Once President Muhammadu Buhari’s third term finishes on Saturday, voters in Nigeria will choose a new leader from among 18 contenders. The nation is now dealing with a number of issues, the most recent and urgent of which is a cash crisis.
Bola Tinubu of the ruling party and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition are two of the three front-runners. The typical pattern of two-candidate campaigns has been interrupted by third-party candidate Peter Obi, who is widely considered to be the front-runner.
Political observers had predicted a high level of participation in this election, despite a consistent fall in voter turnout. The lack of available funds is the obstacle, though.
In the cash-dependent nation, people are compelled to wait all day in ATM lines, which leaves them only able to purchase necessities like food and inciting conflict.
Threatening to lower voter turnout and obstruct independent groups’ capacity to monitor the election.
The naira is being revamped for the first time in nearly 20 years as authorities struggle to replace outdated notes with new ones. Many individuals have thus been unable to withdraw money from banks.
Considering that as of November, when the central bank implemented the policy, people held more than 80% of the money in circulation, the currency switch is intended to reduce inflation and money laundering.
A widespread practise in Nigerian elections, the use of money to buy votes, was also intended to be limited, according to policymakers.
Nonetheless, there is a relatively small supply of the new notes due to the quick timing of the currency swap.
Several people have started using digital payment services, which are typically unreliable, in place of cash.
Trader Felix Okpe in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, said that it had been more than 24 hours since a customer purchased things worth 15,000 naira (US$32) from his store of hair supplies before he received credit.
That has an impact on us because, “Does anyone still have the money to make purchases? Everyone is confused as a result,” Okpe remarked.
The government-run corporation that is printing currency has the ability to produce enough banknotes, according to the central bank, but it has been claimed by politicians that they are hoarding the cash for their own use and to sway elections.
Experts disagree and claim that the bank failed to properly plan the currency swap.
Larger-domination New currency is replacing notes of 1,000 naira (USD 2.16), 500 naira (USD 1.08) and 200 naira (43 US cents).
The 200 naira notes can be used until April 10 according to Buhari, the president, although they have never been abundant or frequently utilised.
His move appears to have gone against a supreme court injunction that the old currency notes be kept in circulation while the court deliberates.
Osita Nwanisobi, a spokesman for the central bank, stressed on Tuesday that only the 200 naira notes will continue to be accepted but he made no mention of measures to increase the amount of cash available to banks.
The presidential and state elections will be watched over by 145,000 observers from close to 200 local and international groups. Due to the difficulty in paying for services, some have claimed that they are unable to deploy staff members across all 36 of Nigeria’s states as well as the capital.
The largest democracy-focused organisation in Nigeria, the Centre for Democracy and Development, is led by Hassan Idayat, who claims that the lack of access to funds has slowed down election preparations since workers have been left stranded.
“As an organisation, it has an effect on our own planning. We have to pay persons we work with in cash in various areas of the nation. Without funds, it actually becomes impossible for us to work, she remarked. “The situation is awful.” Due to flaws that frequently leave Nigerian elections hotly contested, she warned that the restricted ability of observer groups to oversee the vote could cause irregularities.
There are worries that if the election commission can’t handle practicalities like paying workers on time, the financial crisis could cause a delay in the vote, a potential repeat of 2019 when logistical issues forced the election to be postponed. The one prior to it, in 2015, was also postponed.
When more individuals choose to spend their limited resources on food instead of other things due to the currency crisis, attacks on banks have increased and many businesses have been forced to close.
Security experts claim that this places additional pressure on already overworked security forces as they deal with separatist violence in southeast Nigeria, an extremist insurgency in the northeast, and armed groups of former herdsmen battling communities for control of water and land in the northwest.