As the fuel and currency scarcity slowly paralysed socio-economic activities across the country, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has come under pressure to find a solution to the crises which have subjected Nigerians to untold hardship.
Nigerians, including senators, governors and youths on social media, are insisting that the President must immediately resolve the new naira note crisis, which sparked violent riots in Edo and Oyo states last week.
The All Progressives Congress governors had on Friday met the President with a view to persuading him to end the new naira notes crisis.
On Sunday, Kunle Somorin the Chief Press Secretary to the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said his boss and other APC governors were in serious talks with the Presidency and the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, over the new naira notes scarcity.
According to him, Abiodun is fully in support of other governors on the issue of the new notes.
Somorin said, “He (Abiodun) said he has taken it up with his colleagues at the highest level. They are discussing with the CBN governor and the Presidency with a view to having a lasting solution and in the next few days if not hours, relief will come our people’s way. He was with other APC governors in Abuja. He is with them on the issue.”
Speaking further, he said, “That is why the governor has suspended his campaign because it does not make sense for him to be dancing while people are complaining about lack of fuel and inadequate access to exchange the old notes.”
Also, with few days left out of the seven-day period requested by Buhari to solve the new naira crisis, Nigerians on social media urged him to come up with a solution before the expiration of the period.
Buhari had on Friday appealed to Nigerians for a seven-day period to solve the crisis brought about by the naira swap policy.
A poll conducted by The PUNCH indicated that 68.3 per cent of Twitter users demanded an immediate solution to the crisis before seven days while 31.7 per cent backed the full seven-day period.
One Twitter user, @tulugolota, said even if Buhari was “given 10 years, he will still fail to do anything just as he has been failing since.”
On Instagram, @validator444, said “Seven days for what? After the pain and suffering, he has caused Nigerians?”
On his part, @officialmeri_madeinheaven said seven days “makes absolutely no sense with all that is happening in Nigeria at this time.”
Waiting seven days is a “sign of ineptitude and uncaring leadership,” said @adeyemi78ngus.@
In a tweet, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, described the current crisis as criminal and urged Nigerians to resist it.
“The criminal currency crisis was engineered by @mbuhari and @Emefiele to attack the existence of Nigerians. It must be resisted by all! #Revolutionnow #Wecantcontinuelikethis,” he wrote.
On his part, the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, ordered the opening of branches of the state-owned microfinance bank in the 17 local government areas of the state to enable the citizens to have access to financial services.
He posted on Facebook, “As a government, it is our responsibility to look into all possible solutions to help our citizens access financial services. To achieve this, I have directed that the state-owned Yobe Microfinance Bank opens branches in each of the state’s 17 local governments.”
When asked if Buhari should intervene in the fuel crisis, 81 per cent of respondents on Twitter voted Yes while 19 per cent voted No.
One Twitter user, @Bq_rhymez, asked, “Isn’t it the petroleum minister’s duty to ensure that Nigerians don’t suffer fuel scarcity? Now we have to take a survey for people to know what their duties are. what a shame.”
Oke Umurhowo who identifies himself as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party also tweeted, “Buhari, Focus on using the last few months of your administration to resolve the lingering fuel issue, naira scarcity, hardships and insecurity.“
Also on Twitter, a Nigerian, Utitofon Jeremiah said, “Muhammadu Buhari, pls stop these fuel queues and high cost, with the scarcity of money due to Emefiele’s mismanagement of the Naira redesign. Citizens are starving sir.
No money, no fuel. Just imagine the hardship.
Things going bad.”
‘Yobe problems serious
On his part, Mamman Mohammed, the spokesman for the Yobe State governor, told The PUNCH on the phone that continued usage of old naira notes beyond the February 10 was not an issue in the state.
He stated, “The persistence of the problems associated with new banknotes; whether the February 10 deadline is realistic or not; and whether the governor stands by the position of his colleagues, do not constitute our problems here.
“Our problem as a state ravaged by insurgency is wider and more serious than all these. We are in a peculiar situation and, therefore, have a peculiar problem.
“We have an acute shortage of banks across the state where proper banking services that can ensure a smooth bank-customer relationship can be guaranteed.
“You need to have enough banks where services can be provided before you begin to talk of continuation of the usage of old notes or any problems associated with the new notes.”
The Special Adviser to Gombe State Governor, Ahmed Shuaibu-Gara Gombe, told one of our correspondents that the challenges brought by the new notes had not ended in the state.
He said, “The few ATMs dispensing the few new naira notes are jam-packed by the middle class. The lower class is suffering innocently.”
Also, some National Assembly members, who spoke to The PUNCH, urged the President to intervene, adding that the fuel and new naira notes crises were affecting turnout at campaign rallies.
The senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District, Nicholas Tofowomo asked Buhari to sack the CBN governor and prosecute him for disobeying the resolution of the senate directing the extension of the deadline for the old N1,00, N500 and N200 notes to May.
Tofowomo, in a statement on Sunday by his media aide, Mr Olumide Akinrinlola, said Emefiele’s alleged disobedience to the senate resolution had caused hardship and resulted in protests over the scarcity of the new naira notes in parts of the country.
