2023 Elections: CBN cash policy may deny millions of Nigerians the right to vote

Ogunsakin Mustapha
6 Min Read
Former CBN Gov. Godwin Emefiele

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN cash swap may deny the democratic rights of millions of Nigerians who will be unable to cast their votes due to the prevailing lack of access to funds they own which in turn will affect their movements.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER) said millions of Nigerians work or reside outside the location of their polling units the tradition being to travel to their states or communities during each election season. The cash strapped situation will see many Nigerians unable to meet the aspirations of casting their votes, the group said.

In the past two weeks, Intra and inter-state movements of people have almost been stunted. Millions of Nigerians who register outside their work places or homes will not be able to perform the historic ritual of electoral migration during the National Elections which begins on Saturday, the statement signed by Adewale Adeoye said.

JODER has been active in election monitoring since 1999. The custom is that in states, millions of people register in their communities far from where they live or work. Some register in their communities located outside their state of residency. They travel ahead of the election either from one community to the other or from one state to the other. The CBN policy is set to drastically pull down this tradition’ Adeoye said. He said random interviews during election monitoring indicated that millions of people travel with the sole purpose of going home to vote in their communities but that the CBN cash policy will flounder the opportunity. This is coming at a time that the transfer window of voters cards has been closed.

The pro-media rights group said during elections, there are usually mass movements across the six geo-political zones. Without cash, a situation imposed on voters and with the epileptic inter-bank transfers, millions of Nigerians will be denied their democratic right underlining the fascist and despotic policy of the CBN policy implementation mechanism. Adeoye said the policy has also destroyed the prospect of strategic communication between political parties and voters since access to mass communication instruments like pamphlets, radio jingles and community and rural meetings were annulled due to scarcity of cash and trade hitches occasioned by the CBN policy.

JODER said it is difficult to assess the number of Nigerians that will be affected due to lack of cash to travel ahead of the election but estimates that the number should be in millions. ‘We estimate that millions of people will be disenfranchised by the CBN policy. This portrays the CBN as anti-democracy whereas a responsible apx bank should realize the importance of representative government to economic growth and prosperity’ JODER said.

The group said Voters need cash for electoral migration both within, outside the states and even for thousands of Nigerians expected to come home from outside the country. Due to lack of cash, millions of voters are expected to stay back having been economically castrated by the CBN policy.

On corruption, JODER said it is unlikely that the policy will stop vote buying but would only enhance vote inducement to be paid in areas instead of instant payment associated with past elections while the possibility of voters becoming more desperate for compensation has been fueled by the impoverishing CBN policy. ‘The policy has made many people poorer. They have money that they cannot access. The consequence is that with voters brought to the lowest economic ebb, they will be more desperate for compensation to address immediate needs, having been stripped of livelihood by the cash crunch.’

The group said the anti-corruption fight is not the primary responsibility of the CBN adding that what the CBN needed to do is to provide relevant information for the anti-graft agencies. ‘With 2.7trillion return to the vaults of banks, Nigerians waited in vain for the CBN to provide information on those who made suspicious deposits. What the apex bank did in return was to withhold funds belonging to poor persons which is tantamount to economic sabotage on a large and unprecedented scale.’

JODER said the CBN policy was like starving a whole community of food and water for weeks on the pretext that one child in the community is suspected of stealing from the store house. ‘The CBN has undermined democracy and sustainable development by its ill-thought and despotic approach to an otherwise progressive fiscal policy that ought to have been driven with over all public good from the beginning.’

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