By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
SIX days to the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls, candidates and political parties are devising ways to mitigate the effects of the raging Naira scarcity on their electoral quests.
Currently, there is tension in the polity on account of the scarcity of the new N200, N500 and 1000 notes, which has been worsened by fuel scarcity.
Since the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, introduced the redesigned Naira and cash limit policy of N500,000 and N5,000,000 a week for individuals and corporate organisations, respectively, many politicians have been kept on their toes.
A host of politicians mainly of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have been kicking against the policy with some claiming that the APC Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is the prime target of the policy.
Apart from checking vote buying, the Federal Government said the policy is meant to fight inflation and insecurity, especially kidnapping for ransom.
The deadline for the use of the old notes was initially fixed 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 to April 10, declaring that the old N500 and N1000 notes ceased to be legal tender on February 10, as affirmed by the CBN.
The president’s declaration is not in tandem with an interim order of the Supreme Court, which restrained the Federal Government from implementing the February 10 deadline for use of the old notes based on the suit filed by the governments of Kogi, Zamfara and Kaduna states. The apex court fixed hearing of the suit for February 22.
The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ado Doguwa, on Thursday, lamented that the Naira scarcity was hurting him and other Politicians.
Specifically, Doguwa, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the APC, said he needs N70m “in hard copy” for this election and it is not available due to the Naira crunch.
Doguwa lamented that the naira scarcity caused by the new policy would affect the electioneering expenses of politicians.
The lawmaker, who expressed his reservation over 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 don’t have it.”
Doguwa noted that all politicians, irrespective of political affiliations, would be affected by the new policy.
“The policy in itself is against the ruling party because Nigerians that are not happy will look at it as a policy of the government of the APC.
“30-40 days to elections you come out with a policy that is not widely accepted by Nigerians, whether we like it or not that will be seen as the programme of the government. So those of us in the APC are not happy about it,” he said.
Plots to beat Naira scarcity
Despite the complaints of politicians, Sunday Vanguard gathered that a host of them were “forward looking” and had mapped out measures to navigate the Naira crunch.
Their moves, the CBN lamented, last week, is partly responsible for Naira scarcity because they are “mopping up” the few redesigned Naira released into circulation by the apex bank.
The Naira mop up is to deepen the measures they are taking to win the election that has become tougher because of the introduction of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS, by the INEC to check multiple voting as well as ensure that the real owner of a Permanent Voters Card, PVC, votes.
Before now, some politicians had embarked on expanded stomach infrastructure through the appointment of more aides; ensuring that their faithful got PVCs; and denying perceived supporters of opponents their PVCs.
On Election Day, Sunday Vanguard gathered that part of the measures will be to suppress votes and buy votes in opponents’ strongholds.
Asked the possibility of “compensating” their supporters on Election Day, one grassroots politician said: “we are politicians, we know the game and how to play it.”
With rising poverty in the land, some politicians have embarked on fresh welfare packages to win the support of would-be voters.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that many politicians are toeing the line of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, on a higher scale.
Wike, recently, appointed over 200,000 special political appointees and placed them on a monthly allowance of N30,000 to N50,000.
A top leader of one of the political parties told Sunday Vanguard: “Wike appointed 200,000 aides. We are doing a similar thing on a larger scale. We mobilised over one million people for the voter registration and ensured they got their PVCs. The 2023 elections will be different from past elections because of the BVAS and redesigning of the naira. In the past, an officer in charge of some polling units in a Ward may be given N500,000 or one million nairas. From the money, he will take care of agents of the other parties, security agents and INEC officials 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 one million in some LGAs. We have started giving them allowances of N10,000 every month and it will continue till the end of the election. We transfer the money into their bank accounts.”
‘Naira scarcity will affect vote sellers more’
Agreeing that the Naira redesign policy has affected politicians, another politician said voters would be affected the more.
“In the past, depending on location, politicians buy votes with N5000, N10,000 or even N20,000, if there was stiff opposition. Now things have changed. With the scarcity of Naira and worsening poverty, votes may be bought with N1000. You have seen what people are passing through to survive and how difficult it is to get cash. Some of them may even sell their votes for N200,” he said.