He said, “By now, the CBN governor should be in prison for disobeying the senate and dishonouring its resolution and causing naira scarcity.
‘’Imagine the scarcity of petrol and the rising inflation in the country, we still find it very difficult to have access to cash because Emefiele is lawless and very stubborn.
“As a sitting senator, I was in the bank on Friday to apply for a little cash, but I didn’t get anything. My cheque was returned to me because the bank didn’t have enough new naira notes to pay customers.
‘’They told me they had paid out what they had for that day even though many customers were still inside the banking hall stranded and shouting.
“In my senatorial district, there are many unbanked residents. More than 300 communities do not have access to commercial banks. For the few with bank accounts, they will need to travel far to locate a bank.
‘’Thousands of residents are suffering now because they don’t have access to cash to feed their families and transact business. They submitted their old notes in line with the CBN directives by all means, but now, the CBN has failed to fulfil its part by providing new notes for them.’’
The Chairman Senate committee on Media and Public Affairs and the Senate spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, explained that the CBN policy was beginning to affect the turnout at campaign rallies.
“We transfer money electronically to our suppliers but the feedback we get from our constituents is that the public is not happy about the way the policy is being implemented.
“The masses are constrained; some cannot even attend our rallies because they are either in bank or ATM queues,’’ he noted.
He insisted that the President must intervene and let the CBN do the right thing.
He said, “This is not the first time in the world that a currency is being changed. It has been done in a way that didn’t inflict hardship on people. But the way the CBN is handling the redesign is inflicting hardship on the people unnecessarily.“
The senator noted that from his observation, he was not sure that the CBN had put out enough money even for the minimum threshold that it set.
He said, “The new policy states that a person is entitled to a cash withdrawal of N500,000 a week. I am not sure even the banks get up to N1m to serve the entire community.
“This is a failure on the part of the CBN and the President needs to immediately attend to the issue. He doesn’t have to wait for the seven days he spoke about. If he delays further, the issue may escalate into further consequences across the country.”
Also, the senator representing Osun East, Francis Fadahunsi complained that the lack of cash had been tough and had somewhat slowed things down.
He said, “It’s a bit hard to get money for our logistics, but we are surviving. It’s something we have to pass through. We have been devising means by paying for our purchases through electronic means.’’
He also mentioned the low turnout of people at the campaign rallies because they had to queue for money.
He said, “The people haven’t been forthcoming at rallies because they have to go and look for money. People need money to survive. It is hard for now but with time it will get easy. People should just endure for a while; it’s for our utmost good. It will become better. “
A member of the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, (APC/Adamawa), stated, “The policy is affecting everybody, it is not only the politicians. It is not even affecting just a party but everybody.
‘’Whoever is thinking that they are going to benefit from this, at the end of the day, they would realise that this policy is likely to affect every one of us. There is no market that says if you are APC, you can queue here and buy without cash. All of us require cash.”
Another member of the House, Babatunde Hunpe (APC/Lagos), also lamented the cash scarcity, which he said made it difficult for him to mobilise farmers and fishermen who constitute the majority of his constituents.
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria, Kaduna State chapter, has demanded the probe of banks hoarding the new naira notes just to inflict pain on Nigerians.
The CAN Chairman, Rev. John Hayab in a statement in Kaduna on Sunday, called on the CBN ‘’to do everything possible within its power to ensure that the new notes circulate to end the stress being faced by the Nigerian masses in accessing the new notes.’’
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the federal parliament would have no option but to reconvene before the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25 if the CBN to address the hardships Nigerians face due to its currency swap policy.
Gbajabiamila noted that the House would continue to closely monitor the CBN’s implementation of the policy, following the Green Chamber’s meeting with Emefiele on the issue.
A statement issued on Sunday by the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, quoted Gbajabiamila to have made this known at a town hall meeting with some ethnic groups in Surulere, Lagos.
‘Policy affects citizens’
The Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, said the policy was hard on citizens, adding that it was the government’s job to serve citizens, and not make life difficult.
On his part, the Executive Director of the United Global Resolve for Peace, Olaseni Shalom, said “It is a pity that we have spineless political leadership in the country. When you feel the heartbeat and the pulse of your citizens as regards a policy, to make a U-turn in policy implementation is not a weakness at all.’’
A group under the aegis of North-West Tinubu/ Shettima Campaign Support Group said the Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai was right in his claims that some elements in the Presidency were behind the crisis in the country aimed at thwarting the chances of the APC Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the February 25 poll.
Briefing journalists in Kano on Sunday, the Director of the group, Bappa Babba-Danagundi, said, “The change of the currency has put people in hardships. What sort of country is this?’’
Regardless of the reason for the policy, Danagundi admonished the authorities to make the new naira notes available, especially for salary earners and owners of small businesses to ease their pain.
This is as an unknown group, Sunday, shared fliers of a planned ‘Buhari Must Go’ protests on the popular microblogging platform, Twitter.
It called for protests across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory on Monday (today).
“Protests in all major cities on Monday, February 6, 2023. No fuel, No naira APC administration,” it stated.
But despite the challenges occasioned by the naira redesign, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi has urged Nigerians to bear the pain and inconvenience.
