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INEC, bank officers must not be allowed to sabotage Nigeria’s elections, naira redesigning



IMMEDIATELY after the video of a woman engaged in a scheme of charging N1000 on intending Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) collectors had gone viral on social media on Monday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in her denouement, indicated a possibility of investigation. Chief Press Secretary to Chairman of INEC, Rotimi Oyekanmi,dropped the hint while fielding questions from newsmen.

Although the commission may be commended for solving initial puzzle surrounding her identity, not a few Nigerians see it as cosmetics or sufficient explanation. Some even deemed it jumping the gun.

  PERHAPS, those in later category may not be entirely wrong because in order to show that its integrity is intact, INEC had consistently exonerated its staff whenever allegations of tampering with electoral materials trumps up. Yet; reports of incidents whittling this claim of innocence have become regular staples in the media.

HENCE, from labouring to explain that a man displaying PVCs for sale in Sokoto was not in its employment to a video showing prospective voters scrambling to collect PVCs under stressful condition at INEC office in Abia State, as well as voters hiring canopies and chairs in a sort of sit-in that jolted aloof INEC officials to perform their duty at a PVC collection centre in theIsolo area of Lagos, the electoral body after their initial intransigence, only succeeded in making many Nigerians believe that it  is playing the ostrich.

BUT whatever may be anyone’s take on these sable underbellies that indeed call INEC’s integrity to serious question the uncanny ability of many Nigerian professionals to use even the least opportunity to exploit fellow citizens. This brings to mind similar bazaar going on at the banks in their implementation ofthe federal government’s naira redesigning policy.

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NOT a few are miffed that while Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) insists that it has released redesigned naira notes to banks, as much as would sufficiently meet popular demand, banks sing different tune. Reports abound nationwide of how bank officials hoard available new notes in their tills in order to sell them to desperate customers. The fact that this currency trafficking goes on in camera amid chaos at bank premises seem to shield the unscrupulous officials though nobody with conscience denies the   extortion spree. The trend beckons a serious danger waiting to explode as prospective voters and bank customers await the new February 5 and 10 deadlines, respectively.

  NOBODY needs to search far to identify the danger lurking  in these developments because unless there’s a rethink, unforeseen socio-economic dynamics may detonate nightfall at midday by the time citizens are pitched against citizens by the obnoxiousmercantile acts of  INEC and bank officials placing selfish gain above national interest at every opportunity. Should the other Nigerians whom they extort kick, the land could boil. Of course, a grave consequence of this unscrupulous tendency is as good as anyone’s guess should people take to the streets to express emotions.

SADLY, this is how wicked citizens kill what bodes good for all. Despite these blusters, there’s no doubt that government means well in the  two programs. For instance, apart from its potential for deepening Nigeria’s root in cashless economy and mopping up excess liquidity in the financial system and ipso facto bringing down inflation, naira redesigning will haul back into bank vaults, the  over 70 per cent of the country’s cash in circulation which CBN recently said were outside the financial system, trapped by moneybags. Hence, it is a new notch in the anti-corruption crusade. There are reports that the country’s inflation rate has reduced by one per cent since CBN commenced distribution of redesigned naira.This is good news. It bolsters hopes that the policy will succeed like a similar exercise did in India in 1980s. This is why Nigerians from all sectors should close ranks and lend support.

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BUT like INEC has been urged across board, CBN should gird its loins to ensure that the visible shortfall in logistics does not abbreviate government’s good intentions. This is why every loophole that may undercut the policy should be adequately addressed. Also, crucial to address now are such problems as telecommunications’ network deficits that delay  – in some cases, even defeating  e-transactions at Points of Sale (POS) in market centres, hospitals, schools and other offices, as well as rise in activities of scammers that erode people’s confidence in the programs. One way to do so is by making sure that on the  new deadline, the redesigned notes are made available to banks to meet their current exponential demand while halting conspiracy theories and counterfeiting by sundry conmen exploiting the  present scarcity to fleece unsuspecting members of the public. It is heartwarming that the apex bank is carrying out ‘open market operation’ of sorts in some remote areas of the country where banks exist far apart from each other. But this strategy should be extended to underserved locations in the South,such as in Anambra State, where there are less than three banks across entire Anambra East and Awka North  Local Government Areas for instance and totally unavailable in swathes of  communities, though nobody should be surprised about this pattern of geographical spread of banks given the fact that banks as businessentreprises don’t operate as charitable organisationsas they site their branches in areas where there are many bank customers. What this implies is that there should be a campaign to get many in rural areas to operate bank accounts while banks should be persuaded to open rural offices.

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  THEREFORE, we call on government to wield the big stick and whip subversive tendencies into line, to get the policy to deliver on its mandate. It’s good that security agencies are already tracking syndicates in or outside banks, hoarding redesigned naira notes. But this is not enough.

  NATIONAL Light calls on government to remove kid gloves by sparing nothing in reining in incorrigible officials in INEC and banks to make them play by the rules. A sure way to this is by designating their activities as economic sabotage and treating culprits as saboteurs. The corollary of their profiteering is too grave for national comfort.

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