•Their inciting comments emboldening people to attack banks
•Sympathises with citizens over hardship
•Protesting youths set banks, IBEDC, INEC offices ablaze in Ogun
• APC campaign: Inconsistent Atiku can’t offer leadership Nigeria needs
James Sowole in Abeokuta, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja, Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa, Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo and Ugo Aliogo in Lagos
The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has accused governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of preparing the ground for anarchy in the country through their virulent utterances and outright confrontation posture over the naira redesign project of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications Mr. Phrank Shaibu, the PDP candidate, sympathised with Nigerians over the hardship they were facing over the naira scarcity, which was having unintended consequences.
Atiku’s accusation came as the ancient town of Sagamu, headquarters of Sagamu Local Government, area of Ogun State was yesterday morning, thrown into chaos as angry youths protesting the scarcity of the new naira notes attacked branches of four commercial banks and other public facilities in the town.
Following the nationwide broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari, directing the recirculation of the old N200 and that the N500 and N1,000 should cease to be legal tender, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el Rufai made a counter broadcast directing the people of Kaduna to ignore the presidential broadcast and continue to do business with the old notes. He cited the Supreme Court interim injunction as reason.
Also following Rufai’s footsteps, was Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje who threatened that: “Any bank that refuses to accept old N500 and N1,000 notes will be destroyed. We will not tolerate such disobedience from any financial institution operating within our jurisdiction,”
Governor Ganduje further disclosed that the space of the destroyed banks would be used for building schools.
“We will convert the space of the destroyed banks into schools that will provide quality education for our children,” he had threatened.
Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, t also threatened that, “the Ogun State Government will be revoking the Certificate of Occupancy, of any corporation or store that rejects old naira notes from members of the public in the State in exchange for goods and services.”
Also, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara had ordered the arrest of anyone who refuses to accept the old N500 and N1,000.
But Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri and his Osun State counterpart, Senator Ademola Adeleke, yesterday sued for calm following the raging controversy over the naira redesign policy.
Adeleke also warned against hoarding of new naira notes by commercial banks, calling on the CBN to sanction financial institutions involved in such anti-people activities.
Atiku, however, said the inciting comments by some APC governors wherein they threatened to shut banks rejecting the old notes had emboldened rioters to burn down commercial banks.
He said Abiodun, who had threatened to revoke the certificate of occupancy of banks rejecting the old notes, was acting like a dictator, and this had evoked rebellious actions.
Atiku stated, “The president made it clear that the old N1,000 and N500 notes are no longer legal tender. Those who are dissatisfied with the President’s proclamation should go to court rather than resort to self-help. Two wrongs do not make a right.
“Governor Dapo Abiodun, who is the number one citizen of Ogun State, ought to know better. However, he has been threatening to revoke the C of O of banks that obey the President’s proclamation. This act of defiance has evoked rebellion, hence the riots and burning of banks in Sagamu, Abeokuta, and Mowe”.
Atiku, in the statement by his aide, knocked the All Progressives Congress (APC) chapter in Ogun State for distributing old notes to voters ahead of the election as seen in viral videos.
He added, “In viral videos all over social media, agents of Governor Abiodun could be seen sharing the old notes in envelopes branded with the governor’s picture, convincing the supporters that the notes remain legal tenders contrary to the CBN policy.
“It is obvious that Governor Abiodun’s concern has nothing to do with the pains of the people. It is only because of the inability of his party to buy votes. If we may ask, where did the APC in Ogun State get the old notes that are no longer in circulation? These are funds that were stashed for vote buying.”
He also noted that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State had accused APC chieftain, Adams Oshiomhole, of sponsoring the riots in Benin, which he said was clear evidence that the APC was behind the riots.
“Oshiomhole is one of the biggest critics of the naira redesign policy. It is not surprising that Governor Obaseki, who is the chief security officer of the state, has established that Oshiomhole is behind the riots. The APC really needs to stop provoking these riots,” the statement added.
Shaibu also knocked Kaduna State Governor, Nasir ell-Rufai; and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State for trying to provoke civil disobedience in their states.
He said, “The APC and their governors do not love the masses. Their only grouse is their inability to buy votes because of this policy. Nigerians must not be deceived by these unscrupulous politicians.”
Atiku’s aide called on the Nigeria Police Force, the Department of State Services, and other security agencies to infiltrate the ranks of those staging riots with a view to identifying their sponsors.
He said the ultimate goal might be to force the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone the election on the grounds of insecurity.
“With elections less than five days away, the ultimate goal of the sponsors of these riots may be the postponement of elections. We commend the military and the police so far for curbing some of these riots.
