New Telegraph

Naira scarcity, insecurity, distrust for politicians top voters’ concern at election

The much expected 2023 general election is here and its first leg, the presidential and National Assembly polls holds on Saturday. But Nigerians are worried about the level of insecurity and naira scarcity.

However, those who spoke with our correspondents in this national survey by our correspondents from across the country said no matter what, they will cast their votes on Saturday, in this report , coordinated by Olatunji Buhari



In less than four days, the 2023 general election will kick off across the country with the presidential and National Assembly elections slated for Saturday, February 25. However, there are indications that this year’s election may not go the way of the previous elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), due to lack of interest shown by many eligible voters. Their lack of interest may not be unconnected with the current situation of things in the country, ranging from fuel crisis, naira scarcity and other challenges which many people have said left them stranded and handicapped in moving from one place to another. In the last couple of weeks, it has been difficult for citizens to have access to funds in their bank accounts as a direct result of the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which declared the old naira notes of N500 and N1000 notes as no longer a legal tender in the country effective February 10. The scarcity of cash has affected the daily activities of everyone, particularly people who are in the informal sector that deals with cash for their day-to-day operations and commuting from one place to another. According to INEC, the total number of registered voters for this year’s election is 93,469,008. Out of this number, the number of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 stand at 37,060,399, (39.65%) of total registered voters while the elderly between the ages of 50 and 69 stand at 17,700,270 representing 18.94% of total registered voters. The voter distribution also reveals that 44,414,846 registered voters are females and 49,054,162 are males. Sadly, the young people who constitutes the highest population of registered voters and likely to be major deciders of who becomes the president of Nigeria , may not be exercising their civic responsibility during the election, as some of them now believe that they have automatically been disenfranchised by the hardship created by the non-availability of the new naira notes. It was observed that in most of the states in the country, both the young and elderly do not have access to cash to use to commute from their location to their polling unit or to buy food for themselves. Some of the youths have also expressed worry about the level of security personnel seen in some of the locations where voting will take place saying it would scare them away from coming out to vote. New Telegraph went around the country to sample people’s opinions about their expectations for the coming election and it was observed that the majority of people that the newspaper spoke with, said they are not ready to vote because of insecurity, inability to collect their PVCs and the non-availability of cash. Lagos State In Lagos, the respondents were very blunt, saying nothing is exciting about the election and that the leaders of the country are only concerned about themselves and their interests . Bunmi Adeshola, Pharmacist, said she doesn’t have PVC and is not interested about who emerges as the president. “I don’t have PVC, I am not bothered about Nigeria anymore. I am only worried about the security situation in the country. I was robbed in my house and all my valuables were taken away including laptops, phones, cash etc. This country is not safe. The only thing I am concerned about now is leaving this country with my children. The leaders don’t have anything to offer its citizens.” On her part, Olatundun Salami, a Business Administrator, said her polling unit is at Itire and he would go there to vote on Saturday. “Yes, I am going to vote. My expectation is that the election will be free and fair and I believe that the government has provided enough security to protect the voters that are coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. I have been hearing some sort of threat and violence in some places. Two days ago when I was in Ajah, I heard some people saying that people should not come out on Saturday if they will not vote for Tinubu. This kind of statement is scary, and people who have decided to exercise their fundamental rights should be protected.” For Martins Olamide, a Development Practitioner, he would not vote because he is yet to get his PVC despite all efforts he made to get it transferred to his present location. Akinshola Owoeye, Clergyman, said, “I wish to vote, but my PVC is not ready. Sincerely, I don’t think insecurity will affect the way people vote. In Lagos, people will come    out to vote, there is no security threat. The fuel and naira crises notwithstanding, it may change some people’s mind, but mine is made up. The policy is from the Federal Government and it has nothing to do with any of the three leading candidates.” Adeleye Samson Adegoke, an IT Specialist, also said, “I am going to vote. The cash and fuel crisis will not affect the election as the majority of Nigerians have made up their minds to vote. I don’t think the