• Governance must be subject to people’s interest, Bishop Badejo insists
• Nigerians lament as scarcity of new naira notes, petrol bite harder
Most Rev. Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo has charged government to place peoples’ interest above selfish plans and adjust its policies to suit the public good. Bishop Badejo, who made the declaration recently in a statement entitled “Pervasive hardship in Nigeria: Governance and policies must have a human face”, took this stance on the basis of the deepening hardship occasioned by the naira redesign and fuel scarcity that have further left many Nigerians infuriated and frustrated. He maintained that the power of government is held by the people and the people give power to leaders they elect to represent them and serve their interest. The prelate said, “Government policies and action must ideally serve the citizenry. Especially in a democracy; government policies and actions, no matter how good they are, should be targeted at the public good and should make life more liveable for the people. “This is true simply because government officials and public servants are mere custodians of the power which belongs to the people. Therefore, in executing even the best and most urgent policies, the people’s interest, not party ego or selfish plans must be at the centre of honest governance.
“Government and public officials in a democracy are public servants, not slave drivers. That is what it means for governance to have a human face.” There have been increasing criticisms of the government over inability to access the new naira notes, scarcity of fuel, hike in fuel prices and their severe effects such as hike in prices of food, rising cost of transportation amid the country’s grim socio-economic situation that has seen many plunged into poverty. Following widespread confusion and frustration over inability to access the new naira notes recently injected into the economy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) coupled with the impending extended deadline for the phase out of the old notes, Bishop Badejo noted that the currency redesign and the sloppy way in which it is being inflicted on Nigerians is causing untold hardship for most of the Nigerian people. He emphasised, “A policy which sucks up the hard-earned old currency notes which majority of the people depend on, with little guarantee of getting new currency notes to them to spend is tantamount to squeezing life out of millions.” The Bishop said the Central Bank Governor’s earlier grandstanding about not shifting his January 31 deadline for turning in the old notes could have made justifiable sense if his office had done everything possible and necessary to make the new notes available to the largest percentage of Nigerians 100 days ago. According to him the situation has not changed despite the ten days extension to February 10.
He takes a swipe at the CBN, “It is now common knowledge that this is not the case. Why then should the general public suffer for the institution’s failure? “The reported appeal to subsidiary banks by the Central Bank to collect and disburse the redesigned notes when it should have made them do it is simply laughable and indicative of the nature of governance in Nigeria. “The story is even more dire in large swathes of the country where there is no banking service whatsoever within kilometres. Are those living there not Nigerians too?” Bishop Badejo lamented that the lingering fuel scarcity has further crippled the socio-economic activities across the country making life tougher, especially for the masses. The Catholic Herald Weekly Newspaper tour of filling stations in Lagos and its environ revealed the downstream operators sell fuel at the regulated price of N168, while the independent marketers sell at between N330 and N350 per litres with many of the stations under lock. Newspapers’ report indicate that the product is sold at N400 per litre and above in other states. The prelate observed that the situation has become even more worrisome with the setting up of a task force to ensure availability of fuel. He said, “Now President Buhari has raised something of a task force to make petrol available. This typically Nigerian style of throwing stones at a charging lion is hardly surprising! What about those whose job it was to make petrol available in the first place? Now we have a committee that will spend more money to redress our already monumental loss of money. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, it is so much gone with the thief and so much to find the thief!” The Bishop voiced his discontent at the set time frame for the transition of old currency to new ones.
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration that 100 day-period is more than sufficient for the public to change the old currencies to new ones is easy to make when you live in Aso Rock and get bales of new notes thrown at you at your beck and call. He simply does not seem to know anything about the alarming incompetence and insensitivity which the banking system has shown in getting those new notes to members of the public who wish to get them.” According to the prelate, all these are coming on top of skyrocketing price of goods and services, sending the anger and frustration of the struggling masses through the roof with the 2023 general elections only weeks away. Bishop Badejo queried, “How then will the elections be free and fair? Is there a sinister plan hidden somewhere behind all this? He enjoined the Nigerian government and its officials to react quickly to the current hard times to avoid public revolt and chaos, stressing that “A hungry man, they say is an angry, destructive man and a hungry woman is even worse.” The high ranking cleric however, admonished government to fashion its monetary policy after its BVN and NIN policies, emphasising that in any democracy, the ultimate power is vested with the people. “If the monetary policy is hurting the same people which it is intended to serve; why can’t some modification be made to its timing and execution, cf. the BVN, NIN policies? Do our leaders need to be reminded that the power of the people will always outlast the people in power? A day of judgment will surely come!”
…Nigerians lament as scarcity of new naira notes, petrol bite harder
From the inaccessibility of new naira notes to scarcity of fuel, to hike in fuel prices, hike in prices of food and provisions, high dollar rate, ASUU strike, the collapse of the power grid, hence, the lack of supply of electricity, increased killings, and many more, Nigerians have been plunged into severe hardship. They lament their untold hardships. Excerpts. Mrs. Theresa Udoh, a trader charged government to review its policy on the new naira notes, especially as it pertains to withdrawal limit. “I’m financially stranded, so also many Nigerians. We are crying, we cannot withdraw our own money. We, traders are not selling, because people have run out of money to buy even food stuffs. “My daughter and I were at the bank today to make withdrawal and we were told that we can only deposit. We were told to use the ATMs. But all to no avail. Both ATM and banking halls are not paying. It’s frustrating. How do we survive? “Look at the fuel situation, there is power failure; you cannot even get fuel to buy. Even when you are lucky to find a filling station selling, it is selling at N350 per litre. Poor me, I don’t have a car to drive into any filling station with my jerry can for stations who sell at N168 per litre do not sell into jerry cans. I don’t understand what is becoming of Nigeria. President Buhari should call CBN to order. CBN is frustrating us.” Mr. Eric Osaigbovo, a teacher urged the government to come to the aid of the poor people. “This naira redesign is suffering the poor masses. The big people have plenty of the new naira notes that we are suffering to get. The scarcity of the new naira note is causing serious hunger because people do not have money to buy food for their families as they can neither withdraw from the banks nor ATMs. “I queued up at the bank today between 9.30a.m and 11a.m and still couldn’t make a withdrawal. How do I feed my children? How would they transport themselves to school tomorrow? This is big trouble for us. Government should please make this new naira available to the poor masses.” Biodun Adeleye, a mechanic wondered at the guts of APC campaigning for presidential and governorship slots in spite of the failures of the APC government. “I’m so angry.
APC still has the audacity to campaign for President and Governor when they have specialised in frustrating Nigerians and keep making life miserable for them. Why would APC allow fuel scarcity and unavailability of the new naira to the masses only few weeks to the election? They are frustrating us and at the same time asking us to vote for them. Go to the petrol stations, you will find long queues. Go to the banks, same long queues and still no payment. How do they want us to survive without money? I spent N400 withdrawing N2,000 from P.O.S. Where is Nigeria heading to? Since November last year, Nigerians have faced the worst petrol crisis the country has ever experienced in recent years. Filling stations across the country have either closed or have been operating intermittent schedules, selling at higher prices. Government disassociated itself from the fuel hike and promised to address the scarcity and ensure regular supply of petrol, but over three months since the crisis broke out, it has failed to address the issues and stabilise supply. Over the weeks, CBN has kept dismissing claims of scarcity of the new naira notes. The apex bank keeps insisting that it has massively supplied the new notes to commercial banks to dispense both at the counters and ATMs. The commercial banks are grumbling over inadequate supply of the new naira notes by CBN and are unable to meet the demands of their customers. Where are the new naira notes?