“However, we call on them to go a step further by identifying their sponsors” he said
Angry Youths Set Banks, IBEDC, INEC Offices Ablaze in Ogun
At Sagamu, the headquarters of Sagamu Local Government, area of Ogun State, the violent protesters attacked branches of Union Bank, Keystone Bank, Polaris Bank and Access Bank. While branches of Keystone and Union banks, were burnt, the protesters, attacked branches of Polaris and Access banks.
Other public facilities burnt, were the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), located within the Sagamu Local Government Secretariat while furniture and other property of the local government, were also burnt.
In addition, it was gathered that the protesters, also burnt the Sagamu office of the Ibadan Electric Distribution (IBEDC) while they also made burnfire on Sagamu/ Lagos/Benin Expressway.
The protest which was said to have begun in front of the palace of the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, spread to other parts of the town.
The angry youths had last Friday barricaded the Mowe axis of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in protest of the naira scarcity.
A youth leader in the town, Kayode Segun-Okeowo, described the act as a, “motivated destruction and not a protest.”
“This is not a protest. I’m a comrade and understand the ABC of protest. It’s motivated to cause destruction.
“Those behind this must stopped,” he said in a telephone interview.
He also confirmed that two commercial banks have been set on fire.
Meanwhile, the Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, has called for calm.
A statement signed by the Oba read: “Appeal to all to remain calm and peaceful as we continue to engage the Federal Government.
“This policy is not from the state or local government. Therefore, the destruction of lives and properties will only compound an already bad situation.
“I urge our people to continue to accept the old notes in line with the Supreme Court ruling. No person who accepts the old notes would lose out. I can assure you of that, and please hold on to that promise.”
Reacting to the situation, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), for Ogun State Command, Abombola Oyeyemi, said normalcy has been restored in greater parts of the town.
Oyeyemi, said the Commissioner of Police for the State, Frank Mba, was personally leading police teams and some military men to tackle the situation.
Meanwhile, the APC and the PDP yesterday, clashed over the protest that rocked Sagamu.
In a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Ogun State governor, Kunle Somorin, the state government said it was reliably informed that some disgruntled members and candidates of the PDP were sighted leading the demonstration.
The statement noted that, “while the protests were purportedly against the ‘scarcity of naira notes, the real intention of these elements became obvious with the involvement of known PDP members”.
The statement read further: “It is on record that the campaign tour of the APC, which moved through Simawa to Ogijo and back to Sagamu, where two roads were commissioned yesterday, ended without any hitch. The APC rally was attended by tens of thousands of people at different locations, lasting from about 8.00 am in the morning to 8.00p.m in the evening without any violence, quarrels, or disagreements whatsoever.
“We believe strongly that it was the success of the APC rally of yesterday that got the feeble opposition PDP frustrated and therefore made their members embark on the mindless destruction of properties.
“The governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, has been on top of the fallouts of the naira re-design issues. The governor had visited the Central Bank headquarters in Abeokuta and some other commercial banks’ branches, made a state broadcast and empathise with the people with a reassurance that efforts are on to ameliorate the negative impacts of the controversial policy on the people.
“Rather, our people should exercise patience and be law abiding while waiting to cast their votes for the party that
has stood by the populace even at this critical period.”
Reacting to allegations, the Ogun State Chairman of the PDP, Sikirulahi Ogundele, said that the outburst of the state government showed its sense of irresponsibility and insensitivity to the plights of the Ogun State people.
Ogundele, who expressed disappointment over what he described as “spurious allegations” from the ruling party, added that the APC has failed Nigerians and the people are reacting.
“The ruling party has failed the people and they are now reacting to the untoward hardship its policies had brought on them. Can they say that PDP was behind the protests in Oyo, Ondo and other states? Nigerians are just reacting. Instead of the ruling party to own up to Nigerians that their policies have brought hardship and pains on them, they are busy shifting blame on the opposition party.
“For the records, PDP has nothing to do with the protests in Sagamu or anywhere in the state. Let them go and check themselves. They are disconnected from the people. The should put their failure on the PDP. They are disorganized and it is rubbing on their faces now that people are ready to vote them out of office, starting from this Saturday,” Ogundele stated
Why CBN Mandated Banks to Be Collecting Old Banknotes
In a related development, a source at the CBN yesterday clarified why the apex bank mandated commercial banks to be accepting the old N1000 and N500 from customers who were still holding the currencies.
The source explained that it was ensure that those that didn’t have the opportunity to deposit them before the February 10, deadline do so and get value.
The source who pleaded to remain anonymous, explained to THISDAY in a chat yesterday, that in line with Sections 20(3) of the CBN Act, the apex bank was meant to ensure that those who were holding the old notes but didn’t have the opportunity to deposit them into their banks before February10, 2023, are able to redeem their stock of the old notes at the CBN for value.