security situation will affect the people coming out to vote. Nigerians are already used to the presence of security during any election.” Another category of voters who may be affected by the stifling effects of the naira and petrol scarcity are some, who though registered to vote in Lagos, but relocated to Ogun State, others in this category live in Ogun State, but found it convenient to domicile their registration in Lagos State where they work. Checks reveal that thousands of eligible voters in this category, mostly residents of communities lining the borders between Lagos and Ogun states may be technically disenfranchised in the exercise. Alao Isaac in Attan-Otta said; He is not convinced that the election will be worth sleeping in a friend’s shop in Agege for as he did in previous elections to ensure he voted for his choice candidate. “I will be in Attan-Ota on that day, so there is no way I can vote. I registered at Agege and I don’t think the system is worth that stress now.” Cross River State For Omini Edet who registered in Ugep, his home town, it would be practically impossible for him to vote, “at this time when I am using my money to buy my money just to feed my family.” His words: “I have been struggling to feed my family in the last three weeks. I can’t access my money in the bank so I have to resort to buying money, my money.” Edet, who works with the state government added: “For instance, last week Saturday, I went to a POS operator to withdraw N10,000, instead of giving me the money, he took N3,000 and gave me N7,000. Am I supposed to borrow money at such a rate to travel for election? I cannot,” he said with a sense of finality. Josephine Ogbang, a businesswoman who trades on female wears is from Akpet Central in Biase Local Government Area of the state. She registered in her community, but is not ready to travel with the current situation on the ground  According to her, “I have no business going home right now. Let those who are in the village do the voting. I am here going to the bank every day and coming home with nothing. The transport fare used to be N1,000 but now because of this naira redesign confusion, it takes N4,000 to get to my village. Where will I have the cash?” she asked. Osun State: A resident simply identified as Jubril said: “I am ready to cast my vote for my preferred candidate come Saturday and I’m sure everyone is ready as well even though there is scarcity of naira, fuel and insecurity, I’m sure that alone will make people to come out and vote for someone that will bring remedy to the damage in the country. “My prayers is for the election to be peaceful and I will do everything possible to make sure my family vote on Saturday, though there is no money, but I will trek to the pooling unit.” Echoing a similar view, Bola Adedoye, a food stuffs trader, said he would not be deterred by the current predicament to exercise his civil rights of electing the candidate he believes can bring remedy to the challenges currently facing the country. He said he would not be discouraged from going to polling unit to cast his vote on Saturday, saying the current predicaments should be the reason for the people to determine who to govern them for the next four years though the ballots. Abia State Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Aba Unit, Prof Charles Chinekezi said that he expects a free, fair and peaceful election, stressing that from his observation, everybody is ready to exercise their franchise. He said that the talk of threat of insecurity preventing elections in the South East does not hold water as people are ready to do the needful to ensure that they have their say when the voting begins. Chinekezi said that the only thing that could have brought a serious threat to the election is the cash crunch that came as a result of the inability of CBN and the Federal Government to properly implement the newly redesign naira policy, which he said the effect have been properly and calmly managed in the entire South-East

He said that the level of patience exhibited by everyone, during this cash crunch period is unprecedented and goes to show that everyone is now aware that no form of chaos can change a bad situation. Comrade Nnamdi Elekwachi, a Political Affairs Analyst said that he expects that the 2023 general elections will be credible to an extent, considering the technological innovations INEC has brought into the system. “So far, INEC has some laudable technological innovations that will go a long way in making the poll credible which include things like BVAS, electronic transmission of results and the rest of things that were not there before. So, I think it’s a right step in the right direction. “The current situation is discouraging, no money, no fuel”, he said as he explained how he had always gone the extra mile of trekking 30 kilometres every election day to participate in voting exercises since 1999. “No one is ready to trek on empty stomach,” he concluded. Mrs Comfort Atalachi, a farmer and petty trader said, “I will vote, why not. I have my PVC and I am waiting for the day of election. Nothing will stop me from voting.” Also Mrs Nwanne Onyeonoro and Miss Oluchi Ognonna said they were ready to vote. They said they have their PVCs and are looking forward to the election days. Interestingly, there is no serious security challenges in the state that can mar the election. Unlike previous elections which were