INEC chair meets Emefiele, demands concessions for election operations
• As CBN governor, I won’t be used to sabotage elections, Emefiele assures INEC
• Anti-June 12 elements regrouping to scuttle elections through court injunctions, Ganduje alleges
• Attah-led Compatriots charges INEC to conduct elections at all costs
• Mbeki leads Commonwealth election observers to Nigeria
With the general elections barely two weeks away and naira scarcity experienced across the country, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday, met with the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, over the new naira policy, at the CBN headquarters in Abuja.
In his courtesy visit to the CBN, Yakubu expressed concern about the policy and how it might affect the 2023 general elections if not managed.
He said some of the service providers, especially transporters, are required to be paid in cash and besides, experience has shown that emergency situations do arise on election day, which could demand the use of cash by the Commission.
He, therefore, requested concessions regarding the naira redesign policy with specific reference to the limitations placed on cash withdrawals.
The INEC boss 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 before services are rendered.
“In addition, emergency situations may arise that require immediate cash payments. Over the years, we have worked with the CBN, commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general elections, off-cycle and bye-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 denomination 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 election. 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” he said.
Responding, the CBN governor assured INEC, as well as Nigerians, that the apex bank won’t do anything inimical to the successful conduct of the polls, assuring that the apex bank will provide INEC needed naira notes as required.
He stated: “The relationship between the CBN dates back to even before I became the governor and that relationship, I will say, borders purely on trust and confidence.
“Before now, we’ve been involved in the storage of INEC election materials and also used our armoured bullion van in transporting electoral materials. We are happy that in the course of this relationship, we have not disappointed you and that is the reason you have called me again this time.
“A few months ago, I visited your office and you raised the issue of how foreign exchange can be procured to you to import Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other forms of election material that needed to be imported and I gave you my word that foreign exchange will be provided for that purpose. I stand here to confirm that as at today, all dollars that is needed to import those items have been provided and those items have been imported.
“So, it’s all part of our commitment. Now this issue of pain and logistics for people who are going to be transporting election materials, certainly, the assurance I give to you is that because we regard INEC project as a topmost or an urgent national assignment, it cannot fail and the Central Bank would not allow itself, either to be used or to be seen as an agent that frustrated a positive outcome of the election.
“I sit here to give you that commitment. You have been responsible in the past anyway, it’s not just about cash, and if in this case after making your electronic payments, you require some money to pay transporters in cash, I assure you that we will make it available, so, it’s nothing to worry about.”
However, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, has alleged that elements who worked for the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election are regrouping and dangerously masquerading in the prevailing crisis generated by the CBN cash policy to scuttle the nation’s hard-earned democracy.
Ganduje was reacting to an interim injunction by a Federal High Court in Abuja, stopping CBN from extending the 10-day deadline for the currency swap.
The governor, in a statement by his Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, yesterday, observed that the open support for the policy by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, lay bare the grand complicity between the opposition party and the apex bank to deliberately thwart the nation’s hard-earned democracy by imposing harsh policies calculated to weaken the masses.
“The group’s latest attempt is camouflaging in unknown political parties through the use of legal instruments to further impose unfeasible cash policy that is taking its toll on the masses in the country. The unknown political parties are also allegedly colluding with PDP to execute this fiendish scheme.
“The rigid insistence on the implementation of these harsh, inhuman and insensitive cash policies to a point of neglecting their widespread rejection by the vast majority of Nigerians, including the National Assembly and all state governors, is an ominous agenda for the undermining of the nation and consequent scurrying of a smooth transition to a freely and fairly elected successive administration,” Ganduje said.
In same vein, a group of elder statesmen, led by former Akwa Ibom State governor, Obong Victor Attah, has charged the Federal Government and INEC to ensure that the 2023 general elections are held “at all cost.”
The group called ‘The Compatriots’, made this call in a statement by its chairman, Attah, after meeting with presidential candidates of some political parties in Abuja, yesterday.
This call is coming amid claims that some fifth columnists are frantically seeking postponement of the elections fixed for February and March.
The group also called on Nigerians to ensure that INEC’s integrity and competence is protected to conduct a free, fair and credible elections.
Presidential candidates at the meeting include the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Kola Abiola; Prince Wole Adebayo of Social Democratic Party (SDP); running mate to Labour Party candidate Peter Obi, Dr. Datti Baba Ahmed and representative of PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, former governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth has appointed former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, to lead its team of election observers to Nigeria ahead of the February 25 presidential election.
The observer group, which was formed by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, following an invitation received from INEC, comprises 15 others from around the Commonwealth.
Members of the group include Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral and Boundaries Department, Barbados, Ian Browne; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Botswana, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi; Director, Africa Programme, Chatham House, United Kingdom, Dr Alex Vines; Fulbright scholar and expert in terrorism and security, Canada, Dr Andrew Knight; human rights and gender expert, Fiji, Tara Chetty; Executive Director, Institute for Democratic Governance, Ghana, Dr Emmanuel Akwetey; Chairperson, Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, Seabata Motsamai; and former United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Ghana, Dr Mohamed Chambas.
Others are the former Speaker, East African Legislative Assembly, Rwanda, Martin Ngoga; former Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun; former Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture, and former Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Kenya, Amina Mohamed; legal and data analytics expert, Kenya, Linda Bonyo; Director, Brenthurst Foundation, South Africa, Dr Gregory Mills; former Chief Electoral Officer, Zambia Electoral Commission, Kryticous Nshindano; and a journalist from Uganda, Josephine Karungi.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Commonwealth said “the observers will be in Nigeria from February 18 to March 2. They will be supported by a staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by Joshua Setipa, Senior Director of the Strategy, Portfolio, Partnerships and Digital Division.”
Scotland said the Commonwealth remains a committed and reliable partner in Nigeria’s continuing journey towards peaceful democratic governance. She said the Commonwealth observing general elections in Nigeria since 1999 shows support for the promotion of the culture, processes and institutions of democracy in Nigeria.