The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has assured the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Nigerians that the apex bank would not do anything inimical to the success of the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
Emefiele also allayed the fears in some quarters that the crisis associated with the circulation of the redesigned Naira notes may jeopardise the 2023 elections.
The CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who gave the assurance on Tuesday when he hosted the INEC management led by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the CBN headquarters in Abuja, further assured Nigerians that the apex bank will not allow itself to be used to frustrate the elections.
“The CBN will not allow itself to be used as an agent to frustrate the forthcoming election which is a positive assignment.
“If you require cash to pay some of your service providers, we will make it available to you. We will not allow ourselves to be seen as agents that frustrate a genuine assignment,” Emefiele said.
Speaking earlier, the INEC chairman noted the impact of the Naira redesign policy on the successful conduct of the elections.
Prof. Yakubu, therefore, requested concessions regarding the Naira redesign policy with specific reference to the limitations placed on cash withdrawals and the need to make some cash available for some peculiarities that cannot be met with electronic transfer of monies.
According to him, “Some of the service providers, especially transporters are required to be paid in cash and that aside from that, experience has shown that emergency situations do arise on election day which could demand the use of cash by the commission.
“I am encouraged by the continued willingness of the apex bank to support the commission’s determination to deliver credible elections on February 25 and March 11, 2023.
“Particularly, the facilitation of activities necessary for the success of the election, in an area where the CBN has exclusive responsibility.”
He noted that the Nigerian election is a huge and complex undertaking that requires the engagement of critical services and in line with the provisions of the extant laws and regulations, service providers are generally paid by means of electronic transfer to their accounts.
INEC chairman continued: “However, there are equally critical areas, such as transportation and human support services that have to be immediately remunerated, either partially or in full before 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 CBN and commercial banks to pay for such services seamlessly during general elections, as well as off-cycle and bye-elections.”
Over the years, he said the commission has also migrated all its accounts at the national and state levels to the CBN.
“And this arrangement has worked without encumbrances to our activities. In view of the recent policy, involving the redesign of some denominations of our national currency and the limits placed on cash withdrawals and availability.
“We consider this meeting important in addressing some of the areas of concern with just 17 days to the 2023 general election.
“We are confident that arising from this meeting, we can assuage the anxiety expressed by some of our service providers who are determined to make the 2023 general election one of the best organised 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. This meeting is part of this effort,” Yakubu stated.
Responding, Emefiele said he would ensure the CBN is not seen as an agent to thwart the forthcoming general election.
The CBN governor said: “The relationship between the CBN dates back to even before I became the governor and that relationship, I will say borders purely on trust and confidence.
“We also appreciate and truly do appreciate the fact the INEC supported by the Nigerian populace has the trust and confidence in the ability of the central bank in playing the roles that we have played for you so far to ensure that our elections hold without any hitches.
“Before now, we’ve been involved in the storage of INEC election materials and involved in using our armoured bullion van in transporting electoral materials.”
He noted that in the course of this relationship, “we have not disappointed you and that is the reason you have called me again this time.”
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He continued: “Now, just aside from the issue of storage of election materials together with transportation of election materials from CBN locations to your own specific or designated locations.
“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 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other forms of election material that need to be imported and I gave you my word that foreign exchange will be provided for that purpose.
“I stand here to confirm that as of today, all dollars that are needed to import those items have been provided and those items have been imported.
“So, it’s all part of our commitment. Now this issue of pain and logistics for people who are going to be transporting election materials, certainly, the assurance I give to you is that because we regard INEC project as a topmost or an urgent national assignment, and therefore, it cannot fail and the central bank would not allow itself either to be used or to be seen as an agent that frustrated a positive outcome of that election.
“So I stand here to give you that commitment. You have been responsible in the past anyway, It’s not just about cash, you’ve done electronic payments before, and if in this case after making your electronic payments, you require some money to pay transporters in cash, the assurance I give to you is that we will make it available, so it’s nothing to worry about.
“I will make sure that I do not allow ourselves as the central bank to be seen as an agent that frustrated positive outcome of the elections.”