Barring the Supreme Court order restraining the federal government of Nigeria and by extension the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) concerning the deadline for swap of the old and new naira notes, the Nigerian nation is on the brink of a serious crisis that could disrupt the general elections.
All of a sudden, the naira redesign and cash swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria have thrown up several issues and challenges that are palpably changing the Nigerian economic and political landscape.
We are constrained as a voice of the voiceless to once again draw the attention of the authorities to the brewing unrest and bitterness of the twin evils of unavailability of cash and petrol in the polity.
This is a very important season in Nigeria when national election is just around the corner. We have heard complaints of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) saying that unavailability of cash and petrol or even the high cost of it will affect the logistics of moving election materials from one point to another. We heard also how the biting cashless situation will affect the payment of several service providers to INEC during the electioneering period, which is a few days ahead.
The situation is getting more compounded as five of the 18 political parties obtained a court order stopping the CBN and Buhari from shifting the February 10 deadline of the new and old naira notes’ swap, alleging that “banks have been hoarding the new bank notes and trading with them, thereby causing untold hardship to citizens.”
Save for the three governors who went to the Supreme Court to ask for the reversal of the CBN deadline, it is curious and strange how a different group of fellow Nigerians who are suffering the same hardship could go to court to ask for an order preventing further extension of the cash swap in banks.
It does not even make sense that a court of competent authority would grant such an order in the first place. Is the court conniving with fifth columnists to make things difficult for the masses who want the deadline extended?
There are reports of protests, riots and demonstrations across the country as a result of the cash crunch and fuel scarcity. Many Nigerians are starving with their children. The vulnerable ones are seriously hit. There are people who live from hand to mouth running into tens of millions. There are many in hospitals who will need to buy drugs and food.
With the news report reaching our desk, more than 50 percent of point of sale (POS) terminals across Anambra are not functional.
There is viral footage showing commercial bank staff scaling a high wall to escape an angry mob within the bank premises over the unavailability of the new notes in the bank. This is how gloomy the situation is in other parts of the country.
We fear that some people are desperately working to detail the general elections. In that regard, the judiciary and the CBN should look out for fifth columnists and opportunists who want to push the country to the brink by deploying frivolous tactics to find their way. Such people should be rebuffed.
There is need for further extension of time for the currency swap and for increase in the circulation of the new naira notes for at least six months in order to stop the rush and stampede in the banks.
Various stakeholders in politics and economic platforms should speak out against contrary views.
We call on aggrieved Nigerian citizens to be calm and see this period of crisis as a temporary situation that will fizzle out in a little while.
The Supreme Court’s decision last Wednesday offers a cooling effect on tempers, which have risen almost beyond control.
The 2023 general elections must hold as planned and we hold on strongly to that view.