Press zooms in on global expectations of credible polls in Nigeria, others

The report that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has urged 18 registered political parties and candidates…

The report that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has urged 18 registered political parties and candidates in the February 25 and March 11 presidential and general elections that the world would be watching the democratic exercise is one of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Monday.The Guardian reports that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, rising from a meeting with stakeholders in Owerri on the forthcoming general elections, at the weekend, urged the 18 registered political parties and candidates in the February 25 and March 11 presidential, National Assembly; governorship and states assembly elections, respectively, to be mindful of the fact that the world would be watching the democratic exercise.

The Commission also charged them to adhere strictly to provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 guidelines and the peace accord they signed prior to their campaigns. The President of the Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, represented by an official of the regional body, Dr. Onyinye Onwuka, stated this during the fourth and final series of the South East/South South zonal training and interactive/ engagement with representatives of the Inter -Party Advisory Council (IPAC), as well as other stakeholders involved in the polls, to ensure credible, free and fair general elections.

Accompanied by the Commission’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Ambassador Abdel- Fatau Musah, among other officials, he also charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure unbiased conduct of the polls, as the entire Africa and, by extension, the world are looking up to Nigeria, noting that the importance of Nigeria in the West African sub-region could not be overemphasized.

Touray said the regional body was committed to strategic support and intervention towards peaceful 2023 general elections in Nigeria, urging the cooperation of all towards its achievement.

He said the Commission would sustain the partnership with stakeholders in that regard, advising that they should prevent conflicts and violence through inclusive opportunities, mediation and dialogue.

Speaking, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Imo State, Prof. Sylvia Agu, represented by Head of Department of the Election and Party Monitoring of INEC in the state, Victor Nwokeabia, said the engagement was crucial as the elections are close.

The newspaper says that as public rage turns against deposit money banks (DMBs) with images of concealed new banknotes in banking halls, the Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB) has insisted the financial institutions do not have any reason to hoard the currency in the face of enormous hardships facing Nigerians.

The association also argued that banks have invested over N100 billion in the past few years in setting up and maintaining cutting-edge electronic channels as part of the ongoing commitment to building seamless customer experience and real-time digital financial transactions.

“From internet banking to mobile applications, automated teller machines (ATMs), point of sales (PoS) merchants, mobile wallets, unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) codes to agents and digital franchises, not less than 80 per cent of Nigerians now enjoy one form of digital or cashless transaction or another, powered by investments by Nigerian Banks,” a statement signed by its President, Rasheed Bolarinwa, said.

The statement came as the adoption of non-conventional and digital-first banks reached a feverish level. Nigerians across different sectors, The Guardian reported, are migrating en masse to financial technology platforms and wallets offering banking services, as transactions on the space are more seamless.

But ACAMB dismissed the challenges faced as unintended and temporary, adding that normalcy will soon return to the financial system. ACAMB empathised with the Nigerian public on the unintended hardships being faced in the process of the ongoing rollout of re-designed naira notes and enhanced cashless policy.

It noted that the unintended constraints in the withdrawal of old naira notes and circulation of new naira notes, alongside the national policy to enhance cashless transactions, have had unintended effects on the banking public.

“These commitments by Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have seen Nigeria rising steadily and recognised as having arguably Africa’s most advanced digital financial services industry and one of the world’s top 10 real-time payment markets. It is a national pride and proof of Nigerian Banks’ commitment to customer service that Nigeria is regarded as having Africa’s most digitized banking industry.

“Nigerian banks remain committed to continuing investments in seamless and secured digital banking that excite customers to voluntarily use and rely on the various digital and alternate payment systems available,” the body said.

On the strength of the investment in digital technologies, ACAMB has thrown its weight behind the enhanced cashless policy championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), saying that the entire banking sector is working with the regulator to urgently address underlying constraints.

The Punch reports that as the fuel and currency scarcity slowly paralysed socio-economic activities across the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has come under pressure to find a solution to the crises which have subjected Nigerians to untold hardship.

Nigerians, including senators, governors and youths on social media, are insisting that the President must immediately resolve the new naira note crisis, which sparked violent riots in Edo and Oyo states last week.

The All Progressives Congress governors had on Friday met the President with a view to persuading him to end the new naira notes crisis.

On Sunday, Kunle Somorin the Chief Press Secretary to the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said his boss and other APC governors were in serious talks with the Presidency and the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, over the new naira notes scarcity.

According to him, Abiodun is fully in support of other governors on the issue of the new notes.

Somorin said, “He (Abiodun) said he has taken it up with his colleagues at the highest level. They are discussing with the CBN governor and the Presidency with a view to having a lasting solution and in the next few days if not hours, relief will come our people’s way. He was with other APC governors in Abuja. He is with them on the issue.”

Speaking further, he said, “That is why the governor has suspended his campaign because it does not make sense for him to be dancing while people are complaining about lack of fuel and inadequate access to exchange the old notes.”

The newspaper says that Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association has predicted shutdown of small businesses if the lingering naira crisis persists.

The Director-General, NECA, Mr Wale Oyerinde, said with the rising inflation and reduction in purchasing power of consumers, the nation could witness the death of many small and medium-scale businesses as well as the shutdown of many large businesses.

In a letter on Sunday titled, ‘Save the economy from inherent economic contradictions: NECA urges government,’ a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent, the DG said rising energy cost, inadequate foreign exchange, high operating cost amongst others was impacting businesses negatively.

He lamented that Nigerians were grappling with limited availability of cash, scarcity of petrol.

He said, “As Nigerians grapple with limited availability of cash, they are at the same time confronted with scarcity of petrol, a product for which trillions of naira is being expended as subsidy, while businesses also continue to face increasing energy cost, inadequate forex, high operating cost amongst others.

‘With the rising inflation and real reduction in purchasing power of the citizens, the nation could be witnessing the death of many small and medium scale businesses and also shutting down of many otherwise large businesses.”

Oyerinde said the current situation portends grave danger for the economy, adding that Nigerians were not able to access the new notes.

“It is apt to conclude that it could be counter-productive to seek to implement a cashless economy abruptly, when at the same time the new Naira notes are being rolled out in limited quantities within an impracticably short timeframe.”

Oyerinde urged the government to as a matter of urgency ensure the availability of the new naira notes, prosecute saboteurs if necessary to ease the frustration of Nigerians and avert the impending breakdown of law and order.

The NECA boss said that making the currency scarce only increases the incentive for counterfeiting.

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