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SIX days to the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls, candidates and political parties are devising ways to mitigate the effects of the raging Naira scarcity on their electoral quests.

Currently, there is tension in the polity on account of the scarcity of the new N200, N500 and 1000 notes, which has been worsened by fuel scarcity.

Since the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, introduced the redesigned Naira and cash limit policy of N500,000 and N5,000,000 a week for individuals and corporate organisations, respectively, many politicians have been kept on their toes.

A host of politicians mainly of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have been kicking against the policy with some claiming that the APC Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is the prime target of the policy.

Apart from checking vote buying, the Federal Government said the policy is meant to fight inflation and insecurity, especially kidnapping for ransom.

The deadline for the use of the old notes was initially fixed for January 31 but the CBN later extended it to February 10.

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, extended the use of the old N200 note to April 10, declaring that the old N500 and N1000 notes ceased to be legal tender on February 10, as affirmed by the CBN.

The president’s declaration is not in tandem with an interim order of the Supreme Court, which restrained the Federal Government from implementing the February 10 deadline for use of the old notes based on the suit filed by the governments of Kogi, Zamfara and Kaduna states. The apex court fixed hearing of the suit for February 22.

The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ado Doguwa, on Thursday, lamented that the Naira scarcity was hurting him and other Politicians.

Specifically, Doguwa, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the APC, said he needs N70m “in hard copy” for this election and it is not available due to the Naira crunch.

Doguwa lamented that the naira scarcity caused by the new policy would affect the electioneering expenses of politicians.

The lawmaker, who expressed his reservation over the new naira policy after a meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, lamented that the policy is affecting the APC.

Citing Section 88(4) of the Electoral Act, Doguwa said: “I need to have this N70m in hard copy. That is the position of the law and as I speak to you, I don’t have it.”

Doguwa noted that all politicians, irrespective of political affiliations, would be affected by the new policy.

“The policy in itself is against the ruling party because Nigerians that are not happy will look at it as a policy of the government of the APC.

“30-40 days to elections you come out with a policy that is not widely accepted by Nigerians, whether we like it or not that will be seen as the programme of the government. So those of us in the APC are not happy about it,” he said.

Plots to beat Naira scarcity

Despite the complaints of politicians, Sunday Vanguard gathered that a host of them were “forward looking” and had mapped out measures to navigate the Naira crunch.

Their moves, the CBN lamented, last week, is partly responsible for Naira scarcity because they are “mopping up” the few redesigned Naira released into circulation by the apex bank.

The Naira mop up is to deepen the measures they are taking to win the election that has become tougher because of the introduction of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS, by the INEC to check multiple voting as well as ensure that the real owner of a Permanent Voters Card, PVC, votes.

Before now, some politicians had embarked on expanded stomach infrastructure through the appointment of more aides; ensuring that their faithful got PVCs; and denying perceived supporters of opponents their PVCs.

On Election Day, Sunday Vanguard gathered that part of the measures will be to suppress votes and buy votes in opponents’ strongholds.

Asked the possibility of “compensating” their supporters on Election Day, one grassroots politician said: “we are politicians, we know the game and how to play it.”

Stomach infrastructure

With rising poverty in the land, some politicians have embarked on fresh welfare packages to win the support of would-be voters.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that many politicians are toeing the line of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, on a higher scale.

Wike, recently, appointed over 200,000 special political appointees and placed them on a monthly allowance of N30,000 to N50,000.

A top leader of one of the political parties told Sunday Vanguard: “Wike appointed 200,000 aides. We are doing a similar thing on a larger scale. We mobilised over one million people for the voter registration and ensured they got their PVCs. The 2023 elections will be different from past elections because of the BVAS and redesigning of the naira. In the past, an officer in charge of some polling units in a Ward may be given N500,000 or one million nairas. From the money, he will take care of agents of the other parties, security agents and INEC officials and we will take charge of the process.

“With BVAS, things have changed. But we are politicians and we know how to play the game. We have mobilized real people, real voters, up to one million in some LGAs. We have started giving them allowances of N10,000 every month and it will continue till the end of the election. We transfer the money into their bank accounts.”

‘Naira scarcity will affect vote sellers more’

Agreeing that the Naira redesign policy has affected politicians, another politician said voters would be affected the more.

“In the past, depending on location, politicians buy votes with N5000, N10,000 or even N20,000, if there was stiff opposition. Now things have changed. With the scarcity of Naira and worsening poverty, votes may be bought with N1000. You have seen what people are passing through to survive and how difficult it is to get cash. Some of them may even sell their votes for N200,” he said.

