Fuel crisis, new Naira notes: Plot to sabotage 2023 polls?

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‘…There’re plots to scuttle the forthcoming polls’

…Naira re-design political – Expert

… No, our policy decisions not political – CBN

The hardships being experienced by Nigerians as a result of the lingering fuel crisis and the timing of Naira re-design have led to conspiracy theories in some quarters. This is because it is reasoned that the duo are a ploy to sabotage the forthcoming general elections. BENJAMIN SAMSON and PAUL OKAH examine the unfolding scenario in this report.   

The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol, continues to bite harder across the country. Blueprint Weekend gathered that the product is being sold at unregulated prices. Many petrol stations sell as high as N500/litre against the official N185/litre pump price and commuters, households and businesses are still bleeding money and man-hours on the back of the scarcity. The lingering scarcity has worsened the cost of living and affected businesses across the country.

Likewise, Nigerians have besieged banks and Point of Sale (PoS) operators in search of the re-designed Naira notes. While most of the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) are not dispensing cash, PoS operators are charging as high as five hundred Naira for N5, 000 withdrawal. These developments have led to a conspiracy theory in many quarters that the fuel crisis, Naira re-design, is a plot to sabotage the forthcoming polls.


 Speaking with our correspondent, the convener of Alliance for Youth and Democratic Movements (AYDM), Isiaka Fadimu, said he suspected a plot to disrupt the elections using fuel scarcity and Naira re-design. He warned of the grave consequences if the plot to scuttle the elections succeeds.

He said: “There were plots by anti-democratic forces driven by primordial sentiments to scuttle the 2023 national elections and subvert the will of the people using fuel scarcity and Naira redesign.

“The lingering fuel scarcity, even close to the general elections, and the Naira re-design policy which has caused chaos across the country as a result of scarcity of the new currency notes, were all plots by some elements to stoke public discontent which could degenerate into actions that might scuttle the democratic process.

 “The fuel scarcity has lingered for three months and has continued into February, the month of the elections. This has never happened in this country. Nigerians have been made to submit all they have to the banks. Markets are being closed down. Shops are closed. Cash reserves at homes are exhausted, and transfer transactions are largely blocked with many hitches. This is nothing but a plot to instigate Nigerians into spontaneous violence to justify the game-plan of scuttling the democratic process.

 “Reports from several local and international agencies suggest the imminent emergence of a Presidential candidate from the South. This is a bitter pill for the forces of darkness that are networking in the political and economic classes to prevent the sovereignty of the people.”

 Likewise, a political economist, Dr. Isaac Itua, of the Nigerian Centre for Research and Development, has described the decision of the CBN to re-design the N200, N500 and N1, 000 notes as a political agenda.

“How can we sit down? They say we should not bring our Naira and give it to them again; that they want to change it. Is that our priority? How does change of currency reduce the price of foodstuff in the market? They say they want to change the Nigerian currency, how much is the dollar today? They should have left our currency for us.

“Now, they say that they want to change it. We can’t buy dollars. I am an economist. I can tell you that this policy by the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria has no basis. There is no basis for it. This is purely political.

 “When you decide to change a currency in such a reckless manner, 30 days before an election, all you can deduce is that it is purely political. There is nothing urgent in changing our currency today,” he said.

 He noted that such urgency in re-designing the Naira should be focused on feeding the nation and managing its foreign exchange rate.

“The urgency for us is how to get food for our citizens so that we can remove the starvation in the land. The urgency is how to maintain discipline in our monetary policies so that we can manage our foreign exchange rate because we are very much import-dependent.”


Similarly, a policy analyst at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Prof. Issah Jatau, said there were no policy or project management parameters behind the currency re-design initiative.

 According to him, the process of currency swap should not be “chaotic,” and that the currency is central to the economy.

“There is no policy behind it. There was no planning, definition of stakeholders, or project management parameters. No timeline and simulation done. The process is not supposed to be chaotic. The economy is a sensitive thing. Currency is so central to the economy because it is the means of exchange,” he said.

 Jatau criticised the CBN governor for seeking the approval of the President for a one-week extension, adding that the apex bank should not be “subjected to political interpretations.”

 He said Emefiele should have consulted with the board of the apex bank on the currency re-design rather than the President who “is a political leader.”

 “The CBN is not supposed to be allowing itself to be subject to political interpretation. Even this idea of going to the president to take permission for a one-week extension, shows political inclination. There is a board of governors for the CBN that is supposed to deal with the internal business of the CBN. To say, I have gone to take instruction and permission from the President to add 10 more days, that is not how to run the CBN with all due respect.

“The idea is not something that the changing of currency is emanating from a political person, which is the president. The idea is that the CBN belongs to all of us whether there is a change of the government, party, or person. I don’t want the CBN to look like an extension of the politics of Nigeria.”

Unending scarcity

 In an interview with Blueprint Weekend, an economic expert based in Abuja, Mr. Raphael Achibong, said that there would be an economic disaster if the CBN and the federal government failed to provide enough of the new notes, stressing that the scarcity “is presently affecting families.”

He said: “What is happening in Nigeria can best be described as an economic disaster waiting to happen as a result of poor planning and implementation. As I am speaking with you, many Nigerians are queuing before different ATMs in different parts of the country and I can tell you it is not funny. All the good plans the CBN or the FG might have for Nigerians have been affected by the complaints of the ordinary man not having money in his pocket.

