February 4, 2023

Naira Notes: We’re in misery, listen to us — Abuja residents beg FG

By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

FOLLOWING the recent monetary policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, particularly regarding the change of Naira notes and the scarcity that occasioned it, including the protracted fuel crises that has plagued the whole country, many Abuja residents have expressed disappointment over the shift from norm.

Vanguard had in several reports revealed the untold hardship Nigerians have been going through to get the fuel and the federal government, including other concerned authorities’ promises to cushion the unfavorable situation. However, Vanguard reports that Nigerians are yet to see any change as to that effect.

The monetary policy by Nigeria’s apex bank and the reasons that followed it, appeared savory for Nigerians as many thought it was one of those must-do steps to drive needed change, particularly in the aspect of frustrating vote buying in the 2023 general elections, bettering the worth of the naira, among others.

But, with the new naira policy came a new dimension of living as many Nigerians can now hardly feed, move or cater for their daily lives, with many believing it to be a deliberate effort to impoverish the poor masses, particularly those in the suburbs.

Others who spoke to Vanguard suggested that the sparse circulation of the new naira note is an implication that the initial plan to avert vote buying has been jeopardized as politicians are allegedly having their hands on the larger chunk of the new notes.

Sandra Emelu, 34, who appeared frustrated and unkempt told our correspondent who visited the one of the banks at Wuse II, in Abuja, that current realities in Nigeria suggested how the federal government is unaware or is unconcerned about the wave of hardship currently proliferating the country.

The mother of two explained that she was stranded with her children, having no hope of returning home for the night as she could not access either the new notes or the old notes.

She said: “I feel very bad. The government might have a good intention about this but currently people are really suffering from this policy they brought. Since the day before yesterday we have been queuing like you will come as early as six, five people are already waiting at the ATM stand for cash. Now, I don’t understand what they really want the people to do.

“They want to switch it to a cashless economy. Imagine you want to get something in the markets. Let’s say you want to get tomatoes, and pepper from market women. Are you going to make a transfer? There is no POS. The network is really too bad. You transfer and the money will get hooked. You can’t withdraw as many people are standing to also get money.

“You keep asking people for 500 naira, 200 naira for transport back home. I am not sure if the government is ever bothered about our condition. It is terrible.”

For an Abuja-based fashion designer, Kamal Hassan, the scarcity of the new naira notes destroyed his plans of celebrating his birthday, adding: “Even at the ATM you will see queues everywhere, people are suffering. The transportation cost is now on the high side. Nigerians now use money to buy money. Please the government should listen to us and make life easy for us.”

A banker who spoke to our correspondent but demanded anonymity, said banks have been deliberately hoarding the new notes for reasons he is yet to understand.

He said even as a banker with one of the conventional banks, he has been unable to get cash, calling on the government to begin investigation of banks.

“When I came in the morning, I noticed that people were here but there was no ATM dispensing anything. So, I went back, I came back again and still nothing I had to go inside and talk to them. They said I should wait. I waited for some time and went back inside. This time around I had to protest then later began to load the money for people to withdraw. Already by that time the crowd was too much. But what surprises me is how they keep the money intentionally without loading it into the ATM”, he said.

On her part, a civil servant, Abubakar Hasiya, said that the situation in Abuja is embarrassing for a capital territory of the nation, calling on the government to step into the issue before it escalates.

“I have been looking for money since last Monday and it has not been easy. Nigerians are suffering. I was here around 7am. I was here in this bank, and two people were in front of me, getting to me, the money was finished. Worst is that these banks don’t follow the directives of the CBN. They refused to give Nigerians 20, 000 over the counter. It is very sad. People are suffering and Nigeria should help us. We need to go to the market, our children need to eat and to sort out other problems”, she said.

PCC launches investigation

Responding to the current development, the commissioner of Public Complaint Commission, Mr. Abimbola Ayo-Yusuf, while speaking to our correspondent said that the commission had inaugurated a committee to investigate the poor circulation of the new naira note across Nigeria.

He said: “Following the recent outcry of Nigerians concerning the difficulties they are facing as a result of the implementation of the CBN policy, the Public Complaints Commission had launched a fact finding mission across the country to discover the reasons for the untold hardship faced by millions of Nigerians.

“Yesterday, here in the Commission’s Headquarters, we directed the investigation Departments to embark on a two days” inquiry into the persisting problem. I have also directed all my Commissioners in all the 36 States and the FCT Offices to do the same in their domains.”

CSOs react

Civil Society Organisations, involving the Coalition of Southern Groups, CSG; Yoruba Council World Wide and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a co-signed statement, expressed their displeasure over the recent happenings in the country, alleging that there were signs in the air that the hardship that occasioned the election month, indicates an attempt to install an interim government.

“We are equally suspicions of a grand plot to scuttle the 2023 polls, having keenly observed the preceding scenarios in the polity all pointing towards a pariah state of disrepair, regrettably we are at a boiling point of no return considering the high level complicity and conspiracy whereby silence has become unpopular and no longer an option to embrace.

“We are suspicious of the varying undercurrent factors that have extremely predicated on maladministration at various critical sectors of the economy, leaving the citizens very helpless and neglected. Another hard proof of potential threat to a peaceful transition through an acceptable electoral process, is fuel scarcity grounding all potential economic activities and frustrating the population few days to the election, most importantly the presidential election slated for 25th February, 2023.

“Already, many Nigerian families and businesses are groaning in abrupt fears and at the verge of collapse over the premeditated scarcity of fuel and the hike in the pump price ranging from N270 to N400/N600(Black Market) per litre in recent weeks, a move seen by many as the handiwork of high profile saboteurs and political proxies hell-bent on throwing a wedge in the nation’s democratic process, by derailing the coming elections and nosediving the ship of the nation into an imminent wreckage. At the same time, embarking on Naira Exchange and making the new currency to be conspicuously scarce by the CBN is another latent ground for suspicion.

“In consonant with the CNG, the CSG blamed the Federal Government of Nigeria for the ill-timing for the implementation of such a defective and uncoordinated policy in a country, certainly calculated to bring about general confusion that would threaten the 2023 polls”, they added.