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Anyim Pius

A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, has berated the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party for his suspension from the party. He also said he had no regret for supporting the All Progressives Congress to win the governorship election in his home state of Ebonyi.

Anyim, who contested the party’s presidential ticket in 2022, said the leadership should rather hide their faces in shame for leading the party to defeat in the presidential and other elections. He also said the failure of the party to give the suspended members fair hearing before taking such an action had made it a nullity.

The former President of the Senate was suspended by the NWC of the PDP on Thursday over alleged anti-party activities. But in a statement, on Friday, he noted that the NWC should busy itself with how to move the party forward, rather than further dividing it.

The statement partly read, “The action of the NWC is, to say the least, disappointing. I thought the concern of the NWC now would be how to undertake a thorough self-examination on why they performed so poorly in the general elections rather than seek to further divide the party by shifting blame.

“It smacks of arrogance for the NWC to put up a bold face instead of showing remorse and being sober for leading the party to such a colossal loss in the 2023 general elections, thereby dashing the hopes and expectations of party members and indeed Nigerians.”

The party chieftain also accused some members of the NWC of working against the party in the election.

He stated, “It is clear that arising from the leadership style of the NWC, many members intentionally and proudly worked against the party, including members of the NWC. Therefore, it is a display of innate cowardice for the NWC to choose soft targets to suspend and fear those who daily demonise the party.

“It is difficult to explain why the NWC is in a hurry to suspend leaders of the party without recourse to fair hearing, without which their action is null and void.”

Speaking on the Ebonyi governorship race, he stated, “In the case of Ebonyi State, the NWC imposed a candidate from the sitting governor’s zone, contrary to the zoning formula of the state. Every effort to let the NWC see reasons fell on deaf ears.

“On the day the party’s presidential rally was held in Ebonyi State, I told Dr. (Iyorchia) Ayu I was boycotting the rally because I cannot support the candidate they imposed on Ebonyi State. Dr. Ayu did nothing. He did not care even as I did not attend the Ebonyi rally. The NWC may wish to know that I am proud to have supported the APC governorship candidate to win the election because that conforms with the equitable formula in Ebonyi State. It is therefore my expectation that the NWC should reverse itself in the interest of the party.”

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Accord governorship candidate in Rivers State, Dumo Lulu-Briggs

The Accord governorship candidate in Rivers State, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, has rejected the outcome of the governorship and House of Assembly polls in the state and called for the cancellation of the elections.

Lulu-Briggs, who made this call yesterday while addressing journalists at the party’s secretariat in Port Harcourt, said the party will challenge the outcome of the election in court if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not revert the result allegedly allocated to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

He stated that the election was marred with violence, snatching of ballot boxes, killings, manipulation of election results, police and thugs intimidation on the electorate among others.

According to him, the outcome of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly was responsible for voter apathy in the state.

He alleged that thugs working for the PDP hijacked the electoral process in most of the 6,866 polling units in the state and thwarted the electronic transmission of results.

The Accord standard bearer in the March 18, 2023, said INEC allegedly failed to meet their mandate in the election process, accusing them of conniving with the ruling party in the state to thwart the people’s will.

“In the last couple of days, the Rivers State Executive Committee of Accord, members of my campaign council, my running mate and I have painstakingly evaluated the governorship and House of Assembly elections of March 18, 2023.

“Based on INEC’s assurances, Rivers people came out in their numbers on March 18, 2023 to elect a new governor and new members of the state House of Assembly but instead of ballot papers, they were served with various degrees of violence that resulted in deaths, bodily harm and destruction of properties.

“They wanted a change, a redirection of their beloved state. But political thugs, gunmen and unscrupulous state security agents unleashed violence and bloodshed on them. As it were, the violence of 2015 and 2019 has repeated itself. Again, the blood of our innocent compatriots has been used to water the ambition of desperate Rivers State politicians.”

Lulu-Briggs revealed that days before the elections, Accord House of Assembly members were kidnapped, harassed. 

“The residence of Miss Nenubari Princess Nlenwa, the House of Assembly candidate of Accord in Tai Constituency was surrounded on the eve of the election by 30 men dressed in police uniforms. Their mission was to pick and lock her up and stop her from physically participating in an election in which she was a candidate. She escaped through the backdoor and spent the night in the forest.” 