He said the policy would bring significant long-term economic and social benefits if sustained.
Obi in a statement on his verified social media handles said: “The currency redesign is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is an exercise that comes with some inconvenience and pain, but it has significant long-term economic and social benefits.
Meanwhile, the South-West zone of the National Association of Nigerian Students has said it would sustain protests till the government acted on the fuel and naira notes scarcity.
Speaking with our correspondent, the Coordinator of NANS, South-West, Olatunji Adegboye said, “We will soon make our plans known but we are planning protests across our zones. It’s not going to be a one-day protest. We are going to sustain it till the fuel scarcity ends and naira is made available.”
“President Buhari, seven days is too much for a decision to be taken on a crisis that is already threatening our national security and economy. The more time you take, the more saboteurs have a hold on turning it into a bigger crisis. Consult properly and make a decision now.
As both the new and the old naira notes remained scarce around the country, Point of Sale operators have developed new strategies to access naira notes.
The PUNCH learnt that the agents had been getting cash from filling stations, supermarkets and hotels.
Andrew, who operates in the Lugbe area of the FCT, claimed he paid N2,000 commission to get N20,000 from a filling station in the Central Business District.
Another operator, Chika, stated, “As of today, I don’t give customers more than N1,500. That is the maximum amount. I suffered to get this money and it is not easy. I got it from a filling station. The fuel attendants are extorting us.
“This has also affected my charges. I now charge N150 for every N1,500 withdrawn. Customers have to understand because it is not easy at all.”
Speaking with The PUNCH on Sunday in Laos, Oluwaseyi Efuwape, a POS operator, told our correspondent that he had resorted to buying cash from restaurants, sellers, and hotels as well as filling stations to continue to stay in the business.
According to him, the cash available at the commercial banks was not enough to carry out his daily transactions.
He said, “I buy cash from food sellers, meat sellers as well as from fuel attendants. Sometimes, I visit hotels to get some cash too. I buy it from whoever has enough cash.”
He told The PUNCH that there was no fixed charge on the notes in the black market, noting that the rate depend on the seller of the currency and that the price could go as high N20, 000 per N100,000.
He said, “For instance, on N50,000, I could pay N5000. And sometimes other people could charge N20,000 on N100,000.
“If you are lucky enough, some of these places may collect very small charges from you but others will place exorbitant prices on each transaction.”
A similar occurrence was recounted by Bisi Adeyi, a POS operator in Berger, according to her, she travelled as far as the island to buy her the naira.
She said supplied other operators who need the cash for their daily transactions.
Adeyi further disclosed that she visit marketplaces to enquire who had enough cash from market women and filling stations.
She said, “I have bought as much as N100,000 with a charge of N10,000 from a market woman who wanted to sell.”
When our correspondent visited God’s Decision fuel station located at Ikotun area of Lagos state on Saturday, it was observed that the fuel attendant directed customers to a PoS operator for the collection of money.
It was also observed that the fuel stations added extra charges added to the actual amount a customer is supposed to pay.
“Please sir, you have to add an extra N100 for the PoS charges if you want to pay through that means unless you want to give us cash.”
When our correspondent queried what the money was for he said, “The extra charge is for the withdrawal of the money paid into the PoS. If you pay with cash there is no extra charge.”
Our correspondent also observed that the use of the PoS caused a very long queue chaos at the fuel station as customers will have to wait for confirmation of alert from the PoS operator before the product can be sold.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria has reportedly uncovered N6m new naira notes in a bank along Bank Road, Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.
This was revealed in a video which is trending online and sighted by correspondent
In the video, a CBN Deputy Director, Oluwole Owoeye, uncovered the newly redesigned currencies in N200 denomination in the bank while leading a team of officials of the apex bank on monitoring exercise in the state.
Owoeye said the bank had no excuse to keep the new banknotes it had collected from the CBN for almost two weeks.
He said, “They have six million naira which they have collected from the bank (CBN)for almost two weeks. They have not dispensed any. They said they are yet to configure their ATM.
“I don’t know why. I have brought their attention to the penalty clause of one million per day. They have five ATMs. They don’t have any reason for keeping this money”.
According to him, the zonal service manager of the bank said that the money would be loaded to ATM “by 10am latest tomorrow, because I told him by latest 10:00am I’ll be here and I want to see the machine dispensing this money”.
But an official of the bank, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the incident happened when the redesigned notes newly got into circulation weeks ago.
He said, “The bank’s ATMs have been dispensing new notes since. The bank did not hoard the money, The incident happened some weeks ago when the redesigned notes newly got to circulation. That was before the bank reconfigured its ATMs.”
In a related development, as the fuel scarcity bites harder, operators in the oil and gas sector have called on the President to resolve the challenge by directing the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to increase the volume of petrol being released to marketers.
The President of the Petroleum Retail Outlet Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said, “The challenge we are facing in the downstream oil sector centres around the limited supply of petroleum products. The government should make this product available by trying to eradicate these supply challenges in order to ameliorate the plights of the masses. For how long are we going to continue like this?”
Also speaking, the National President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Debo Ahmed, said PMS supply by NNPC was not enough, as he urged the government to increase its output.