An emergency meeting of the Council of State, convened by President Muhammadu Buhari will hold on Friday to discuss national crises including petrol and naira scarcity, insecurity and others, ahead of the general elections.
The national crises had led to protests in various parts of the country.
Daily Trust gathered that the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is expected to provide an update on the new currency redesign policy scheduled to take place at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja, at 10 am.
Credible Presidency sources told this paper that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu as well as the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, will brief the council on the preparation for the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections as well as March 11 governorship and state houses of assembly polls.
The meeting, Daily Trust learnt, will take major decisions to douse tension ahead of elections and avert a potential national crisis given anger over the scarcity of new naira notes. The National Council of State is an organ of the Nigerian government whose functions include advising the executive on policy making.
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Membership of the Council comprises President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, former presidents, former heads of state, former chief justices of Nigeria, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, governors of the 36 states of the federation and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Afenifere sets agenda for council
Pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Tuesrday set the agenda for the Council of State ahead of its meeting.
Coming against the backdrop of the naira scarcity and fuel shortage, which has crippled businesses, the group said there must be solutions to the current challenges from the Council of State meeting.
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi in a chat with Daily Trust, said Nigeria is in a critical moment and tasked members of the council to come up with pragmatic solutions to the crises at hand.
He said, “This is a momentous period in Nigeria given the number of lives that have been lost, given the number of businesses that have collapsed and are in danger as a result of the unavailability of naira, people are queuing in the banks to get the cash they don’t get the cash.
“A lot of lives have been lost in the process and of course, a lot of people are queuing in the petrol stations, they are not getting fuel.
“And within the next few weeks, we would be undergoing elections. We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and all the past presidents and heads of state as well as governors and retired chief justices and all those who are members of the Council of State to realise that this is a crucial moment in the annals of Nigeria.
“We are saying that first, CBN must flood the commercial banks with cash, especially new currencies. Two, the deadline must be extended. February 10 is certainly unrealistic. It must be extended for at least the next three months.
“Afenifere is insisting that February 10 is unrealistic for Nigerians to be able to get the currencies.
“On the issue of fuel scarcity, NNPCL must be geared up. What we are experiencing is not what we should be experiencing given the fact that God endowed us with crude oil. We shouldn’t be suffering and coming at a time when we are facing this election, it is also something terrible about our country. So the petrol scarcity and currency crunch must be addressed.
“Also the need to ensure free, fair and credible elections must attract the attention of the council of state. So that tomorrow we would hear that the president has extended the deadline for the currency swap from February 10 to at least the next three months and then, of course, all necessary machinery must be put in place to ensure free, fair and credible elections.”
Efforts to get the northern elders to set agenda ahead of the council meeting yielded no result.
We need cash to conduct elections – INEC
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has assured the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as Nigerians that the apex bank would not do anything inimical to the success of the 2023 general elections.
The CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, gave the assurance on Tuesday when he hosted the INEC management led by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the CBN headquarters in Abuja.
Yakubu who spoke earlier told the CBN governor of the impact of the naira redesign policy on the successful conduct of the elections.
The INEC boss, therefore, requested concessions regarding the naira redesign policy with specific reference to the limitations placed on cash withdrawals and the need to make some cash available for some peculiarities that cannot be met with electronic transfer of monies.
According to him, some of the service providers, especially transporters are required to be paid in cash and aside from that, experience has shown that emergencies do arise on election day, which could demand the use of cash by the commission.
“I am encouraged by the continued willingness of the apex bank to support the commission’s determination to deliver credible elections on February 25 and March 11, 2023. Particularly, the facilitation of activities necessary for the success of the election, in an area where the CBN has exclusive responsibility.
“Nigerian election is a huge and complex undertaking that requires the engagement of critical services and in line with the provisions of the extant laws and regulations, service providers are generally paid by means of electronic transfer to the accounts.
“However, there are equally critical areas, such as transportation and human support services that have to be immediately remunerated, either partially or in full before 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 CBN and commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general elections, as well as off-cycle and bye-elections.
“Over the years, the commission has also migrated all its accounts at the national and state level to the CBN. And this arrangement has worked without encumbrances to our activities. In view of the recent policy, involving the redesign of some denominations of our national currency and the limits placed on cash withdrawals and availability. We consider this meeting important in addressing some of the areas of concern with just 17 days to the 2023 general election.
“We are confident that arising from this meeting, we can assuage the anxiety expressed by some of our service providers who are determined to make the 2023 general election one of the best-organised 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. This meeting is part of this effort,” Yakubu said.
Responding, Emefiele said he would ensure the CBN is not seen as an agent to thwart the forthcoming general election, assuring that the apex bank would provide INEC needed naira notes as required.
“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.
“We also appreciate and truly do appreciate the fact that the INEC supported by the Nigerian populace has the trust and confidence in the ability of the central bank in playing the roles that we have played for you so far to ensure that our elections hold without any hitches. Before now, we’ve been involved in the storage of INEC election materials and involved using our armoured bullion van in transporting electoral materials.
“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 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other forms of election material that need 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 of today, all dollars that are 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 the INEC project as a topmost or an urgent national assignment, and therefore, 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 that election.”
President meets Tambuwal, Bagudu, CBN gov, others at Aso Rock
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday held a closed-door meeting with the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State as well as the Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Governor Atiku Bagudu Abubakar of Kebbi State at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting was attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa.
Last Friday, the president had implored citizens to give him a seven-day window, which lapsed on February 10 to resolve the currency crunch that had emanated from the implementation of the Central Bank policy to change high-value naira notes with newly designed ones after a meeting with the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors.
Buhari had equally assured that he would be meeting with both the CBN and the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company and a decision would be taken based on current realities in the best interest of the people.
The governors of the ruling party had asked that the president direct an adequate injection of the new notes and the continued utilisation of the old ones until the end of the year.
The governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states have sued the federal government and the CBN before the Supreme Court over the currency redesigning and “de-monetisation” policy.
However, an FCT High Court had on Monday restrained the CBN, President Buhari and 27 commercial banks from extending or sabotaging the currency redesigning and cash withdrawal limit policy in the country.
By Muideen Olaniyi, Abbas Jimoh, Philip S. Clement (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)
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