He also informed that “local government chairmen were asked to write their resignation letters in order to coerce them into delivering their LGAs at all cost to the PDP or lose their jobs. Traditional rulers were also made to adopt the governorship candidate of the PDP.”

He said ahead of the elections, all the polls indicated  he was a topmost contender, reason he was invited to all the debates for topmost governorship candidates. “On election day, I got feedback on how well I was performing but my votes were changed by the PDP in most of the places that I won.

“There was no proper governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State on March 18, 2023. The exercise was marred and disrupted by killings, massive violence, heavy voter suppression, voters’ intimidation and other forms of irregularities and non-compliance with the electoral law and INEC regulations.

“It was characterised by vote buying, result forgery, result sheet mutilation, serial thumb printing, etc. These happened not just substantially but on an excessive and systemic scale.

“In the light of the above and lest the dead die in vain, I call on INEC to cancel the entire elections of March 18, 2023 in Rivers State and hold a fresh governorship and House of Assembly elections. Failure to heed this call will leave my party and me no choice but to file a petition at the election tribunal to challenge this travesty,” Lulu-Briggs added.

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High Chief Victor Ikeji

High Chief Victor Ikeji was actively involved in campaigning for Governor-elect Dr. Alex Otti. A member of the Peter Obi Presidential Campaign Council, Ikeji responds to questions on the prospects of an Otti administration in Abia State. He spoke with Nduka Nwosu. Excerpts:  

You were actively involved in the Alex Otti campaign network, how do you feel today?

The feeling comes with a sense of liberation, the realisation of a dream, the understanding that finally it is time to sit down and join the Governor-Elect in this God-ordained assignment to rebuild Abia State and set an agenda for the future. I am happy that in my age, my generation will be part of this re-building project of a state that has all it takes to be a key player in the economic growth of our country.

Do not forget that the former Eastern Nigeria of which Abia State was a part of, and under Dr. Michael Okpara who came from the state, took the economy of this region to a level it was considered Africa’s fastest growing economy. The high point of that growth process was agriculture, complemented with four industrial villages in Port Harcourt, Aba, Umuahia and Enugu. Aba made an impact as a trading hub of the sub-region of West Africa until recently when under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) administration, its infrastructure network collapsed. Since then, Aba went into a comatose and its industrial hub diminished in meaning and significance to the extent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu considered the opening of a fast-food joint in the city an achievement. 

The Governor-Elect is eager to revamp the infrastructure network in Aba and Umuahia the state capital which looks like a village and without a Government House, whereas Ebonyi State, carved out of Abia, now boasts of two Government Houses and fly overs across the state capital Abakiliki. 

Our Governor-elect has all it takes to go to work. Ndi Abia will witness less stress as he goes to fix things in their right places and remove what over the years has proved to be an impediment to the progress of the state. As a private citizen, he has used his Foundation to award scholarships to indigent students, made significant impact in assisting those with life threatening problems and general donations to improve health facilities, built roads in Arochukwu, Isiala Ngwa and Isuikwuato. He has also attracted a First Bank and Diamond Bank branches across Abia while working for the two organisations, and a host of other civic activity contributions too many to mention here, all within his limited resources. Now that he has access to the Abia treasury, he will utilise the resources to effect by deploying them where they are most needed. In the eight years ahead, there will be cause to celebrate. Those who put Abia State to shame, will live to see a difference.

How will the Governor-Elect raise the resources to execute what looks like a gargantuan project, considering the domestic and foreign debt profile of the state?

First, the Governor-Elect will obviously use his connections in corporate Nigeria to do deals that will be in favour of Abia State. He is highly respected in the industry and among his first assignments will be the restructuring of Abia’s debt profile, to get a breather in doing what needs to be done. If you study his manifesto, unity of Abians, rebuilding or reconstruction of the state and security of life and property, will be key points of his administration. The Governor-elect wrote the manifesto and as he put it, it is not the job of a paid consultant. To that extent he knows what he is talking about. The 35-page manifesto is his covenant with the people of Abia. He has said among other things that he would bring power and development to the people through the local governments because that is how it is expected to be.

Abia is a rich state whose economy was squandered by ungodly leaders and the Governor-elect will re-write that narrative. Our internally generated revenue, if effectively managed, will help create wealth outside the resource from oil. Long before now, Abians in the Diaspora had shown keen interest investing their earnings back home. With an improved security network which is a hallmark project in the governor-elect’s manifesto, foreign direct investment (FDI) including Diaspora earnings, would help boost resources available to the state. 