characterised by apathy, the 2023 election seem to have elicited great interest among the people, both young and old, everyone appear ready to use their vote this time to reset the country. Ogun State A resident of Abeokuta, Ogun State, Abiodun Akande said “I don’t care if the election holds or not, my major concern is access to naira notes. Many people like me are not interested in the election, the level of hardship we are going through have discouraged us in participating in the election. “What is the purpose of me participating in the election when I’m hungry, when I’m going through this hardship, when I cannot take care of my family? “All I’m concerned about now is making the naira available to the people. If they do this before the election, maybe I will change my mind about the election,” Akande said. Another resident, Bolanle Badmus who spoke to our correspondent expressed the fear that the election may be postponed. She said, the current crisis in the state following a violent protest over the scarcity of new naira note may force INEC to postpone the election. “It appeals like the security operatives are overwhelmed by the violent protests in some parts of the state, my fear is that the election may be postponed if this continue. “Although, many Nigerians are prepared for the election, but I fear it may not hold due to security reasons,” Badmus said. Ekiti State Mrs Grace Ajijola, a market woman at Popular King’s market in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, said “despite the hardship being faced because of the cash crunch and fuel scarcity myself and my husband are ready to go out and cast our vote for the candidate of our choice, our polling unit, although is a bit far from the house, but we will trek to the place to exercise our franchise on Saturday.” Another electorate who is a civil servant, Johnson Akinyode expressed doubt and fear. He said he would only go out on election day if the atmosphere is peaceful. Ondo State A resident of Akure, Ondo State, Mr. Temitope Olugboji said he would likely go out to vote if there is the availability of transport to move from his house to the polling unit. Another voter, Mrs. Victoria Ajana said she would be voting for candidates of her choice irrespective of the challenges being faced by the people. She said one of the contestants is her brother and so she would vote for him. This is coming as the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Oyeyemi Oyediran said the combined security agencies would be deploying 7,000 men to monitor the conduct of the election. Niger State A civil servant in Minna, Niger State, Ibrahim Allawa told our Correspondent that despite the security situation and the scarcity of fuel and cashless policy, he and his family have vowed to come out on Saturday to vote. According to him, “we are from Allawa town in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state, banditry has ravaged the whole place. One of my brothers was abducted, we spent millions of naira on bandits before he was released. “We believe God has given us another opportunity to correct the situation and we want to do that during the elections. I want to also call on INEC to make sure our people in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp be made to exercise their franchise during the elections.” Katsina State A man identified as Aliyu Mohammed Ibrahim Batsari has said he is still contemplating whether to participate in the election or not, because of the terror they experienced in their area which is ravaged by bandit’s attacks on their various communities that left hundreds of people homeless and their animals and foodstuffs carted away, women raped and some people kidnapped for ransom, as if there is no authority in the land, saying “I may not even vote any party as politicians are all birds of same feathers.” Kwara State A resident of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, Musa Aliyu, has expressed his eagerness to exercise his franchise in the forthcoming election, but has his reservations if at all the elections would hold as a result of current happenings in the country arising from scarcity of fuel and new naira notes. He said: “We expect the political class to buckle up and ensure they promote a violence-free, fair and credible elections, particularly among their supporters. From the electorate, I expect everybody to go out and vote for candidates of their choice. “Though INEC is telling us that they are ready, from the look of things, I don’t see election happening. Yes, election will not happen in the sense that the happenings and the environment right now in Nigeria don’t seem to be conducive for any form of election. “First of all, the issue of fuel scarcity is enough hindrance for people to freely move and cast their vote. Whether we like it or not, people will have to move from one location to another, from their residence to voting place. So, people will have to move, but with the kind of hardship being faced with the fuel scarcity right now, definitely a lot of people will be disenfranchised. “And again, the issue of scarcity of new naira notes is another major encumbrance to the conduct of free, fair and credible election. We expect people to go out, but the issue of ‘no money’, ‘no cash’ is actually going to be a deterrence to many people because whether we like it or not, people will use one or two naira for some survival things, even if it is