She pointed out that anyone who wishes to do so, have only one opportunity to do so at the CBN after the notes had lost their legal tender status on February 10, adding that no person would be allowed to redeem his or her old notes more than once.
“This is what the CBN is trying to do. To redeem your old notes, you are meant to complete a form on CBN website where you get a CBN code to redeem your old notes.
“To reduce the crowd at the CBN, it mandated the banks to collect sums below N500,000. As far as CBN is concerned, the old N500 and N1,000 have since expired after February 10 and cannot be accepted as means of exchange for goods and services,” the source added.
Bayelsa Governor Urges Calm
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has sued for calm following the raging controversy over the redesign policy.
Diri maintained that it was within the rights of the government at the centre to implement the policy and urged the federal government to take practical steps to reduce the pains being experienced by Nigerians.
His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted the governor as having spoken during the 22nd state security council meeting in Government House, Yenagoa, yesterday.
He lauded the people of the state for not resorting to illegal means of resolving the issues, expressing optimism that the challenges being faced as a result of the policy will soon be over.
His words: “We are all aware that by Saturday elections will commence. Our state has been safe and I like it to continue.
“All of us should join hands with the security agencies, give information to ensure our state remains safe. Let me commend service commanders for ensuring our state is safe.
“We are all currently undergoing difficulty caused by some policies of the government. The pain is time-bound but the policy has its advantages.
“I like to appreciate the people of Bayelsa, who though are experiencing pains have taken it with equanimity and have never resorted to illegal means of resolving the issue.
“Currency redesigning is an exclusive matter for the federal government. All we can do is to call on the federal government to reduce the impact on the people. I appeal to all Bayelsans to keep the peace. We have no other state of our own.”
On the recent skirmishes in Nembe-Bassambiri that claimed some lives, Governor Diri again admonished traditional rulers to take proactive steps to ensure peace in their domains.
The state’s helmsman noted that politics should be a means of serving the people and not warfare, urging politicians to play by the rules and remain civil as civilians.
“Building up to the election, we have seen killings in Bassambiri. For no reason, innocent people have been killed.
“I have directed the security agencies to remain in Nembe until after the election and till peace returned. I have also directed the arrest of those responsible for the killings,” he added.
Briefing the press shortly after the meeting, the Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State Command, Mr. Ben Okolo, assured of adequate security in the state during the general election.
He restated the ban on the use of 200-horse power engine boats, saying it would be vigorously enforced.
Governor Adeleke Meets CBN Officials, Calls for Sanctions of Banks Hoarding New Naira Notes
Governor of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke yesterday warned against hoarding of new naira notes by commercial banks.
He called on the CBN to sanction financial institutions involved in such anti-people activities.
Addressing CBN officials in his office, Adeleke decried the increasing shortage of the new notes, explaining that he had been deploying state network to douse tension and ensure safety of banks and the CBN state office.
According to the Governor, his intervention in the last few weeks had ensured that Osun state was saved from increasing conflict in some south west states, expressing unhappiness at the current hardship the people were experiencing.
“The situation is getting out of hand. The CBN must act fast. Any bank hoarding the new notes must be sanctioned. We should not treat such banks with kid gloves,” he said.
“My people are patient but we should not take their patience for granted. That is why I called for this meeting. Why are the new notes not available? Is the supply small or inadequate? the Governor queried.
He expressed the readiness of his government to partner with the CBN on the currency swap, informing the CBN team that the state was sacrificing a lot to maintain peace and calm frayed nerves.
“The new notes are not available. Even as a state governor, I don’t have the new notes. You can see how hard it is for our people to access the new currency if their governor is not getting them.
“We should not overstretch the cooperation we are enjoying from the citizenry. We are expected as elected and appointed leaders to respond to the needs and aspirations of our people,” Adeleke admonished.
Responding, the CBN State Director, Oluyemi Adeyemi, in response commended the state governor for his proactive steps that has saved the state from naira scarcity-related riots.
“On our part, we are working hard to make the new notes available. Let me say that the CBN has issued queries to some banks. I assure Nigerians that we are working hard to make the new notes available,” the CBN official stated.
Stop Attacking Bank Workers, TUC Tells Protesters
The leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has pleaded with aggrieved Nigerians protesting difficulties and hardship resulting from the implementation of the federal government’s naira redesign policy to desist from attacking its members working in the banks.
It cautioned the government against the use of maximum force to subdue the protesters.
It warned that federal government has no right to use maximum force on Nigerians, adding that it may have to file compliant at the International Criminal Court if anything of such happened.
The union however pleaded with the protesters to stop the attacks on bank workers, adding that they are also victims of the ill-timed policy.
In a statement jointly signed by its president, Festus Osifoh and General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, the union said the protests were wrongly directed at bank workers and other staff of financial institutions.