 “The ATM is not paying, while the bank cannot pay you if you want to withdraw below N100, 000 over the counter. Then if you go to PoS operators, they will tell you they don’t have cash. So, how best do you explain the situation if not that there is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the economy, causing chaos and confusion?

 “There is everything bad about the timing because of the scarcity of the new Naira notes. It would have been good if the notes were readily available in banks, ATMs and PoS, then they would not have been issued, but with the scarcity, there is nothing else Nigerians can do than to pour out their frustration.”

 Continuing, he said, “Nevertheless, I will advise the CBN to look into the common complaints of scarcity and ensure the notes are available for the ordinary man on the street to access. There will continue to be problems in the economy except the money flows down to the ordinary man on the street. PoS operators are charging the earth for withdrawal or little sums of money because of the scarcity, which is not supposed to be so.

“One of the motives of holding money is transactional, which is the reason the economy will suffer if the new Naira is not readily available. If people cannot transact because of lack of cash, there is no way the economy will be good because we are yet to fully embrace the digital economy. You cannot transfer N50, N100 or N200 to an Okada, Keke or taxi driver who took you on a short trip, so the inconveniences should be looked into by the CBN and concerned bodies to avert further disasters.”

  The poor

 On his part, a public affairs analyst, Regina Agu, said the CBN policy is aimed at curbing vote-buying during the upcoming general elections, even though it’s presently affecting the poor as a result of implementation.

 “There is no doubt that the CBN means well, but the poor are at the receiving end of this new CBN policy. In different parts of the country, scarcity is forcing PoS operators to hike their charges to over 100 percent for cash withdrawal. For instance, in certain areas, people pay N200 to withdraw N2, 000, N500 to withdraw N5, 000 or N1, 000 to withdraw N10, 000 from the PoS. This is because they can’t access the new Naira notes from banks, either over the counter or the ATMs. As a result, they resort to patronizing PoS agents because they must have cash for different transactions.

 “So, while the naira redesign is targeted at politicians, especially those hoarding money for vote buying, it is affecting the poor man out there because it is a matter of concern not to have new or old naira. The implementation of the policy, so far, has failed because the politicians are getting the bulk of the money. From different media reports, racketeering of the new naira notes is taking place in different places,” she said.

 She added, “I read in Blueprint newspaper a few days ago about how bank managers and officials are charging percentages to supply the new naira notes to politicians and money vendors to hoard or sell. For instance, bank officials sell N500, 000 at N600, 000 and the politicians gladly pay to have the notes; which are already sabotaging the whole essence of the redesign. Also, while the new naira notes are presumed to be available in banks, you will see money vendors selling them at corners and parties. If you part with N13, 000, you will get N10, 000 of the new notes to spread at parties.

“In a nutshell, the CBN has failed in its implementation of the policy and should step up. It makes no sense that money meant for transactions are being hoarded by a few greedy individuals. Sleeping and queuing at the ATM has become a new normal for a lot of Nigerians trying desperately to get the new notes, which is not supposed to be so in a sane country. It is as if there is a deliberate attempt or conspiracy to make the life of an average Nigerian to be more miserable due to the scarcity of the new notes, so the CBN has a lot to do in order to ensure that the money trickles down to the right people, otherwise the purpose will be lost.”

 Businesses affected

Also speaking, a businessman in Jahi, Abuja, Mr. Jafaru Ahmed, said that many businesses are packing up as a result of the scarcity of the notes.

He said: “I was among those who were glad that the CBN had extended the deadline for the collection of the old notes till February 10. I had rushed to deposit my old notes in the bank in order to get new notes, but I haven’t been able to get them. I have been rejecting old notes, but not many people have the new notes. This has made businesses to be affected. It is a matter of concern because I have tried so much to be able to get the new notes all to no avail.

  “I went to the ATM just yesterday and was amazed at the queue. We were over 100 people queuing at the ATM to withdraw. The ATM was not paying at a point but some were able to withdraw a maximum of N20, 000. Despite spending five hours at the ATM, I couldn’t get the new notes. I had locked my shop to come and withdraw at the ATM, but could not get cash. Even when I asked around, up to 10 PoS operators I met didn’t have cash. Walahi, I have never felt so disappointed, betrayed and let down by my government.

 “The scarcity of new and old notes is affecting businesses. There is nothing anyone will tell me to believe that they won’t be big trouble in the economy because of the scarcity. I have resumed accepting old notes because of the scarcity of the new notes and the extension by the CBN. It is not N50 biscuit, N100 chin chin or N200 noodles that someone will be waiting for transfer in a supposed cashless economy. Insha Allah, the government should look into the scarcity otherwise there will be serious protests and massive unrest by the affected population.”

CBN’s assurances

The CBN has, however, continued to give assurances that its recent policies, including the cash withdrawal limits and the re-designing of Naira notes, were not done for political reasons.

A director, who spoke with our reporter on the condition of anonymity, said scarcity of the new Naira notes “will soon be a thing of the past.”

“The policy was the outcome of critical thinking, research and other considerations. There was never a time when the CBN made policy decisions out of political considerations,” he said.

INEC’s fears

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that the current fuel scarcity might affect logistic arrangements for the February 25 and March 11 general elections.

INEC’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, made this known Tuesday in Abuja at a consultative meeting with the transport unions such as the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), amongst others.

 “The Commission shares your concern about the fuel situation in the country and its impact on transportation on election day. The truth is that our arrangement may be negatively affected by the non-availability of products.

“For this reason, the Commission will this afternoon meet the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to look into ways to ameliorate this situation,” he said.

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