The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu has said that the lingering naira crisis in the country may disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
Mahmood said this on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, during a meeting with the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele at the CBN headquarters, Abuja.
According to him, many service providers to INEC do not have bank accounts.
The INEC boss, therefore, appealed to Emefiele to address the naira scarcity crisis that has been causing chaos in the country.
Recall that in 2022, the CBN introduced a policy involving the issuance of N1000, N500, and N200 notes.
The apex bank also pegged weekly cash withdrawal limits set for individuals and corporate organisations to N500,000 and N5 million, respectively.
The execution of the controversial policy has consequently subjected Nigerians to hardship as commercial banks fail to dispense the new naira notes.
Speaking on how the withdrawal policy would affect INEC, Mahmood told Emefiele that the service providers to the commission needed to be paid fully or partly.
He said, “The Nigerian election is a huge and complex one. It requires the engagement of critical services and in line with the provisions of the exchange laws and regulations, service providers are generally paid by means of electronic transfer to their accounts.
‘’However, there are crucial areas such as transportation and human support services that have to be immediately enumerated, either partially or in full because services are rendered.
“In addition, emergency situations may arise requiring immediate cash payments. Some of the critical service providers are unbanked. Over the years we have worked with the Central Bank of Nigeria and commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general elections, as well as off-cycle and by-elections.
‘’Over the years, the commission has migrated all its accounts at national and state levels to CBN and this arrangement has worked without hindrances to our activities.
“In view of the recent policy involving the redesigning of some denominations of our currencies and the limit on cash withdrawals and availability, we consider this meeting important in addressing some of our areas of concern with just 17 days to the 2023 general elections.
‘’We are confident that an aspect of this meeting will reduce the anxiety expressed by some of our service providers. We are determined to make the 2023 general election one of the best elections in Nigeria but we cannot do it alone. That is why the commission is mobilising every critical national institution for the success of the election.”
Reacting, Emefiele assured the INEC boss that cash would be made available for payment of service providers.
He added that the CBN would not allow itself to be used to frustrate the outcome of the forthcoming election.
He further promised that the CBN would do everything possible to support the 2023 election.
He said, “Now, just aside from the issue of storage of election materials and together with transportation of these election materials from CBN locations to your own specific or designated locations; where do you want these materials to be?
‘’I know that just a few months ago, I visited your office and you raised the issue of how foreign exchange can be procured for you to import your BVAS and other election materials that need to be imported. And I give you my word that foreign exchange will be provided for that purpose.
“I stand here or I sit here to confirm that today, not $1 is owed. All the dollars that are needed to import those items have been provided and those items have been imported.
“So, it is all part of our commitment. Now this issue of payment and logistics for people who are going to be transporting election materials, even to visit wards; the assurance I give to you is that because we regarded the INEC project as a topmost or urgent national assignment, it cannot fail and the central bank would not allow itself either to be used or itself to be seen as an agent that frustrated a positive outcome of that election.’’
The CBN governor assured the INEC boss that the commission would get the cash support it needs to conduct the 2023 general election.