It said: “The TUC fully identifies with the Nigerian people in their legitimate and fundamental right to have access to their funds illegally withheld in the banks.
“It is harrowing for millions of our fellow countrymen and women to stand in long queues for hours at banks and ATMs in their effort to retrieve their legitimate funds from the banks.
“Our hearts go out to ordinary Nigerians and their families who are forced to undergo hardship including inability to buy food, basic medicines or pay for transportation because their monies are hanging in the banking system.”
The TUC further said the banks and financial institutions’ employees had no input whatsoever in the naira redesign policy nor were they consulted.
“They also have no hand whatsoever in the printing of the new naira notes nor are they responsible for the release of the new currencies by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the bank workers themselves do not have these cash.
“The banks and financial institutions’ employees at junior and senior staff levels are mere workers who distribute only currencies made available to the various banks by the regulatory agencies,” it added.
On the allegations that some bank staff were withholding the new currency notes; TUC said it would not oppose the law taking its course if the allegations were proven.
In the same vein, the National President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Oluwole Olusoji has expressed concerns over the looming job insecurity, destruction of business premises, and the wanton destruction of properties in the banking sector.
He said such moves would further hurt the financial institutions and the country’s economy at large.
Olusoji, who disclosed this yesterday, in Lagos, during a media briefing, said panic withdrawals by currency traders have persisted with the cashless systems in the country, while urging the government to address the poor implementation of cash circulation in the country.
He urged protesters to desist from destroying properties of banks, while highlighting the unfortunate events that took place at Edo, Delta, Oyo and Abeokuta were there were attacks on banks’ facilities.
Olusoji remarked that the sad incidents had amounted to personal losses and injuries such that the insurance sector has since being faced with claims of more than N2 billion.
“Over 70 percent of workers in the informal sector are casuals who receive daily income from their daily jobs,” he explained.
He pleaded with the public to desist from threatening or attacking their members, or destroying banks’ properties.
“We are in a critical period of our national development, and all hands must be on the deck to bring Nigeria out of the woods.
“ASSBIFI and NUBIFIE members are highly responsible, ethical, and patriotic people, mindful of the negative impact industrial action in an already charged environment, but if we are pushed, we will do what is necessary to defend and protect lives.”
Inconsistent Atiku Can’t Offer the Leadership Nigeria Needs, Says APC Campaign
The Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the APC has described Atiku as inconsistent and opportunistic.
It said Nigerians should run away from Atiku, saying a man like him with no strong conviction and strength of character cannot offer the kind of leadership the country needs.
Director of Media and Publicity, APC PCC, Bayo Onanuga in a statement issued yesterday said he had observed the treacherous and shifting positions of Atiku since the current currency crisis caused by the Central Bank started.
Onanuga said in line with his well-documented inconsistencies and unreliability, Atiku had advanced several contradictory positions, in the fruitless hope of gaining political advantage from the crisis.
He said, “We note that Alhaji Atiku and his hopeless party first hailed the CBN policy to high heavens when they initially thought it was a policy deliberately designed to stop Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu from becoming the next elected president of Nigeria.”
Onanuga recalled that Atiku had called on Buhari and the CBN Governor to ensure strict implementation of the policy and the deadline of January 31, “because in his and his party’s short-sightedness and gross miscalculation, Tinubu was the prime target.”
He noted that Atiku’s position exploded on his face when the unintended consequences of the CBN policy manifested in its full ramifications and crippled the entire populace.
According to him, Atiku capitulated and sought to claim some credit by asking the CBN to ‘slightly shift’ the deadline of January 31, 2023.”
Onanuga pointed out that the CBN and the FG to which Atiku and his party have suddenly become the cheerleaders listened to all the voices of reason and shifted the deadline for the currency swap till 10 February.
He added that on February 2, Atiku took another public position, asking the CBN not to shift the deadline again
He explained that amid the widespread misery and the currency scarcity that the naira swap policy created for Nigerians, “Atiku’s position proved once again an egregious miscalculation and clearly anti-people”
The APC campaign stressed that with just five days away from the presidential election, Atiku wants to cash in on the mood of the country with his latest faux empathy.
Onanuga said: “He is now asking CBN to allow Nigerians to deposit their N500 and N1000 old notes in commercial banks, after thousands of desperate Nigerians jammed the CBN offices in Lagos and other places, hoping to deposit their old currency and get the new notes.
“It is generally a bad time for poor and hapless Nigerians as currency scarcity has become the norm. The chameleonic politician forgot that he once described the suffering our people are going through some ‘little inconvenience”.
“We recognise Atiku’s desperation to be President and like chameleon, this unprincipled and unstable politician will change positions on any issue as long as he thinks it will help his perennial ambition.”