With about 16 days to the general election, there are strong indications that the new naira notes scarcity may disrupt the exercise.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, said this during a meeting with the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele at the CBN headquarters, Abuja, on Tuesday.
He explained that many service providers to INEC had no bank accounts.
He, therefore, solicited the support of the apex bank to address the concern related to the CBN cash withdrawal policy which had caused chaos across the country.
The apex bank had last year pegged weekly cash withdrawal limits set for individuals and corporate organisations to N500,000 and N5 million, respectively.
It also introduced the currency redesign policy which involves the issuance of new N1000, N500 and N200 notes last December.
But explaining his concern to the CBN chief, Yakubu said the service providers needed to be paid fully or partly, adding that there were fears about the withdrawal limits.
He said, “The Nigerian election is a huge and complex one. It requires the engagement of critical services and in line with the provisions of the exchange laws and regulations, service providers are generally paid by means of electronic transfer to their accounts.
‘’However, there are crucial areas such as transportation and human support services that have to be immediately enumerated, either partially or in full because services are rendered.
“In addition, emergency situations may arise requiring immediate cash payments. Some of the critical service providers are unbanked. Over the years we have worked with the Central Bank of Nigeria and commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general elections, as well as off-cycle and by-elections.
‘’Over the years, the commission has migrated all its accounts at national and state levels to CBN and this arrangement has worked without hindrances to our activities.
“In view of the recent policy involving the redesigning of some denominations of our currencies and the limit on cash withdrawals and availability, we consider this meeting important in addressing some of our areas of concern with just 17 days to the 2023 general elections.
’We are confident that an aspect of this meeting will reduce the anxiety expressed by some of our service providers. We are determined to make the 2023 general election one of the best elections in Nigeria but we cannot do it alone. That is why the commission is mobilising every critical national institution for the success of the election.”
CBN allays fears
The CBN governor assured that cash would be made available for payment of the service providers and added that the apex bank would not allow itself to be used to frustrate the efforts of the electoral body.
Emefiele promised that the apex bank would do everything possible to support the 2023 election, stressing that it has never failed Nigerians.
He stated, “Now, just aside from the issue of storage of election materials and together with transportation of these election materials from CBN locations to your own specific or designated locations; where do you want these materials to be?
‘’I know that just a few months ago, I visited your office and you raised the issue of how foreign exchange can be procured for you to import your BVAS and other election materials that need to be imported. And I give you my word that foreign exchange will be provided for that purpose.
“I stand here or I sit here to confirm that today, not $1 is owed. All the dollars that are needed to import those items have been provided and those items have been imported.
“So, it is all part of our commitment. Now this issue of payment and logistics for people who are going to be transporting election materials, even to visit wards; the assurance I give to you is that because we regarded the INEC project as a topmost or urgent national assignment, it cannot fail and the central bank would not allow itself either to be used or itself to be seen as an agent that frustrated a positive outcome of that election.’’
Emefiele said the CBN would provide the cash support with the electoral body needed to prosecute the poll.
‘’It is not just about cash and you have done electric electronic payments before and if in this case after making your electronic payments, you require some money to pay transporters, in this case, cash; the assurance I give to you is that we will make it available so it is nothing to worry about,’’ he said.
NSA on security
Meanwhile, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, has assured Nigerians of a secured voting atmosphere, saying the security personnel were well prepared ahead of the poll.
Speaking while hosting the INEC chairman on Tuesday, the NSA noted, “We had several meetings with the chairman of INEC, the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, which I co-chair. We know what we have done. We are sure of what we have on the ground.
“All of us here who are the managers of security in the electoral process know what we are doing. We are not in any way in doubt but we need to let the entire country know that agents of bad news are peddling all kinds of stories we see on social media. If these are intended to scare people, I want to dispel such illusions.
“Everybody that is concerned in carrying out his legitimate undertaking, casting his or her vote will do so in a secure atmosphere. It’s very important that Nigerians are not pushed to the limit where they will abandon their number one responsibility as citizens. All security agencies are up to the task.’’
On his part, the INEC chairman said the commission was confident that the recent security actions would further reassure voters, its officials, service providers and stakeholders of their safety during the election.