By Clifford Ndujihe, Policy Editor
With SIX days to go until the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, candidates and political parties are devising ways to mitigate the effects of the raging Naira shortage on their electoral aspirations.
There is currently tension in politics due to the shortage of the new N200, N500 and 1000 banknotes, which has been exacerbated by fuel shortages.
Ever since the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, introduced the redesigned Naira and cash limit policy of N500,000 and N5,000,000 per week for individuals and corporate organizations respectively, many politicians have been on their toes.
A large number of politicians, mainly from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have opposed the policy with some claiming that APC presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the main target of the policy.
In addition to controlling vote buying, the Federal Government said that the policy is intended to combat inflation and insecurity, especially kidnapping for extortion.
The deadline for the use of the old notes was initially set for January 31, but the CBN later extended it to February 10.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday extended the use of the old N200 note until April 10, declaring that the old N500 and N1000 notes ceased to be legal tender on February 10, the CBN said.
The president’s statement does not coincide with an interim order by the Supreme Court, which blocked the Federal Government from implementing the February 10 deadline for the use of old banknotes based on the lawsuit filed by the Kogi state governments. , Zamfara and Kaduna. The higher court set a hearing on the lawsuit for February 22.
House Majority Leader Ado Doguwa lamented Thursday that the Naira shortage was hurting him and other politicians.
Specifically, Doguwa, who is seeking re-election on APC’s platform, said he needs “hard copy” N70m for this election and it is not available due to the Naira crisis.
Doguwa lamented that the naira shortage brought about by the new policy would affect the election spending of politicians.
The lawmaker, who expressed his reservation on the new naira policy after a meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, lamented that the policy is affecting the APC.
Citing Section 88(4) of the Electoral Act, Doguwa said: “I need to have this N70m in hard copy. That is the position of the law and as I speak to you, I do not have it.
Doguwa noted that all politicians, regardless of their political affiliations, would be affected by the new policy.
“The policy itself goes against the ruling party because Nigerians who are not happy will see it as a policy of the APC government.
“30 or 40 days from the election, you present a policy that is not widely accepted by Nigerians, whether we like it or not, it will be seen as the government’s program. So those of us at APC are not happy about that,” he said.
Parcels to overcome the Naira shortage
Despite complaints from politicians, Sunday Vanguard concluded that many of them were “forward thinking” and had mapped out measures to navigate the Naira crisis.
Their moves, the CBN lamented, last week, are partly responsible for the Naira shortage because they are “cleaning up” the few redesigned Naira that the main bank put into circulation.
The Naira cleanup is to deepen the steps they are taking to win the election which has been made more difficult due to the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, by INEC to verify multiple voting and ensure that the true owner of a Permanent Voter Card, PVC, votes.
Until now, some politicians have embarked on an expanded stomach infrastructure by appointing more aides; make sure your worshipers got PVC; and deny alleged supporters of opponents their PVCs.
On election day, Sunday Vanguard deduced that part of the measures will be to suppress votes and buy votes in opposition strongholds.
When asked about the possibility of “repaying” his supporters on election day, one grassroots politician said: “we are politicians, we know the game and how to play it”.
With poverty on the land increasing, some politicians have embarked on new welfare packages to win the support of likely voters.
Sunday Vanguard noted that many politicians are taking the line of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, on a larger scale.
Wike recently appointed more than 200,000 special political officers and gave them a monthly allowance of N30,000 to N50,000.
A senior leader of one of the political parties told Sunday Vanguard: “Wike appointed 200,000 aides. We are doing something similar on a larger scale. We mobilized over a million people for voter registration and made sure they got their PVCs. The 2023 elections will be different from those passed by the BVAS and the redesign of the naira. In the past, an officer in charge of some voting units in a District may receive N500,000 or one million naira. Agents from the other parties, security agents and INEC officials will take charge of the money and we will take charge of the process.
“With BVAS, things have changed. But we are politicians and we know how to play the game. We have mobilized real people, real voters, up to a million in some LGAs. We have started giving them N10,000 allowances every month and it will continue until the end of the election. We transfer the money to their bank accounts.”
‘Naira shortage will hit vote sellers the hardest’
Accepting that the Naira redraw policy has affected politicians, another politician said that voters would be affected more.
“In the past, depending on the location, politicians would buy votes with N5000, N10,000 or even N20,000, if there was strong opposition. Now things have changed. With the shortage of Naira and worsening poverty, votes can be bought with N1000. You have seen what people are going through to survive and how hard it is to come up with cash. Some of them can even sell their votes for N200,” he said.