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Editorial

Positives From Anambra Election

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At last, the much-awaited Anambra State 2021 gubernatorial election has been organised, won, and lost. A former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Professor Charles Soludo, of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was proclaimed the winner to pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years. The poll has been described as a litmus test for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies.
Before the conduct of the election, violent disturbances by the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had placed the poll under a vast haze of ambiguity. In the end, traditional rulers, politicians, stakeholders, and well-meaning indigenes of the state intervened and reason triumphed, allowing the exercise to go ahead as scheduled.
Soludo attained at least the needed 25 per cent of the ballots cast in all the 21 local government areas and won 19 LGAs outrightly. He polled 112,229 votes and defeated 17 other contestants, including Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (53,807 votes), and Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (43,285 votes). With his victory, APGA has again retained Anambra as its stronghold out of the 36 states in Nigeria. Come next March, the former CBN governor will succeed Willie Obiano.
The puzzle about the poll dissipated at the last minute as IPOB’s declared sit-at-home over the trial of Nnamdi Kanu was called off. INEC showed its latest technology by presenting the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device. The BVAS is an advancement on the card reader that makes collation, automatic transmission of results, and thumbprinting easier. While it reduces ballot box snatching and rigging, it diminishes manual collation.
Of specific significance was the repudiation of financial inducement of N5,000 by  Eunice Onuegbusi from Ukwulu in Dunukofia Local Government Area of the state, which earned her a cash reward of N1 million. In a viral video, Onuegbusi was seen rejecting N5,000 from a party agent in her polling unit during the election. We applaud her for turning down the offer to sell her vote to mercantile politicians who understand politics strictly from the vantage point of commerce. Onuegbusi’s patriotic action is droolworthy.
However, poor coordination, vote-buying, INEC’s administrative challenges, over-militarisation, pre-election litigation and counter-lawsuits, violence, and low voter turnout characterised the ballot, demonstrating that Nigeria nevertheless has a long way to go for elections in the country to secure the least global democratic norms.
The BVAS device, brought in to expedite the accreditation and voting process, led to delays in a few areas by its failure to operate accurately. Besides being tedious in substantiating the fingerprints of voters, it outrightly failed to perform occasionally, compelling Soludo, Ozigbo, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, among others, to encounter hesitations before they could vote.
Furthermore, a coalescence of logistics and administrative interruptions made voting start hours behind schedule, hence, discomfiting voters. INEC first introduced the smart card reader in the 2015 general election for accreditation, but it invariably failed while they did little or nothing to enhance it. By now, the electoral adjudicator should have carried out considerable enhancements in conducting elections with technology.
Although there are over 2.4 million registered voters in Anambra State, only 253,388, representing 9.73 per cent, were certified to vote. It is severely low. It speaks to the overwhelming voter apathy in Nigeria, which has produced a travesty of several polls in the country. Both the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) and Yiaga Africa had predicted low voters’ attendance in last Saturday’s election.
A similar projection was made after a survey by SBM Intelligence, a geo-political research organisation. The study disclosed that over 60 per cent of registered voters had chosen not to engage in the election. Reasons offered by some respondents include insecurity and absence of faith in the elective procedure. Findings, however, indicate that Anambra State has a record of low voter turnout for its governorship elections.
Since 1999, governorship elections in the state have never witnessed up to 50 per cent of voter turnout except in the 2007 election, which was characterised by allegations of massive rigging. Of the 1.84 million registered voters in the state in 2010, only 302,000 turned out to vote on election day. This translated to about 16 per cent of voters.
In 2013, only 465,891 of the total 1,770,127 registered voters went out to vote on election day, translating into about 25 per cent. And in the 2017 election, fewer than a quarter of the comprehensive figure of registered voters participated in the poll. The electoral umpire had revealed of the 2,064,134 residents certified as qualified voters for the election, only 457,511, about 22.16 per cent, literally came out on election day to be accredited. This is an expression of a loss of confidence in the electoral process of the country.
However, since the National Assembly has authorised electronic transmission of results in elections, there is hope provided INEC makes significant improvements to BVAS or any other apparatus it may determine to use. The electoral umpire should employ the 2022 governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States to upgrade their equipment before the next general election in 2023.
On the whole, the just-concluded Anambra governorship election was a game-changer and an improvement in past elections, despite the challenges seen in the build-up and during the exercise. The big consolation was that the worst that was expected did not happen. Anambra did not become a killing field. The political parties and the politicians did not engage in bloodshed. Very few incidents of intimidation, violence and ballot snatching were recorded. Kudos to INEC, security agencies and the people of Anambra!

