Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, again on Thursday, took a swipe at the people he called elements in the Presidency, whom he said were bent on inciting voters against the All Progressives Congress.
The governor, who said this on a TV Continental programme, Journalists’ Hangout, said the time frame for the cashless policy was inflicting needless pain on Nigerians.
El-Rufai said this just as the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at the party’s campaign rally in Osogbo, urged the electorate to troop out to vote ‘’even if they devalued the naira drastically.’’
He said, “Nothing they will say.., even if they devalue naira, where we will vote is not far from our house. We will trek down there. We will trek down to the polling booths. Where they put ballot boxes, we will get there. It is not always easy to take a palm kernel from its shell.”
El-Rufai’s assertion is coming 24 hours after he stated on Channels Television’s Sunrise programme that people whose preferred candidate lost the APC presidential ticket to the former Lagos state governor last year were working against the APC standard bearer.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, had stated that the government was not “officially aware” of any entity in the Presidential Villa working against the victory of the APC standard bearer.
But the Kaduna State governor appeared to be echoing Tinubu who cited the naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the lingering fuel crisis as part of plots to thwart the poll and his expected victory.
On Thursday, El-Rufai vowed that those opposed to the APC presidential candidate would be defeated and also unmasked in time.
Responding to a question, he said, “Unmasking them is not as joyful as defeating them. They will be unmasked in time. But we have defeated them when they wanted their own people in the national working committee of the party.
“We have defeated them when they wanted their own anointed person to be the presidential candidate without due regard, due process or respect for those of us that are governors, that have slaved to put this party together, campaigned for it and delivered the election twice. We didn’t matter.’’
“Meanwhile, none of them has contested an election as a councillor, and if they did, they won’t win. I have been elected twice with over a million votes in Kaduna State. I can claim to speak for the people.
‘’None of these people can. We will come to the unmasking stage, this is not the stage. The stage now is to draw the attention of Nigerians that they are elements that are doing this and they don’t mean well for our party, they want to incite voters against our party, so that we lose the elections.’’
The former FCT minister explained that the APC was working hard to win the election, adding that the party would expose those behind the plot against Tinubu.
According to him, the cabal misled the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) into taking a decision that would turn Nigerians against the ruling party.
“We are going to work hard until (February) 27th when all the election results are out and by the grace of God, Asiwaju (Tinubu) is elected and other candidates of the APC; then we will unmask them.
Dummies to President
“This has been an ongoing issue and we just feel that some of these things that are being thought of and clothed with good intentions, and dummies being sold to the President so that the electorate will be incited; the people of Nigeria will be inflicted needless pain at the point in addition to all the other challenges that they are facing just so that they will revolt and say, look, we will vote for the other party. It is clear.’’
The governor submitted that his party was not against the cashless policy, but argued for extension of time to enable the citizens to lodge their money in the banks.
He stated, “I have a map of Nigeria with blind spots where there is no network; PoS won’t work there. It is not everywhere that you have bank branches. It is not everywhere you have PoS working. So, let’s sit and look at this thing and find out the reasonable time it takes to do this.
“Even the Central Bank Act that gives the President the power to issue to the Central Bank directives with regard to currency redesign says that reasonable time must be given before the currency ceases to be legal tender.’’
Faulting the timeline given by the CBN for the currency swap, El-Rufai said, “The question is: Is a few weeks a reasonable time in a country of one million square kilometres and over 200m people? How many bank branches are in Nigeria? How many ATMs?
“In Borno State, there are only two local governments out of 27 with a bank branch. In Yobe, only two local governments out of 17 have a bank branch.
“Even a cosmopolitan state relatively in the north like Kaduna has two local governments that have no bank branches and 10 with only one bank branch. So, everyone in that local government must come to that one bank branch? And this PoS that you are seeing in every street of Lagos; do you think you have PoS in every street of Kubau, Ikara and Makarfi which are local government headquarters in my state?’’