 The Governor-elect will do it the way of former Premier of Eastern Region Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara and the former Governor of Imo State before the creation of Abia State, Dr. Sam Mbakwe. These two great statesmen contributed to the growth of this section of the country. Fastforward, one would have thought that today, Aba should have witnessed the planned integration with Port Harcourt in terms of a huge industrial village or city as was in the original plan of the former Premier of Eastern Nigeria. What do we see instead? A decapitated city whose infrastructure network has been completely shaken down the drain.

The World Bank partnered with the Abia State Government to help in arresting perennial floods in the state especially in the Aba axis. Akwa Ibom was a beneficiary of that arrangement and has gone ahead to produce the expected results from the partnership. Surprisingly as the Ikpeazu administration prepares its hand over letter, that project has not realised its objectives, part of which principally was to halt flooding in Aba and its environs. The 27.4 billion Ndiegoro Abia World Bank project was queried by Mr. Martins Ichita, a legislator in the Abia State House of Assembly representing Aba South State Constituency. He is not the only one asking questions on how this collaboration has proved beneficial to Abia State, Aba in particular.

Specifically, the Ndiegoro Flood Control Project, was meant to fund road construction and erosion control in Aba, Port-Harcourt Road, Uratta Road, Obohia Road, Ohanku Road and Ngwa Road; this state of affairs gives you an idea of how profligate and unaccountable the Ikpeazu government had piloted the affairs of Abia State these past eight years. There was no attempt to improve on what he met on the ground. These are part of the problems facing the Governor-elect, but he is in no way fazed by issues of this nature.

Do you think the Governor-elect will place special emphasis on road construction?

The road infrastructure network in Abia is a major problem on both federal and state roads. The Governor-elect Dr. Otti is going to give top priority to road reconstruction. His administration will definitely make a difference. Our neighbours especially Akwa Ibom and Rivers states, have set a pace for us. 

Under Governor Sam Mbakwe, Imo State had a road network that was the cynosure of all eyes using Monier Construction Company (MCC) of which he was at a point its legal adviser, to create a modern road network in Imo State. Those halcyon years of trail blazing achievements are the expectations of the people from the Otti Administration. He knows he cannot achieve all of this in a twinkle of an eye, but he is able and excited to do the needful with his team.

Considering the huge wastage and corruption that occurred under the PDP, will Governor-elect Otti let go of recovering some of the loot and focus on the more important project of rebuilding Abia?

If you have been listening to his recent interviews, he is saying just that, which is that the task on ground calls for minimum distraction. A probe into the malfeasance that engulfed the state from the word go, will be more damaging than rewarding. Nothing will come out of such a probe. Therefore, the governor is not likely to travel along such a trajectory. My take is that right now the Governor-elect is working towards hitting the ground running from day one. That is who he is. He knows there are outstanding salaries to be paid; he knows that hungry and sick pensioners have been dropping dead for non-payment of salaries and gratuities; he knows about the problems of the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH). He knows that our hospitals and the health sector are severely damaged. He knows so much is wrong with Abia State, and these are the reasons he is assembling his arsenals for action, gathering a team with zero corruption tolerance as its mantra.

 Finally, what is your message to the Governor-elect?

I have already sent out my message to him. It is an encapsulation of the way the majority of Abians feel right now comparing him with Solomon, king of Israel who was charged to rebuild the Lord’s temple. His victory came with a wide margin over his closest contestant Chief Okechukwu Ahaiwe of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). His entry into the gubernatorial race was strewn with thorns along the way but he withstood the tests and trials guided by the unseen hand of the Almighty. Ndi Abia are jubilating across the country and the global village where they remained awake praying that this huge opportunity of liberation must not be allowed to slip off our hands by the same forces that held Abia captive for 24 years. 

To whom much is given much is expected. There is no doubt that looking at the Governor-elect’s pedigree, that of a man whose mission has been defined, that he would deliver. He is a banker per excellence, just as His Excellency Mr. Peter Obi who chaired Fidelity Bank and helped it experience huge growth. Governor-elect Otti’s years in Diamond Bank as Chief Executive took it out of the doldrums before his resignation to face a greater challenge of liberating Abia State. As an economist and columnist, he has tutored us with brilliant postulations and ideas on how to grow the economy. All of these will come to bear at this momentous opportunity to reconstruct Abia and its economy. 

Ndi Abia will remain loyal partners in this rebuilding project The task ahead is enormous, but we believe one with God is majority. Ndi Abia believe our new governor-elect is a Godsend and are therefore wholeheartedly behind him.

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