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

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Editorial

Lessons From UK Polls

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The United Kingdom’s general election of July 4 marks a turning point in the nation’s political land-
scape. It highlights the resilience of its democratic traditions. The peaceful transition of power from Rishi Sunak to Keir Starmer reflects the strength of Britain’s political institutions and the electorate’s ability to effect change.
Moreover, the landslide victory of the Labour Party signifies a potential shift in the country’s ideological trajectory, prompting a reevaluation of its political, economic, and social future. As the nation navigates this pivotal moment, the smoothness of this transition serves as a testament to the stability and adaptability of Britain’s democratic infrastructure.
One of the most striking aspects of the new cabinet is the representation of women, with 11 out of 19 cabinet members being female. This stands in contrast to the situation in Nigeria, where women are severely underrepresented in government, particularly in the Northern states where female participation in politics is almost non-existent. The success of these women in the British political arena serves as a quintessential example for Nigeria, where patriarchy still holds sway and gender equality in politics remains a distant dream.
Eight Nigerian-Britons emerged victorious in the parliamentary elections, garnering adulation from Nigerians both at home and abroad. Their success highlights the importance of merit-based selection in politics, as each Member of Parliament (MP) won their seat on the basis of their personal qualifications and achievements. Unlike in Nigeria, where political appointments are often influenced by money, party leaders, and other extraneous factors, the British system values the power of the voter and respects the rights of every citizen to participate in the democratic process.
The diverse backgrounds and professional expertise of the Nigerian-British MPs further underscore the importance of competence and performance in politics. These individuals, ranging from engineers to lawyers, have earned their seats through hard work and dedication, rather than through political connections or nepotism. Their success should serve as a wake-up call to the Nigerian political system, where the average age of politicians is over 60 and where professional qualifications are often overshadowed by tribal and religious affiliations.
A veteran politician and one of the leading Nigerian-British MPs, Kemi Badenoch, exemplifies the success that can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Despite the challenges faced by her party in the recent election, Badenoch was re-elected on the basis of her qualifications and track record in office. Her appointment as Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade is a testament to her capabilities and leadership skills.
The current political climate in Nigeria stands in sharp contrast to the achievements of Nigerian-British professionals in the political sphere. Through their perseverance, commitment, and professional knowledge, Taiwo Owatemi, Chi Onwurah, Kate Osamor, Bayo Alaba, Josh Babarinde, Florence Eshalomi, Helen Grant, and Kemi Badenoch have all been elected to the legislature. This is in contradistinction to the state of affairs in Nigeria, where many politicians are viewed as “professional politicians” who lack distinguishable credentials or sources of income.
Nigeria’s electoral system is radically different from that of Britain, where candidates accept the results of the poll without filing lawsuits. Britain’s electoral procedure is also transparent and effective. But in Nigeria, courts are routinely called upon to resolve electoral disputes since elections are frequently tainted by violence, corruption, and legal problems. Nigeria’s electoral process is not credible due to the absence of intra-party democracy and the involvement of cronies and godfathers.
While the political achievements of the elected Nigerians are commendable, they also serve as a sobering reminder of the weaknesses in our democratic system. After all, competence and performance ought to be the main determinants of electoral success, not religious and tribal affinities as they frequently are in Nigeria. The achievements of these Nigerian-Britons should compel a reassessment of Nigeria’s political environment, highlighting the necessity of a more efficient and responsible democratic system.
Unfortunately, the high rate of litigation in Nigeria’s elections threatens the country’s democratic process, creating tension and uncertainty from pre-election disputes to post-election challenges. This undermines voter choices and trust in the electoral system, raising concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Electoral reforms promoting transparency, accountability, and timely dispute resolution outside the courts are needed to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
Our nation’s democracy is at a critical point and must evolve to survive. We need to shift away from costly campaigns and prioritise electoral integrity by safeguarding voter rights and promoting transparency. By addressing key national issues, Nigerian politics can become more sustainable and effective. These reforms are essential for our nation to progress towards a more inclusive and representative government.
Nigeria and other countries grappling with democratic government ought to take note of the Nigerian-British MPs’ accomplishments. Political leaders must be held responsible for their acts, and citizenship entails both rights and obligations. To be a really democratic society, where the power of the vote is honoured and protected, a society should be based on competence, performance, and transparency. Then and only then, regardless of origin or background, can we aspire to create a brighter future for every citizen.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

Continue Reading

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