just to buy pure water at the level of voting, so people will still have to hold something in the pocket. So, a situation where we have been buying naira with naira at exorbitant price may make a lot of people not to vote. “Nevertheless, I still expect Nigerians to decide on their own if this is what they want to continue or they want changes in their life using the power of the ballot box.” Kogi State In Lokoja, Kogi State, there are mixed feelings by electorates who expressed doubt and confidence that votes will count, given the new electoral technological system introduced by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). A trader simply called Ana’aja said she won’t stress herself by walking distance to the polling station from her home, to vote for politicians who have never had the interest of the masses, but for themselves. When asked if she has a voter’s card, she displayed it and said, “This is my card which I used in the previous election, but what did I gain, nothing? Last time I walked from my house in Army barrack to Lokongoma to vote, and went back home without support from anyone, so why should I suffer myself again?” But Ibrahim Shehu who is a primary school teacher said he will cast his vote, with the belief that the vote will count, because of the new electoral technology (BVAS). “They said the vote will count because of the BVAS machine, so for that, I will go and vote and see if this BIVAS has integrity or not,” he added. Plateau State Some voters in Jos, Plateau State capital, have expressed readiness to exercise their franchise by voting for their preferred candidates in the election. Dauda Joseph, a Jos resident said, “I am ready to vote, my PVC is waiting, this election is different from other elections, everyone has suffered, so this 2023 election is for us to decide our faith by voting the right candidates. “We will not allow anybody to rig us out this time around, we used to relax during the presidential election, but this time around I will vote for my candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.” Abubakar Danlladi, another resident of the town said: “I am ever ready to vote come Saturday, we thank God the atmosphere is conducive, no security challenges like before, we use to be afraid coming out to vote for the fear of being attacked, but for sure this time around, I will vote for my right candidate.” Nasarawa State Speaking separately in an interview ahead of the election, a resident of Gborgyo in Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, Terfa Kwaghgba told our correspondent in Lafia that he was not sure of exercising his franchise as he and his family members were displaced by the recent attack on his community. He said “I am not sure that I will vote in this coming election because me and my family have ran from the village because of Fulani attacks and there is no way to go back to the village to vote on that day. “Since there is no way for me to go to the village and vote, I will stay here. I don’t want somebody to kill me because of election,” said Kwaghgba. A resident of Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, Alu Usman told our correspondent out rightly that he won’t be exercising his franchise in Saturday’s election because of fear of the unknown. Usman who expressed concern over the security challenges in the country said he has decided not to travel out of Lafia to cast his vote during the general elections. He said that apart from the fear of the unknown, he has no money to travel to his home town in Burumburum in Doma Local Government Area to exercise his franchise due to the scarcity of naira notes. Usman said, “I doubt if I will vote in this election, because I am afraid of what may happen. Secondly, I don’t have the money to travel to my village and vote because of this money problem.” Oyo State Also reacting, a secondary school teacher in the Ona Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State, Mrs Omolara Oyekola, told New Telegraph that: “I will go out and vote to exercise my franchise. We need to elect persons of our choice so that Nigeria can be much better. Thank God my polling centre is not far from my house. I can trek to the place even if there is no let off on the lingering petrol scarcity.” “In terms of security, I believe and I am emboldened by the announced preparations of security agencies to ensure protection of lives and property during the elections. Based on this, I will go and vote on Saturday,” she said. A senior lawyer practising in Ibadan, Oyo State, Samuel Oyadoyin, said: “Much as I wish to go and vote on Saturday, my constraint is that now I am in Ibadan and I registered in Ife my home town. I didn’t envisage this kind of cash crunch situation before now. “My plan was to drive comfortably to Ife on Friday morning to cast my vote on Saturday. As I am now, I don’t have cash. Even if I am able to buy fuel through my ATM card with POS device, how will a man like me travel without sufficient cash on me from one state to another? How secure is that? “Security-wise, I believe security agents would be on the road to forestall any armed robbery attacks, kidnapping and other social ills since election is taking place on Saturday, but without cash on me, I can’t even have the courage to travel. This naira redesign has caused a lot of discomfort to our system and the general populace,” he said.


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