From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, told the Federal Government to ensure that the 2023 general elections hold as scheduled, and that judiciary should not be used to thwart the conduct of the polls.
The charge was given by Afenifere in a statement issued by the organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Jare Ajayi, which was made available to journalists in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Monday.
According to Afenifere, the government and all the stakeholders should ensure that there is no change in this year’s elections and the handing-over date on May 29, 2023.
The organisation emphasised the need to reiterate the sancrosancy of February 25th presidential and National Assembly polls and March 11th governorship and House of Assembly elections became imperative, “partly due to the alarm note sounded by the spokesman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Hamed, on the possibility of using the court to thwart the election process as well as difficulties being inflicted on Nigerians whose consequences may be used as excuse to jeopardize the ongoing civil rule.
“The contrived pains can be seen in the unabated insecurity, heightened difficulties in getting fuel, in getting new Naira notes and in getting other energy sources such as electricity, gas, kerosene and diesel. If the difficulties, being experienced in these areas continued and Nigerians begin to react, their (peaceful) expression of frustration may be used as an excuse to want to tinker with the democratic experiment going on. Such would not be acceptable in any way.”
The ACF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed had last week Friday, January 27th, disclosed that there were insinuations that the planned elections may not hold, “and some kind of unconstitutional contraption may be forced on Nigerians after May this year.”
Afenifere spokesman then stated that the organisation is on the same page with ACF in its warning that “Nigerians will not accept to live under any arrangement that offends the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
He was quick to add that in spite of the fact that Afenifere has been strident in its call for a constitution that will usher in a Restructured Nigeria, “for now, citizens have no choice other than to abide by the constitutional provisions especially on how to change governments in the country – which is through the electoral process as well as peaceful handing-over to the winner.”
Commenting on the trauma that Nigerians are being made to pass through before the announcement of the extension of deadline in currency notes’ swap from January 31 to February 10 by the CBN Governor, Ajayi said that it was symptomatic of government’s penchant for making the people go through avoidable pains.
“From the beginning of January this year, Nigerians have been calling on the CBN to extend the deadline. The calls were predicated on the non-availability of new naira notes and the impossibility of being able to have the ones on hand swapped for the new ones before the expiration of the deadline on January 31. The new notes were difficult to obtain either inside the banks, on the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) or from the POS.”
While appreciating the eventual shift of the deadline to February 10 by the CBN, Afenifere spokesman asserted that the pains and losses suffered by Nigerians last week would have been avoided “were the extension of the deadline announced much earlier. There, indeed, is a need for the government, particularly the CBN Governor, to apologize to Nigerians over these avoidable pangs and losses that they suffer – and are still suffering” he emphasized, adding that banks and outlets where people can obtain the new notes should be stuffed with the currencies immediately so as not to have a repeat of happened in the last two weeks.
On the claim by the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, that the new currency policy was aimed at those “holding illicit/stolen naira in their homes for speculative purposes”, Ajayi submitted that the policy was harming the poor instead.
Besides Emefiele’s assertion, Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Sunday, January 29th quoted President Muhammadu Buhari as saying that “the currency changes were aimed at people hoarding illicit funds and not the common man”. Shehu went further to acknowledge that “the poorest section of the society is facing hardship as they often keep hard cash at home for various expenses”. He quoted the President as giving “strong assurances” that government will not leave them to their fate. Ajayi then argued that the sincerity in this statement is suspect:
“If the authorities truly aimed at using the policy to catch those allegedly holding illicit/stolen money in their vaults, there are various legal and institutional frameworks to deal with this. For instance, there is the aspect of the law that prescribes that banks must notify security agencies once a person or an organization receives or pays out huge sums of money.
“Why not use that instrument to deal with the situation rather than making life difficult for hapless Nigerians carrying out financial transactions in tens, hundreds and thousands of naira only. It is quite punitive, inhuman, inconsiderate and insensitive. Government and related government agencies need to ensure that such does not repeat itself again.”
Afenifere called on the Judiciary not to allow itself to be used to imperil democracy through unhelpful and perhaps frivolous litigations such as the one brought by one Chief Ambrose Albert Owuru wanting to stop the forthcoming presidential election. Luckily, the case, which was heard by Honourable Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja was dismissed on Monday.