Press focuses on Obasanjo’s optimism that nothing interferes with conduct of general elections, others

The optimism expressed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo that nothing will interfere with the successful conduct of the general…

The optimism expressed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo that nothing will interfere with the successful conduct of the general elections scheduled for February 25 and March 11 ahead of tomorrow’s emergency meeting of the Council of State is one of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Thursday.The Guardian reports that ahead of tomorrow’s emergency meeting of the Council of State conveyed by President Muhammadu Buhari, where major decisions are expected to be taken to douse tension over scarcity of naira notes, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is optimistic that nothing will interfere with the successful conduct of the general elections scheduled for February 25 and March 11.

Obasanjo’s comment is coming amid fears that the elections might be postponed due to ongoing crisis occasioned by the scarcity of fuel and new naira notes.

The former president, who urged Nigerians to strive and ensure that the polls hold at all costs, spoke, yesterday, when he played host to the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) at his penthouse residence located within the premises of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, Ogun State.

The ADC national leaders were led by national chairman of the party, Prof. Ralph Nwosu, BoT chairman, Dr. Mani Ibrahim Ahmed and a former presidential aspirant of the ADC, Chukwuka Monye.

Stating that the attention of the global community is now focused on the 2023 polls in Nigeria, Obasanjo charged Nigerians, as main stakeholders, to contribute towards the success of the elections.

“We are in an interesting period in Nigeria. In less than three weeks, we will be going to the polls; well, I hope nothing will intervene against that. In less than three weeks, we will be electing a leader that will pilot the affairs of Nigeria for the next four years from May.

“I have been in Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire from the beginning of the week; and they are as concerned about what happens in Nigeria as every Nigerian should be.

“Before I left Abidjan, President Alassane Quattara of Cote d’Ivoire was telling me about a position that Cote d’Ivoire is fighting for and he told me that ‘we are putting it on hold until after Nigeria’s elections.’ So, even for them, Nigeria’s elections are of utmost importance.”

The newspaper says that the Federal Government has blamed rising cost of petrol in the country on activities of marketers eager to make illicit profits from the hardship of Nigerians.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, disclosed this to newsmen, yesterday, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Reports indicated that most fuel stations in different parts of the country now sell above the approved pump price of N195, oscillating between N200 and N650, with many others reportedly hoarding the product.

Sylva, however, said the ministry might repeat an earlier directive to the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to sanction the marketers.

He assured that all stakeholders in the downstream sector are working to ensure the current crisis is brought under control. He said: “We have reports of profiteering by marketers, and I’ve directed NMDPRA to sanction anybody who profiteers from this kind of situation.

We cannot stand by and watch our citizens being exploited by marketers.

“But, of course, I’ve given that directive and I don’t know if it has not taken effect. I don’t know the details of how far that directive has been carried out. I’m going to still further give that directive, if that is still the situation. But definitely, we are not paying a blind eye at all.”

The Guardian also reports that the Federal Government, through the National Population Commission (NPC), has signed a landmark deal with Nigeria’s integrated technology brand, Zinox, for the supply of the tech components and other accessories for the 2023 national census project, further justifying President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s commitment on local content promotion.

The contract, worth over N85 billion, was awarded to Zinox after ratification by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). In a statement from Zinox, the company said it has already commenced supply of the first batch of about 100,000 units of the Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) devices required for the nationwide enumeration, adding that it emerged the preferred technical partners for the exercise after scaling a rigorous bid process involving other local and international competitors.

It was noted that Zinox met the rating as an indigenous technology powerhouse with global connections, which has consistently enjoyed the confidence of leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and other tech heavyweights the world over.

This, it was learnt, earned it an endorsement by the Federal Government for the project. Also, to its credit is the fact that it was Zinox that helped the nation’s voter registration exercise in 2006 and 2010 when big foreign tech companies contracted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could not deliver as scheduled.

Zinox used its Z-Pad smart device to lay the foundation for Nigeria’s digital democracy upon which INEC is building on today. The smooth execution of the over $200 million INEC contract in 2010 added impetus to the profile of Zinox as a strong indigenous company with capacity and competence.

Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, said that the company had built a system of integrity and a record of excellence, both in Nigeria and internationally. Further, Ekeh noted that until there was a credible data census figure, the country cannot plan well.

The 2023 census, scheduled to hold between March and April, will be the fifth to be conducted by the Nigerian government since independence in 1960 and it is coming 17 years since the last edition which was held in 2006 under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The NPC Chairman, Alhaji Nasir Isa Kwarra, noted that the 2023 census would signal a new dawn in housing and human headcount in Nigeria as there would be no over-counting or under-counting, adding that the devices, when commissioned with the forms, maps and other digital enhancements, would ensure that enumerators are unable to go beyond the areas assigned to them. In addition, he commended Zinox for the dedication, commitment and huge capacity displayed in the way it has commenced execution of the contract.

The Nation newspaper says that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday added their voices to the growing number of institutions and individuals asking for the extension of the deadline for the transition of old naira notes to new ones.

The two Bretton Woods institutions said the period allowed for Nigerians to switch from old to the redesigned notes was short.

The World Bank said it was concerned about the ”scarcity of new notes  and the potential adverse economic and social impacts  should the shortage of cash persist.”

It said:  “The World Bank, therefore, remains concerned about the short timeframe and would encourage the authorities to consider allowing a longer period for the redesign.

“Periodic currency redesigns and demonetisation of older notes are normal internationally. However, they usually involve transition periods of one year or longer so as to minimise economic disruption.

”After the Central Bank of Nigeria announced the naira redesign on October 26, 2022, with a short implementation timeframe through January 31, 2023 (now extended for a short additional period until February 10, 2023), the World Bank expressed concern about the timing and short transition period (see Nigeria Development Update, NDU, December 2022).”

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