The governor accused the Peoples Democratic Party standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, who previously called for extension of the CBN deadline, of attempting to gain sympathy votes.
“But this week, because of a mere extension of 10 days, he’s turning round to say don’t extend; it means there is something. He’s clearly benefiting from this pain Nigerians are going through every day till today.
“I have reports that people in Kaduna cannot buy food and they cannot sell because there are no currency notes around. But the presidential candidate of the PDP is saying don’t extend because he’s gaining from it. The incitement of people against the APC is in his view to his advantage and this incitement is stronger in northern Nigeria where Atiku is to benefit from,’’ he submitted.
El-Rufai further observed that the presidential candidates of the other parties, except the New Nigeria Peoples Party, could leverage on their close relationship and ownership of banks to get cash from the financial institutions.
Meanwhile, the scarcity of old and new naira notes on Thursday forced the federal workers to abandon their offices to jostle for cash at the Automated Machine Teller stands in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Our correspondents observed that several ministries, departments and agencies at the Federal Secretariat, Three Arms Zone, were deserted as the cash-strapped workers left their desks to queue at the ATM galleries and banking halls.
Findings by The PUNCH revealed that the cash scarcity had led to a decline in office attendance by civil servants.
Our correspondent who visited the Office of the Head of Service on Thursday observed that many offices were locked as of 2:45pm on Thursday.
Only a few workers were found at several other offices.
An official with the ministry of science and technology confirmed that several of his colleagues have not been coming to work due to non-availability of cash.
“As I am talking to you, I have only N500 on me which means if I can’t get cash today, I might not come to work tomorrow (today). Offices are scanty because of the non-availability of cash,” the worker, who gave his name as Chigozie, said.
A public servant who didn’t want his name in print said most workers were at the ATM queues for cash.
He said, “If you go around, it is easy to see that people are not coming to work. Even those who came to work are at the ATM queues and not in their office.”
Another worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said it is difficult to be present every day at work with the current situation, adding that some offices have adopted work roasters.
“Do you know how much PoS operators are collecting as charges? For someone earning N70,000, Will you be able to come to work every day? It is just common sense. We have our internal arrangement here so that everyone working here would not have to come every day,’’ he said
Our correspondent observed large crowds at several ATM points domiciled at the ministries.
This is despite the announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria on Thursday for banks to start paying cash over the counter.
The workers said that many of their colleagues have been absent at work since the new naira notes scarcity began.
Those affected, it was gathered, were mostly junior workers on Level 9 downwards.
A clerk said, “I trekked miles today before I was able to withdraw only N1000 note. After I got to the office and I went to the ATM to withdraw money for my transportation back home, I was unable to get cash despite queuing for over five hours.”
An Aviation ministry staff member disclosed that he may not come to the office next week if the situation did not improve.
Senators who spoke to The PUNCH insisted on the extension of the February 10 deadline for the old notes, stating that the policy was causing much pains and hardships for Nigerians.
The lawmaker representing Kogi West, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC) said it was unfair that the policy was causing hardship to citizens, particularly those in the rural communities.
He said, “(CBN Governor) Emefiele should not allow himself to be used; he shouldn’t be like the person who allowed them to break a coconut on his head. It is only if the person is alive that he or she would be part of those that would eat the coconut.
“There is no doubt that there is a sabotage of whatever good Buhari has behind the whole change of currency. I hold the strong view that whatever good intention has been destroyed. As I speak to you, you cannot get N10, 000 out of any bank in Nigeria. Emefiele, are you really a man of conscience?”
Senator Adeyemi added that whatever good intentions of the CBN must not be at the expense of the majority who are poor.
“We are feeling the pinch much more, we can’t sleep, and our people are on our neck,’’ he lamented.
He added, “The Senate is still on the resolutions we have passed, and it is not too late for the senate to call for an emergency meeting where we will pass a vote of no confidence and ask for his removal.
“He shouldn’t carry his luck too far, the economy has collapsed under his watch, and the naira has collapsed right under his very nose.”
