Political parties have expressed concerns over the new cash withdrawal limits that will be implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), claiming it could choke the political process.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Africa Democratic Congress (ADC) and African Democratic Party (ADP) have contended that the policy would affect the fundraising required by the candidates to sustain their campaigns ahead of the 2023 elections.
Also, speaking in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, the African Action Alliance, Zenith Labour Party, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance declared that it would impact the poor rural dwellers.
Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State had accused the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, of targeting the political class with the new cash withdrawal limit which restricts over-the-counter cash withdrawal by individuals and companies to N100,000 and N500,000, respectively, per week.
It also limited point-of-sale machines and automated teller machine withdrawals to N20,000 daily.
According to a memo signed Tuesday by the CBN’s Director of Banking Supervision, Haruna Mustafa, withdrawals above the thresholds would attract processing fees of five per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, for individuals and corporate entities going forward.
In addition, third-party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for OTC payment while extant limits of N10m on clearing cheques still remain.
The circular also directed banks to load only N200 and lower denominations into their ATMs and restricted withdrawal to N20, 000 per day from ATMs.
The policy, which will become effective on January 9, 2023, has generated criticisms but the CBN clarified on Wednesday that PoS operators could apply for waivers.
PDP campaign kicks
Commenting on the circular, the Director, Strategic Communications, National Election Management Committee of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Chief Dele Momodu, said the recent cash withdrawal policy announced would affect the parties’ funding activities, adding that “if enforced, the policy will strangulate the political process, not the PDP alone.”
He said, “In 2014/2015, I am sure if (President) Buhari had no access to funding, he would never have been the President of Nigeria. There are people who are making contributions to the political parties and some parties have set up structures to receive support from people. How then will they be able to access the fund if they are saying you cannot withdraw more than N100, 000 a week?’’ he asked
“I read somewhere that the CBN said the policy would not be rigid but why make the policy in the first place if it is not going to be rigid?” he queried.
On how the policy implementation may affect the PDP, Momodu said, “the Finance Committee is better placed to say the extent this will affect us as we prepare for a series of activities leading to the general elections. Maybe, the Finance Committee, if it thinks the party will be negatively affected, will consider writing to the CBN but like I said earlier, this is more of a problem for the ordinary man on the street than it is for a political party.”
He also spoke on how the new CBN policy would affect the poor.
He added, “Why make a policy that will largely affect the poor more than the rich? My worry is that most of our policies always target the poor. The PDP is worried about the poor market woman, the ordinary man on the street because we still run a cash-and-carry economy.
The National Chairman of the Africa Democratic Congress, Chief Ralph Nwosu, observed that the policy might pose a challenge to the parties, noting that the CBN did not carry out adequate sensitisation campaigns on it, stressing that it was politically motivated.
Nwosu noted that the policy would affect the party’s campaign, explaining that paying the ADC agents in the rural areas might be a challenge.
He added, ‘’How do you expect the ADC candidate to have the cash to do the things he wants to do and how do you think that this is the best time for such an undertaking?
‘’We have almost 200,000 agents that we must pay and 80 per cent of them live in rural areas. Is it that N2,000 or N5,000 that you pay them that you would transfer to each of them? How many of them have such a facility? So it’s completely inconsiderate of them.”
He added that the cash withdrawal policy would affect Nigerians negatively.
He said “What is the literacy level (of Nigerians), what kind of campaign have they done so far on the policy? You know, you can’t continue dealing with Nigerians as if we are still in the military, especially when that dictatorship is meted out by people who are not even in the military. It’s most irresponsible.
‘’We want to believe that the intention this time is also political. It is not only affecting the election but will affect the general way of living in Nigeria.
‘’This is part of the challenge we have as a country in that people in government occasionally just take actions on their own without caring how it will affect the masses. So, generally it’s not about how it affects the elections but about how it affects the society.
“There are people selling rice, beans and every day, people come to them to buy things and pay with naira and kobo, so before the CBN should do anything they should think about the society.’’
Also speaking, the factional National Publicity Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, Alpha Muhammed stated, ’’You cannot overnight bring a policy that will seriously affect a project as big as the general elections.
‘’Definitely, cash has to move, people have to pay for logistics; you have to give cash to agents, you have to give cash to those who will transport people to rallies. It will definitely affect the success of the election and the campaign itself.’’
Asked if the parties would write to the CBN for a waiver, he responded, ‘’Of course, if the need arises, it is expected that the party or candidate will write to the CBN for a waiver. But it’s important for them to utilise cash in prosecuting some logistics aspect of the election campaigns.”
On his part, National Chairman and Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Party, Sani Yabagi, told The PUNCH that though the Federal Government might have been targeted at curbing the flow of money during the 2023 elections, political parties, he noted, might have logistical challenges if the policy implementation eventually takes off.
He argued, “I think the government is trying to control the flow of money in circulation. We have all agreed that vote buying and selling is a cankerworm to our democracy. So, if the intention of the government is to curb the use of cash for vote buying, this will be good news for everyone.
“But will this not amount to killing an ant with a sledgehammer? Again, which is better: the medicine or the sickness? Government must think about this again particularly as it would affect the logistics of all the political parties.”