In a last-ditch effort to resolve the lingering cash crisis that has thrown the entire country into turmoil, governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress on Sunday met with the party leadership at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja.
This was as the chief executive officers of banks also met to proffer solutions to the situation which had led to attacks on banks and the death of no fewer than 13 persons across the country.
The development is coming barely six days before the presidential and National Assembly polls slated for Saturday, February 25, 2023
No fewer than 12 governors turned up for the crucial meeting with the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and other National Working Committee members, which started at 2.37pm
At the meeting were governors Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti), Sani Bello (Niger), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) and members of the National Working Committee of the party in attendance.
Governors Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) were absent, while Imo and Katsina state governors were represented by their deputies.
The party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, later joined the meeting at 4.45pm.
Addressing journalists shortly before their closed-door session, Adamu expressed delight with the turnout, noting the imperative of the meeting. He said, “It is my privilege to welcome you to this important and emergency meeting. We have found a situation where there is a pressing need to get together as standard bearers of our states in Nigeria who were elected on the platform of our great party, the APC.
“I am happy with the response so far. And it is my understanding that more of the governors are on their way. You will recall the recent development that has necessitated the need for this invitation.
“We do not want to sit in judgment over anybody or bodies with regard to what is going on today in the country as it affects our great party. I thought it best to get all those who are holding forth in the critical positions in the party to get together and have some interaction so that we can have a better interpretation and appreciation of the situation that we are in. That is the essence of this invitation.”
Contrary to an order of the Supreme Court that the Federal Government should suspend the February 10 deadline for swapping the old naira notes with new ones, the Central Bank of Nigeria refused to shift the deadline.
The apex court order followed a suit filed by Zamfara, Kogi and Kaduna state governments against the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. States including Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, Kano, Sokoto, Ogun and Cross River have also joined the suit as co-plaintiffs.
The crisis between the governors and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), worsened on Thursday when the President in his nationwide broadcast ignored the apex court by extending the validity of old N200 notes while insisting that old N500 and N1,000 remained illegal.
Buhari in his state broadcast said the old N200 note would be legal tender for the next 60 days, till April 10, 2023, while urging Nigerians to deposit their old N500 and 1000 notes with the Central Bank.
After the APC NWC and governors’ meeting which ended at 7.15pm, journalists were invited into the venue, where the chairman addressed them on the outcome of the parley.
Adamu lamented that although the naira redesign was a good move, the timing and the pain it had brought on Nigerians has necessitated the need for both the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and the AGF, Abubakar Malami to avoid misleading the President.
He said, “I’m sure you are quite aware of the fact that a meeting comprising the APC governors was held today and the leadership of the NWC of our great party was summoned. We had a discussion and at the end of the discussion, we have resolved as follows: That this resolution is without prejudice or whatsoever to the case that is lying at the Supreme Court at this point in time. This has to do with the issue of currency redesign.
“We noted very seriously that the programme and its implementation are causing tremendous difficulties to the people of Nigeria and to the national economy. That we urge the Attorney General of the Federation and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to respect the supreme court order of interim injunction which is still subsisting
“That the meeting is urging his Excellency, Mr President, to intervene in resolving issues that are causing this great difficulties to the economy,”
When prodded to comment on the need for the presence of the APC Tinubu, at the meeting, Adamu disclosed that “Tinubu’s visit is a normal visit.”
Addressing journalists after the meeting, the Chairman of Progressives Governors Forum and the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, expressed satisfaction with the level of mobilisation that had gone into the campaign of their presidential candidate.
He stated, “As the chairman spoke, the governors and the party are one and the same. And I am very proud about the conduct of our campaign by our presidential candidate
“The Director General of the campaign and indeed, governors and the candidate across the country have been doing a tremendous job of mobilizing the Nigerian populace and we are very, very impressed with the support of the majority of Nigeria.”
Although some of the governors like Sanwo-Olu and El Rufai wore long faces when they came out of the meeting, it is not immediately know if certain governors are in support of the naira swap policy.
Tinubu refused to address the press when he came out of the meeting at about 7.15 pm.
Despite entreaties by the journalists who kept pestering him with questions, he snubbed them and stepped into one of the waiting cars in his convoy and drove off.
It was gathered that during the meeting most of the governors, who spoke, said there was the need to prevail on the President to ensure the obedience of the court order.
Our correspondent learnt that Bagudu, who spoke first after the chairman’s opening address, rallied other governors and the APC NWC to kick against the CBN policy during the meeting.
“This informed the strong position they took against the policy, the CBN governor and the AGF,” a source explained.
The source added that the governors that spoke criticised the implementation of the naira redesign, which they said was not good for the party.
The PUNCH also gathered that the Bankers Committee was considering extending the collection of old notes this week to avert protests ahead of the polls.
It was learnt that the chief executives of commercial banks took the decision during a virtual meeting on Saturday as part of moves to avert fresh protests this week.
The meeting, it was further gathered, was aimed at getting the CBN to give approval for banks to resume the collection of old notes on Monday (today).
It was learnt the top bank officials believed doing so would reduce tension and prevent further protests that could increase tension ahead of Saturday polls.
“Bank CEOs met over the weekend to find a solution to the crisis. You can see that some banks collected old notes deposits on Saturday. The idea is to get banks to resume old notes collection from customers on Monday (today). This will prevent further attacks on bank officials and bank property this week. This is the last week before the polls, so the CBN and banks want to ensure there is no tension,” a top official privy to the development told The PUNCH.
