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Fuel, Currency Crises: Ohanaeze, Akeredolu, others warn Buhari

By Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Adewale Momoh (Akure), Rotimi Agboluaje, (Ibadan) and Ernest Nzor (Abuja)
05 February 2023   |   5:00 am
A few days after the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, blamed some persons he described as the “fifth columnists” for the persistent fuel and naira scarcity in the country, Chairman of the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address the issue before it snowballs into crisis.

Nigerians queue to withdraw new naira notes from ATM. PIX:Bloomberg

• Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youths warn against looming crisis
• NANS threatens total shutdown, challenges NLC, TUC to speak up
• Northern Coalition wants reversal

A few days after the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, blamed some persons he described as the “fifth columnists” for the persistent fuel and naira scarcity in the country, Chairman of the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address the issue before it snowballs into crisis.

Akeredolu, in a statement he personally signed, said the people were compelled to live under excruciating pains occasioned by the naira and fuel scarcity.

In the statement entitled “The President Must Intervene, Decisively, On The Crisis Of Distribution Of Petrol and Currency Notes”, the governor lamented that: “Nigerians are practically buying the country’s currency to feed, when we are not in a state of war.”

“This ugly development is already eroding the goodwill enjoyed by the Federal Government for the stability achieved in the past seven years,” he said.

Akeredolu said some unscrupulous elements were behind the scarcity in the distribution chain of both fuel and the new naira notes.

“Nigerians have been living with scarcity of petroleum products for some time now. Fuel scarcity, a phenomenon, which this current administration, had once, confined to the dustbin in the chronicle of happenings in an inglorious past, has suddenly assumed a permanent feature of our daily existence, and there appears to be no solution to the perennial crisis.

“The struggles and actual fights recorded in banking halls, Automated Teller Machine (ATM), Point of Sale (PoS) device, and markets across the country, are disquieting.
“The choice of this period for the implementation of a policy, which bears an instant negative impact with no discernible mitigation in sight, raises serious suspicion of partisanship on the part of the CBN.
“The ordinary man is the victim. Depositors can no longer access their monies, even to feed their families. Hunger was not the anticipated result of a monetary policy,” the governor said.

Meanwhile, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, has alerted the Federal Government of a looming nationwide chaos, if it does not put an end to the hardship and poverty Nigerians are facing as a result of the redesigned of naira notes and acute shortage of fuel.

The group gave the warning, at the weekend, as Nigerians continued to go through worsening scarcity of the redesigned naira notes and high cost of petrol.

The youths alleged there was a plot by some elements to scuttle the 2023 general elections and therefore, undermine the nation’s democracy.

A statement by its National President, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should take action before it is too late, pointing out that the #EndSARS protest would be a child’s play compared to what might befall the nation in the next few days.

“How do we explain a situation where poor parents can no longer feed their children? How do we explain a situation where sick relatives are left to die because there is no money to buy drugs, whereas their money is trapped in the banks?
“We can no longer keep quiet in the midst of an avoidable chaos. There is no doubt that the policy, as rolled out by the CBN, was a good one, but there is also incontrovertible evidence that the apex bank was ill-prepared for the smooth implementation.”

Nnabuike continued: “This is why we warn that ‘enough is enough.’ If the CBN cannot make the new notes available, it should extend the deadline beyond February 10, and should allow the commercial banks to circulate the old notes pending such a time when the new notes would be available in the right quantity.”
“Anything short of this is an invitation to anarchy and avoidable chaos, as Nigerians are running out of patience. Images and videos from across the country say it all.” 

In the same vein, the National Association of Nigerian Students South West (NANS Zone D), has threatened to shut down the country, if the Federal Government fails to address the lingering new naira and fuel scarcity.

This was contained in a statement in Ibadan by its Public Relations Officer, (NANS South West), Awoyinfa Opeoluwa.

The students’ body said it had found it necessary to address the press over the level of hardship being brought upon Nigerian students, workers and Nigerians, in general.

Opeoluwa said there was low cash flow, poor banking network, high cost of fuel and fuel scarcity, to mention but a few.

He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to act swiftly and arrest the situation.L

Also, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), is demanding an immediate reversal of the cash withdrawal limit policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the time set for the exchange of old naira notes.

The group said that Nigerians should no longer be expected to continue to tolerate the high- handedness of the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, that is already pushing the nation to the brinks.

A statement by CNG Spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, described Emefiele’s insistence on a short deadline for the naira swap and limit for cash withdrawal as “insensitive, irrational, un-thoughtful and a clear recipe for disaster.”

“The CNG finds it curious that an appointee of government would assume such arrogant larger than life status to push harsh difficult conditions on an entire nation just to achieve his personal desires.
“It is important for Emefiele to begin to accept the reality that no one owns Nigeria and Nigerians, and that the nation is angry and would not be expected to tolerate, accommodate or condone destructive actions by officials who choose to play God,” he said.
CNG warned that there is already a raging national anger over the mass sufferings brought about by the new regime of economic policies that are clearly not working.
“Already, confusion has set in, many households are going hungry, businesses are closing shops all across the country.”

He added: “It is the peak of official impunity to insist on the imposition of, and implementing a financial policy in an unstable economic environment that lacks the necessary infrastructure to operate it.
“Based on this, the CNG, hereby categorically, rejects in its totality, any further attempt to throw the nation into confusion by a single individual’s rigidity, whoever that individual may be. “We condemn, with all our might, Emefiele’s suspicious rigid desperation to implement these policies without ensuring the intensification of public enlightenment about the cashless system so that everybody will be acquainted with the system, since there is a high rate of illiteracy.
“We reject these ignoble policies sought to be imposed on Nigerians without government providing uninterrupted power supply and adequate communication link.
“The imposition of these policies without addressing the issue of network failure is also suspicious, smacks of a hidden agenda and therefore unacceptable,” the statement said.

Akeredolu continued: “There is pervasive discontent in the land and unless some urgent redemptive steps are taken to ameliorate the debilitating effects of seeming desultory and nonchalant disruptions of their normal simple lives, a series of events with unpleasant consequences is inevitable.
“There is palpable anger engendered by frustration in the land. The wave of discontent increases with unbelievable rapidity across the country.
“The current hardship being experienced by the ordinary man forebodes unpleasant consequences. These crises may set in motion a chain of events, the end of which is better imagined.
“The Federal Government must make a categorical pronouncement on the availability of petrol and its price since it is the general belief that the country still pays humongous amounts as subsidy.
“A situation which permits a few individuals to inflict pains on the populace, seemingly without check, is deplorable. The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, must come clean on the new monetary policy. Nigerians are practically buying the country’s currency to feed when we are not in a state of war.
“The fact that the ruling party hopes to present candidates for election in the general elections in the coming weeks accentuates the level of suspicion, as regards the possibility of having certain elements whose interests stand at variance with the general aspirations of the party and its committed members.
“There is no better way to de-market a brand than this ruthless execution of a pernicious motive. The Federal Government, through the President, must act now,” he said.