The introduction of redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes on October 26, 2022 by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) – months before the all important 2023 election – was largely seen as an effort to curb vote-buying and ensure credible polls.
But the manner in which the policy has so far been pursued, suggest that it would achieve the exact opposite. Contrary to helping to ensure free and fair elections, the Naira redesign policy could well be the biggest threat to the election.
Determined to reduce the amount cash in circulation, with a view to pushing its cashless policy, the apex bank opted to limit the maximum weekly withdrawal of cash to N100,000. This has affected the masses mostly business owners. In the past one week Nigerians have been experiencing scarcity of cash.
Commercial banks are not dispensing cash. Many people wait in long queues at banks to withdraw their money and meet up with their daily responsibilities. Unfortunately they are unable to access their hard-earned money and those who were able to withdraw were paid with N5, N10, N20 N50 and N100 notes.
Point of sale (POS) agents are not helping matters either, as they have seized this as an opportunity to cash out. They now charge in excess of N100 on every N1000 withdrawal, while some charge N200 on every N1000 withdrawal.
The intention of the apex bank for Nigerians to adopt cashless transactions seems impossible. A major percentage of traders are uneducated, especially market women. They don’t know how to operate android phones, talk more of doing online transactions.
How can one make a transfer to the woman selling vegetables? or to the woman selling locust bean? probably to the woman selling pepper?
The CBN has earlier fixed January 31 as the deadline for phasing out old naira notes. A week to the deadline many people trooped to banks to swap the old naira notes for the new naira notes. However only a few were able to swap the old naira notes for new the naira notes.
Thus the CBN extended the deadline from January 31 to February 10. In an update released by the apex bank, its, Godwin Emefiele, stated that President Muhammad Buhari approved an extension of the deadline by 10 days.
“Based on the foregoing, we have sought and obtained Mr President’s approval for the following: a 10-day extension of the deadline from January 31, 2023, to February 10, 2023; to allow for collection of more old notes legitimately held by Nigerians and achieve more success in cash swap in our rural communities after which all old notes outside the CBN loses their Legal Tender Status”, the statement read in part.
Amid the whole drama and back and forth, the general elections are fast approaching. It will commence on the 25th of February. The cash scarcity has combined with the lingering fuel scarcity to inflict pain on the masses. Unfortunately all these are happening days to the general elections.
Cash scarcity seems to be a political strategy, as it might hinder peoples participation in the general elections. On the other hand it might have a positive impact by hindering vote-buying. It may make it difficult to some extent for vote sellers and vote buyers to transact business on the election day. But wait! Can’t political representatives make a transfer to citizens inorder to sell their votes? They might be limited in this because not all voters have bank accounts or are educated.
Some people feel that cash scarcity has no effect on the forthcoming general elections and the only people who can complain about this are those who want to engage in electoral malpractices. Beyond electoral malpractices, if this cash scarcity should linger, it will affect the forthcoming general elections in the following ways:
1)This is a general election which involves voting at all levels. People are expected to vote at the presidential, senate, house of representatives, governorship, and state house of representative levels. Many peoples’ place of voting is interstate. Thus some travel interstate few days before the election. Scarcity of cash will make this impossible. It is considered that some interstate vehicles accept transfer as means of payment, but not all interstate vehicles accept transfer.
Also fake transfer is becoming rampant nowadays and it has increased drastically since the cash scarcity began. Thus many business owners no longer accept transfer. How much more drivers. They need cash to settle park touts, buy fuel at the filling station, and for personal use among others.
2) This will affect the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC), in the forthcoming general elections especially at the presidential level. Most people feel they are hoarding money and want to plunge the masses into suffering so that they can be seen as Messiah.
Already many people have a biased mind towards the ruling APC. Some feel that they plunged the masses into unending suffering. The notable mass killing of innocent EndSars protesters on one side, increase in prices of commodities, increase in the exchange rate, and fuel scarcity on the other side. Now there is scarcity of cash ravaging the country under the leadership of the APC.
As a result of this many people have been unable to feed their family. This is a major issue that might slim down the chances of people voting for the APC in the forthcoming general elections. People are tired of suffering, hunger and looking up to an human beings as savior.
3) The economic hardship is becoming tense by the day. The current scarcity of cash has added to people’s suffering. Thus people are becoming uninterested in political participation. They are uninterested in voting for people who formulate policies that will elongate their hardship.
In a country like Nigeria where everyone regardless of their position, is supposed to abide by the constitution, but it seems the positivist school of thought prevails. It is often said that no one is above the law, we all know that is in literal terms. In practice some persons in government that is, policy makers, are above the law. They make policies that are inconvenient for the masses which most of them don’t follow. This might cause a low turnout of voters in the forthcoming general elections.