Protests: Emefiele, Kyari allay INEC’s fear over Naira-Fuel scarcity

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…One dies, many injured in Abeokuta  protest

…Fresh protest in Sango-Ota, Lagos, Ondo, others

…Apex bank promises availability of cash for seamless electoral transactions

…Emergency situations require immediate cash payments – INEC Boss

…Fuel scarcity to subside next week — NNPCL

…As INEC reiterates commitment towards credible elections

…Buhari meets Emefiele, Tambuwal, Bagudu, Bawa

…Opposition using Naira scarcity for political game — FG

Joel Oladele, Olaseinde Gbenga – Abuja,

Amidst fears that the scarcity of Naira and Premium Motor  Spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, may foist a postponement of the general elections from the scheduled dates of February 25th and March 11, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and his counterpart, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, have allayed the fears of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, over glitches the scarcity of Naira and fuel may cause the general elections.

Despite the assurance, there were while Emefiele reassured INEC of his commitment to give necessary support towards the success of the 2023 general elections with availability of the new Naira notes, Kyari has promised fuel scarcity would, by next week, subside.

However, protest in Abeokuta, in Ogun State resulted in the death of a protester hit by a gunshot. During the protest, First Bank at Asero in Abeokuta  was vandalised and several roads within the town  were blocked with burning fire. At Sango-Ota, most banks were hurriedly shut down following attacks on staff of a first generation bank at Joju in Sango-Ota.

Also, Ibadan witnessed another of protest by customers frustrated by the absence of new Naira notes.

Meanwhile, Emefiele made his commitment during a visit of the INEC’s Chairman, Professor Yakubu to his office on Tuesday in Abuja.

He noted that the CBN regards the INEC’s project as a topmost national assignment and will not want to be seen as an agent working against a smooth electoral process.

Emiefele said that the apex bank will not allow itself to be used to frustrate the forthcoming general elections.

Responding to a request from Yakubu that the CBN should find a way of addressing scarcity of currency across the country 17 days to the Presidential and National Assembly elections since some service providers to the commission were “unbanked,” he said the CBN will make available every cash needed to pay logistics for the success of the elections.

Emefiele added that CBN has never disappointed INEC in the past and this will not be an exemption, especially when it comes to storage and transportation of election materials.

“The relationship between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) dates back to even before I became the Central Bank Governor. And those relationships, I will say are those that border purely on trust and confidence and we appreciate and truly do appreciate the fact that the INEC, supported by the Nigerian populace have the trust and confidence in the ability of the Central Bank in playing the roles that we have played for you, or through you to the Nigerian populace to ensure that our elections hold without any hitches and I will be very specific.

“Before now, we’ve been involved in the storage of INEC election materials, not just in storage, the Central Bank of Nigeria has also been involved using its armoured Bullion Vans in transporting those electoral materials. We are happy that in the course of this relationship, we have not disappointed you and that is the reason you have come again this time.

“Now, aside from the issue of storage of  election materials to get our transportation of this election materials from CBN locations to your own specific or designated locations where you want these materials to be, 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 your BVAS or other forms of election material that need to be imported and I gave you my word that Foreign Exchange will be provided for that purpose.

“I stand here or I sit here to confirm that as at today, not one dollar is owed,  all dollars that are 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 even to the wards and all that. And, certainly the assurance I gave to you is that because we regard the INEC project as a topmost or an urgent national assignment, it cannot fail and the Central Bank will not allow itself either to be used or to be seen as an agent that frustrates a positive outcome of that election.

“So, I sit here to give you that commitment, that whatever you need like you call, 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 this case, the assurance I give to you is that we will make it available,” Emefiele assured.

…Emergency situations requires immediate cash payments — INEC Boss

Earlier in his address, the INEC Chairman has said while the cashless policy might work in carrying out some Electoral transactions, there are emergency situations that may arise requiring immediate cash payments and some of the critical service providers are unbanked, thus the need to make cash available.

