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B Side, Politics

Polithinks: Empty Tanks. Empty Pockets. Empty Ballots?

  • Folasayo Adigun
  • 9th February 2023
Polithinks: Empty Banks, Empty Pockets and Empty Ballots.

Nigerians are currently groaning under two heavy weights – petrol scarcity and currency scarcity. The current petrol scarcity has been biting since November 2022 and has persisted since then. The scarcity has been blamed on several issues – from lack of investment in the downstream sector, to high cost of vessels and shortage of trucks for the delivery of petroleum products. Whatever the cause of the scarcity,  Nigerians are enduring long queues for fuel at prices higher than the official pump price of N165. Today, Nigerians are queuing as they purchase petrol at prices ranging from over N200 to over N300 per liter. Besides the fact that it is bad that the price of petrol per liter has increased, it is worse that in this state of high cost, Nigerians are being made to queue for the product.


In October 2022, the CBN announced plans to redesign the higher denomination naira notes (200 naira notes and above) and begin the circulation of the redesigned notes by December 2022; with plans to finish retracting the old naira notes from circulation by January 31st 2022 (the date has long been extended to 10th of February). 


Following these announcements and deadlines, Nigerians rushed to deposit the old naira notes with their various banks, but sadly, have found it increasingly difficult to lay their hands on the new naira notes. Across the country, banks have not loaded their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) with the new naira notes, where they are loaded, it is limited. In the banking halls, Nigerians are either given the old notes, or they leave without cash. The situation has made Nigerians less liquid and find it difficult getting basic things done with cash. For a lot others who have attempted to use electronic transfer, a lot of transactions have been failing miserably. The extent of the frustration Nigerians in various social media videos where people are stripping naked in banking halls. In more serious dimensions, riots have broken  out in Ibadan, Oyo state, and Abeokuta, in Ogun state, with banks touched.



These two toxic combinations have agitated Nigerians. The fact that they do not have cash; the fact that they do not have easy access to fuel; the fact that in many places where fuel is found, attendants do not take anything other than cash; have combined to frustrate the average Nigerian. A contributor to a program in a private radio station described his situation as being rich in the bank but poor at home. A mechanic in Ogun State was asked if these situations can dampen his readiness to cast his vote, he responded that it will not; rather he is ready to go and show those he described as being part of the reasons for his predicament, in whose hands real power resides. Sadly, he noted that before the elections, people have been pushed to the extent that they may resort to violence to seek redress. As the mechanic was angrily voicing his frustration, his customer and assistant were nodding their heads in agreement.


An academic in one of the private universities in Ogun state took a different direction from the mechanic. He asserted that the chaos that has accompanied the implementation of the currency redesign and swapping were aimed by some cabals against his preferred candidate, and he has resolved to stick with the candidate, who is from the ruling party; hoping he would win and dislodge the cabals.


It is difficult to say what effect on voting the chaotic situation in Nigeria will have on voters. However, two things are certain: those who are angry may want to take out their frustration on the ruling party they blame for the chaos, while others, concerned about the role of cabals in trying to frustrate their preferred candidate, from the ruling party, will still cast their vote for the ruling party because of their candidate.

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