2023 elections: CSO laments scarcity of naira notes, fuel, others

A civil society organization, Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has lamented scarcity of the new Naira notes in all states of the federation, saying the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must investigate the cause of the scarcity and save Nigerians from untold hardship.

Addressing the media Thursday in Abuja, the Executive Director of CHRICED, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said that it was untenable that, while the CBN keeps insisting that it has supplied the redesigned currency to banks, the new notes have hardly ever been available in banks ATMs, resulting in serious currency scarcity.

The CSO said that fuel scarcity, insecurity, permanent voter’s card collection and corruption issues may affect the elections, urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reflect on and take critical steps to address the issues in order to build trust and ensure free, fair, and credible general elections in 2023.

He said: “There is no denying that Nigeria is at a crossroads and silence in any form is neither strategic nor golden at this point. Nigeria is currently bleeding at all fronts and experiencing many difficulties that have serious implications for the welfare and well-being of its citizens. Ordinary people all over the country have felt the effects of bad and poorly implemented policies, which have caused untold hardships and made citizens’ lives even more miserable than they were before.

“CHRICED believes that the welfare and well-being of millions of Nigerians should be the most important consideration driving all government’s policies and programs. As a result, well-meaning individuals and organizations, who are aware of the implications of Nigeria’s current crisis must speak out. This is a necessary part of our patriotic duty to bring an end to the hardships faced by the Nigerian people. 

“Disturbing pictures of Nigerians in a life and death struggle to obtain the new Naira notes from banks and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) have become commonplace across the country. While ordinary people do not have access to the new bank notes, provocative videos of partygoers spraying bundles of the new notes have surfaced on social media.

“Until now, the CBN and relevant law enforcement agencies have deemed it unnecessary to investigate how such large amounts of the new currency shown in those social media videos ended up in the hands of those individuals who were using them to show off, while most citizens endured long queues just to get some cash.

“CHRICED finds it untenable that while the CBN keeps insisting that it has supplied the redesigned currency to banks, the new notes have hardly ever been available in banks ATMs, resulting in serious currency scarcity. The situation has deteriorated to the point where unscrupulous POS operators now charge between 20 and 30 percent of any amount their customers wish to withdraw as a fee for providing cash. Furthermore, as online banking transfers suffer glitches and record failures, the digital channels for financial transactions have become even more difficult.

“The fact therefore remains that the CBN’s cash swap policy continues to impoverish many more Nigerians. When the benefits and drawbacks of the currency redesign and swap policy are considered, there is no doubt that it is a colossal failure and an unmitigated disaster. Criminals, money launderers, and vote buyers have taken advantage of the CBN system’s porous nature to conceal their illicit wealth, while ordinary citizens who require only little amounts of cash for daily survival have no access to the currency.

“We are in a situation where Naira is now used to buy Naira. In addition, the CBN’s unpopular policy of redesigning Naira notes is already driving honest and hardworking farmers, traders, and artisans in rural areas whose funds are all in cash into bankruptcy.

“CHRICED strongly condemns the suffering and agony inflicted on millions of ordinary Nigerians in recent weeks. These travails are the outcomes of the CBN’s sloppy implementation of the currency redesign and swap policy (CBN). In a previous intervention, CHRICED warned that if the apex bank does not handle this policy carefully, it will cause unnecessary hardship, particularly those in rural areas. CHRICED prediction has proven to be correct.

“Not only was the level of citizen sensitization for such a significant policy low, the apex bank failed to form any effective collaboration with institutions such as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to get the important message about the currency redesign and swap across to citizens, especially those in rural areas.”