with the governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some of the governors had asked that the President intervene to allow both the old and new notes co-circulate to ease the cash crunch recorded across the country.
Buhari was said to have cancelled it in view of the court order forbidding the government from extending the February 10, 2023 deadline for the swapping of three old naira notes.
Sources within the Presidency also affirmed that the President was wary of the possible perception of disregard for lawful orders. None of the participants at the meeting agreed to speak to the media.
Meanwhile, the federal government has said “unscrupulous” opposition politicians have “legally hamstrung” President Muhammadu Buhari from providing any relief to Nigerians amid the scarcity of N200, N500, and N1,000 bank notes in the country.
This is even as the federal government slammed the opposition political parties that went to court to restrain the President from stopping, extending, or interfering with the naira swap deadline date.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who stated this at the 23rd Edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration Scorecard in Abuja, yesterday accused the parties of politicising the situation, stressing that they were not mindful of the plight of Nigerians due to the cash crunch.
On Monday, 14 political parties had threatened to boycott the February 25 election should the Central Bank of Nigeria extend the February 10 deadline for the currency swap which it had earlier announced.
Mohammed noted that the federal government was mindful of the inconveniences currently being endured by citizens as a result of fuel supply disruptions and the recent cash scarcity.
He assured that the government was working assiduously to restore normalcy to these critical enablers of economic activity and to take added measures, where necessary, to alleviate the pain of Nigerians.
The minister recalled that after President Buhari met with Progressives’ Governors on Friday, he had urged citizens to give him a seven-day window to resolve the currency crunch that has emanated from the implementation of the Naira redesign policy.
Unfortunately, he said, on Monday, some opposition political parties had run to the court to obtain an injunction restraining the President and the CBN from extending the February 10 deadline for Nigerians to exchange their old notes for new ones. The court action came after a number of opposition parties threatened to boycott the 2023 general elections if the deadline was extended.
He said, “These curious actions by the parties concerned is a 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.”
The minister said the “desperate actions will not save these sinking political parties as voters have already seen that they/are the real enemies of the people and not President Muhammadu Buhari or the All Progressive Congress (APC).”
He said despite the antics of the opposition, the government is willing and able to take decisive steps to bring succour to Nigerians in the shortest possible time.
CBN Won’t Be Used To Thwart 2023 Polls, Says Emefiele
Meanwhile, the CBN has assured the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Nigerians that the apex bank would not do anything inimical to the success of the 2023 general elections.
Emiefele also allayed the fears in some quarters that the crisis associated with the circulation of the redesigned Naira notes may jeopardize the 2023 elections.
The CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who gave the assurance yesterday when he hosted the INEC management led by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the CBN headquarters in Abuja yesterday, assured Nigerians that the apex bank will not allow itself to be used to frustrate the elections.
“The CBN will not allow itself to be used as an agent to frustrate the forthcoming election which is a positive assignment. If you require cash to pay some of your service providers, we will make it available to you. We will not allow ourselves to be seen as agents that frustrate a genuine assignment,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the INEC chairman had noted the impact of the naira redesign policy on the successful conduct of the elections.
Yakubu, therefore, requested concessions regarding the naira redesign policy with specific reference to the limitations placed on cash withdrawals and the need to make some cash available for some peculiarities that cannot be met with electronic transfer of monies.
“Some of the service providers, especially transporters are required to be paid in cash, and aside from that, experience has shown that emergency situations do arise on election day which could demand the use of cash by the commission.
“Some of the critical service providers are unbanked. Over the years we have worked with the CBN and commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general elections, as well as off-cycle and bye-elections.
“We are confident that, arising from this meeting, we can assuage the anxiety expressed by some of our service providers who 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,” Yakubu said.
Responding, Emefiele said he would ensure the CBN is not seen as an agent to thwart the forthcoming general election.
Tinubu Appeals For Calm Over Fuel, Naira Scarcity
Also, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has again begged Nigerians to remain calm as the federal government and its relevant agencies continue to work out solutions.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja, Tinubu expressed sympathy with Nigerians, especially those he described as the downtrodden “who have been made to bear the brunt of the new naira policy by the Central Bank and irregular supply of petrol that have combined to inflict avoidable pains on the masses.”