Corroborating his colleague, Senator Francis Fadahunsi (PDP Osun East) also noted that it was difficult to get money, and the people were lamenting.
He said, “It’s very difficult to get money; our people are complaining and languishing and the way things are going the senate isn’t changing its resolution on the deadline extension.
“We are still watching; after all, today is still day two out of the 10 but it is certain that we cannot continue to watch our people suffer this much.”
Senators fault CBN
Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, (PDP, Kebbi North), noted that banking had been a major issue for his constituency even before the scarcity of funds, adding that the new policy, although good, has made life more difficult for the people.
He said, “The scarcity of funds is the same everywhere. In my constituency, we had about six banks but four of them have packed up. And the banks are small, in normal seasons, we could hardly get like N20,000 now that there is cash scarcity.
“The issue is that the new notes are not available and even when they collect the old ones, they put it in your account. Today, for instance, I wanted to give someone N50,000 and take another N20,000 to travel home; I couldn’t get more than N20, 000.”
Some members of the House of Representatives equally bemoaned the adverse impact of the CBN policy which they said had affected their re-election campaigns.
A member from Lagos State, Babatunde Hunpe, decried that people have bombarded him with their account details ‘’as it was now difficult to get the new notes to spend, especially for fishermen and farmers who dominate my constituency.’’
When asked if it had affected his electioneering, he said, “Exactly but what do we do? There is nothing we can do. I now do more online transactions. But is it a fisherman that I want to send money to online or a farmer who is not online?”
“What is happening all over (the country) is the same thing that is happening in Badagry (Federal Constituency); there are no new notes. The new notes are not there across the banks.’’
Speaking on the 10-day extension of the old notes’ validity, Hunpe stated, “I don’t think it is enough. What pains me in this matter is that the new notes they are talking about, you don’t see them. To use the old notes, people are rejecting them.”
A lawmaker from Benue State, John Dyegh, said, “There are a lot of people crying. I am also crying myself. I am on the field campaigning and to get cash is a challenge. So, it is not just my people, you will first get a reaction from me. Right now, I am going from one council and ward to another and I need cash to run the campaign but it is a challenge; a serious challenge, not a small one.”
In the same vein, Abdulrazak Namdas from Adamawa State, noted that it was a case of a good policy badly implemented and introduced at a wrong time.
Namdas added, “The truth is that the policy, in principle, is a good policy but the way it was carried out is very wrong. You know that we are facing the elections and don’t forget that we already had security challenges on ground even before the elections.
‘’Now, the issue of lack of physical cash for people to address their domestic affairs is getting out of hand. Now, people are very angry. For people to even buy small things, you cannot transfer (money online) to a woman that is selling vegetables; she needs physical cash. So, people like her are not every comfortable.’’
Speaking in the same vein, the Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello pointed out that the CBN policy has inflicted untold hardship on the people.
Bello made this known in a statement issued by the secretary of the state government, Ibrahim Matane, in Minna, on Thursday.
He stated that the shortage of cash has resulted in the closure of businesses in the state, especially in the rural areas.
“Due to the shortage of cash in circulation and lack of the newly redesigned notes, this resulted in the closure of rural markets and several shops in the urban cities, thereby causing hardship,” Bello noted.
Meanwhile, Point of Sale Super Agents in Ilorin, Kwara State have complained about the shortage of new naira notes as a result of massive demands by the people.
But addressing the scarcity while monitoring the cash swap exercise in Ilorin, Kwara state capital on Wednesday and Thursday, the CBN Director of Consumer Protection, Mrs Rashidat Mangunu, advised Nigerians to exchange their old naira notes with PoS agents and open Savings accounts.
However, the Kwara State branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress expressed concern over the scarcity of the new naira notes.
The Chairman, State Council of NLC, Issa Ore, who said this in a statement, warned that the unavailability of the currency posed a threat to the standard of living of the people and the nation’s economy.