Naira crisis may halt polls, el-Rufai warns

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The Kaduna state governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, has warned that the escalating scarcity of Naira notes across the country can either mar or prevent the upcoming general elections from holding if not quickly addressed.

He spoke to some journalists in Hausa language after President Muhammadu Buhari met with the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, over the cash crisis.

He said the governors had appealed to Buhari to allow the old and new naira notes co-exist to ease the suffering of Nigerians.

He also revealed that while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) mopped up over N2 trillion of the old notes, it printed only N300 billion “which is not enough.”

el-Rufai, accompanied by his Kano counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje, said even if the CBN had wanted to implement the cashless policy, it should have printed a half of what it mopped up, for a start, which ought to be N1 trillion.

He said, “Yes, we sat with the President, we the APC Governors showed him our concerns and the challenges that our people have been confronting due to this policy they brought about naira notes redesign. The President explained to us what he was told and we observed that the Central Bank and the Printing and Minting Company did not tell him the reality of what is happening.

“What is happening is that, first, they said, the money they have collected from the people right now is over N2 trillion, but the new notes they printed is just N300 billion. As a result, how can you collect this kind of money and print N300 billion.

“People don’t have money to take care of their daily domestic needs. Tomato sellers take it to Lagos, they don’t get to sell it, they get rotten and they lose their money. All these we explained to the President and he said within this week that is remaining, because the 10 days extension is already remaining seven days now.

“The President said he will meet the CBN and others, including the commercial banks, because they too are partly at fault. He said, he will hear from them before he will know what he will do.

“But on our part, we told him what is happening at the state level and what the people are facing and our fears that this problem if not addressed, may cause tension in the country and we fear that it may mar the general elections, it can even stop the election. As a result of these, the President said he will look into the matter.

“What we the governors are saying is that this Naira swap period should be extended, so that everyone can get to change their money, because there’s no way N300 billion can be enough to change N2 trillion. Even if you say you don’t want half of the money out in cash, at least you should print N1 trillion, not N300 billion.

“That money will not be enough. That is the problem. So, our own advice is that, the old notes and the new ones should be spent side by side until the old notes are gradually withdrawn from circulation. Any time that you print enough new notes, you can withdraw the old notes. For now, the new notes are not enough; anyone that tells you they have printed enough new notes is lying and they are telling the leaders what is not true.”

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