He added that the Commission is determined to make the 2023 general election one of the best organised elections in Nigeria and they are leaving no stone unturned towards achieving this feat.

“We are encouraged by the continued willingness of the apex bank to support the Commission’s determination to deliver credible elections on 25th February 2023 and 11th March 2023,  particularly, the facilitation of activities necessary for the success of the election.

“The Nigerian election is a huge and complex undertaking that requires the engagement of critical services. And in line with the provisions of the extant laws and regulations, service providers are generally paid by means of electronic transfer to the accounts.

“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.

“In addition, emergency situations may arise requiring immediate cash payments, some of the critical service providers are unbanked. Over the years, we have worked with the Central Bank of Nigeria and commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general elections, as well as off-cycle and by-elections.

“Over the years, the Commission has also migrated all its accounts at national and state level to the Central Bank of Nigeria and this arrangement has worked without encumbrances to our activities.

“In view of the recent policy, involving  the redesign of some denominations of our national currency, and the limits placed on cash withdrawals and availability, 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,” Yakubu said

…Fuel scarcity to subside next week — NNPCL

Meanwhile, on fuel scarcity, the Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, has assured Nigerians that the lingering fuel scarcity will subside next week.

Kyari in a video clip shown on Channels Television on Tuesday evening, who however said he could not assure that the queues at the fuel stations would disappear, said there would be significant improvement in the next one week

He said, “Now within the next one week, I’m not saying that you’re going to have zero queues within the next one week, no, because a number of things are out of our control, and of course the market forces will determine some of these issues.

“But I believe that we’re going to see substantial and  relative ease compared to today in the next one week. I apologise for the situation on behalf of all of us in the oil and gas industry.”

The lingering fuel scarcity and that of Naira notes have posed on the masses untoward hardship rendering many stranded, instigating protest in some parts of the Country with destruction of properties.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, had told Nigerians last week Friday to give him seven days to resolve the Naira scarcity crisis.

However, two days left to the completion of the seven days requested  by the President, the situation has worsened with rising protest across the Country.

…As Buhari meets Emefiele, Tambuwal, Bagudu, Bawa

In consultation, President Buhari on Tuesday met again with the CBN Governor, over the scarcity of Naira notes in the country.

In attendance were also Governor of Sokoto State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Aminu Tambuwal; Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu; the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor; and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa.

Following the meeting which took place at the council chamber of the state house, none of the parties in attendance agreed to speak with journalists.

…Opposition using Naira scarcity for political game — FG

Meanwhile, the Federal Government, on Tuesday, accused opposition political parties that went to court to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari, from stopping, extending or interfering with the Naira swap deadline date, of being inconsiderate.

It also accused the parties of politicising the situation, stressing that they were not mindful of the plight of Nigerians over the currency crunch, but have turned the situation into an instrument of political game.

Recall that on Monday, 14 political parties threatened to boycott the February 25 election should the CBN extend the February 10 deadline for the currency swap which it had earlier announced.

This was just as a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory restrained the President, the CBN, its Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and 27 commercial banks from suspending, stopping, extending or interfering with the currency swap terminal date.

The order was handed down on Monday by Justice E. Enenche following an application by four political parties.

Reacting to this, while speaking at the 23rd edition of the PMB Administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023), which featured the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the action by the political parties was unscrupulous.

He said, “Recall that after his (Buhari) meeting with the Progressives Governors’ Forum on Friday, President Buhari urged the 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, on Monday, some opposition political parties ran to court to obtain an injunction restraining Mr President and the CBN from extending the February 10 deadline for Nigerians to exchange their old notes for new ones.

“These curious actions by the parties concerned are 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?”

He argued that it was bad politics when one puts the interest of desperate political parties over and above that of Nigerians.

He, however, stated that despite the antics of the opposition, the government was willing and able to take decisive steps to bring succour to Nigerians in the shortest possible time.

“Government is working assiduously to restore normalcy to these critical enablers of economic activity and to take added measures, where necessary, to alleviate the pains of Nigerians,” he stated.