Meanwhile, in defiance of the directive by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that the old N1,000 and N500 have ceased to be legal tender, the Kaduna State Government has directed ministries, departments and agencies to accept payments in the old naira and new notes.
El-Rufai had last Thursday slammed Buhari over his directive which he said was in disobedience to the February 8 Supreme Court Order restraining the Federal Government from ending its cash swap policy on February 10.
The governor asked residents of the state to continue using the old naira notes.
CBN confiscated, didn’t swap currency, says El-Rufai
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A statement by El-Rufai’s Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Muyiwa Adekeye, on Sunday, noted that the directive became necessary following the Supreme Court’s order that allowed for the use of old naira notes as legal tender.In the statement, titled, ‘KDSG asks agencies to accept payments in old and new notes,’ the governor stated, “In line with the subsisting order of the Supreme Court, the Kaduna State Government has directed its ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that their collection agents continue to accept payments made in all denominations of the naira, old and new.”
Kaduna alleges plot
Also on Sunday, the state government raised the alarm over an alleged plot by some disgruntled elements to destabilise the state a few days before the 2023 general elections using the platform of the cash scarcity crisis.
The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, who disclosed this in a statement, explained that the government was in possession of credible intelligence reports of planned protests across the state.
The commissioner warned that such a protest remained prohibited in the state, noting that security agencies had been placed on the red alert to forestall any act capable of disrupting peace in the state.
However, a member of the House of Representatives representing Kaduna North Federal Constituency, Samaila Suleiman, argued that El-Rufai’s statement amounted to treason, declaring that the governor should be made to face the law.
This was contained in a statement by the lawmaker titled, ‘illegal counter order on currency redesign: an act of treason,’ released to newsmen in Kaduna on Sunday.’
Toeing the same path as Kaduna, the Ogun State Government on Sunday said its directive that the people in the state should continue to spend the old naira notes still subsisted.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Kunle Somorin, stated this in response to inquiries by The PUNCH.
When asked if the directive still subsisted, he said, “ Yes,” adding, “The Supreme Court is the only arbiter on this case.”
Similarly, the Zamfara State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Junaidu Aminu, affirmed that the state government would continue to use the old naira notes as legal tender until the Supreme Court delivered its final pronouncement on the case pending before it.
In a related development, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said the recent directive on the collection of old N500 and N1000 in the state was merely advisory to ensure peace and tranquillity.
Omotosho disclosed this in a phone call with The PUNCH on Sunday.
In a related development, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions has called off its stay-at-home order and told its workers to resume work at their various banks nationwide.
It also called on the Federal Government to make cash available to the banks.
The association said this in a statement signed by the President, ASSBIFI, Olusoji Oluwole, on Sunday.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 13 persons have died in protests provoked by the shortage of new naira notes across the country, according to findings by The PUNCH.
Also, at least 12 states have witnessed protests as a result of the policy.
The states are Edo, Delta, Oyo, Ondo, Benue, Kwara, Ogun, Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, Osun, Rivers, and the Federal Capital Territory.
A breakdown indicates that two persons died during a protest against naira scarcity at Mowe in Ogun state on February 18.
Also, three persons were shot dead in Benin City, the capital of Edo State, when youths staged a protest against currency swap on February 16.
On February 15, two persons lost their lives in the protest that erupted at the Udu road area of Delta State over new notes’ scarcity.
One person died following a riot that broke out in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on February 7.
Also, protests at the Dogo community in Apata, Ido Local Government Area of the Oyo state, led to the death of three persons on February 5.
A bank customer slumped and died after standing in a queue for long hours at a bank in Agbor, Delta State, on February 3.
Also, a heavily pregnant woman in Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru LGA, in Kaduna, lost her life to the scarcity of the new naira notes after her husband could not access cash for her treatment on February 2.
Buhari pleads patience
As naira crisis worsened, the President on Sunday appealed for more patience from Nigerians.
Buhari who said he was fully aware of the hardship argued that the policy is meant to improve Nigeria’s economy.
“I am appealing to you to exercise further patience as we take appropriate measures to ease these hardships. God willing, there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” Buhari said in a video recording from Ethiopia where he attended the just-concluded African Union summit.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, this in a statement on Sunday.
Speaking on Sunday, the President said “I want to once again assure you that I am fully aware of the current hardship you are facing as a result of some policies of the government which are meant to bring overall improvement to the country.
“I am appealing to you to exercise further patience as we take appropriate measures to ease these hardships. God willing, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.”
In the video, Buhari also drummed support for the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, saying “he is reliable and I know he will build on our achievements.”
The President thanked Nigerians for electing him to the country’s highest office for two terms, and urged them to vote for the APC flag bearer because “he is reliable and I know he will build on our achievements.”
“I am not a contestant in this election, but my party, the All Progressives Congress, has a candidate in the person of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“As I mentioned before, Tinubu is a true believer in Nigeria, who loves the people and the development of our country.
“I am calling on all of you to vote for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He is reliable and I trust he will build on our achievements,” he said.
The President emphasised that the APC presidential candidate has demonstrated his commitment to the development of the country and the well-being of its people.
His message comes barely two days before the grand finale of the APC presidential campaign rally in Lagos on Tuesday which he is expected to attend.