There are indications that the lingering naira notes scarcity occasioned by the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may stop some Nigerians from voting in Saturday’s presidential election.
Daily Trust gathered that Nigerians who desired to travel for the polls were finding it difficult as a result of the lack of cash.
Since the launch of the new naira notes of N1,000, N500, and N200 in December, public access has been difficult owing to their scarcity in banks, ATMs and Point of Sales (PoS) terminals across states of the country.
When Daily Trust moved around the major parks in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), only a few commuters were seen as they lamented the cash crunch.
It was observed that while some of the transporters accepted payment by transfer, others insisted on collecting cash.
At a motor park in Gwagwalada, Emeka Johnson, who was heading for Imo State, said he was travelling for the election despite the naira crisis.
“The naira scarcity is something else, and even the PoS operators we normally rely on, despite the huge charges, are nowhere to be found. I even learnt it is worse in the East,” he said.
At Zuba garage, Solomon Ogunleye, who was going to Ekiti State, lamented the increase in transportation fares.
“I travelled early this year and it cost me N4,000 but now it has been increased to N7,000 while some drivers are insisting on collecting cash. This is enough reason to discourage people from travelling to cast their votes,” he said.
Nsikak Epenyong, an engineer, said travelling to Akwa Ibom from Abuja before was N11,000 via non-air conditioned bus and N13,000 with an air-conditioned bus but now it is N16,500 and N18,500, respectively.
In Maiduguri, passengers are now rushing to Borno Express Mass Transit where they pay transport fares through PoS machines.
When our correspondent visited, one of the park officials, Adamu Alhaji Yakubu, said they had been receiving passengers in hundreds travelling within and outside Borno State.
“Like any other election period, the volume of passengers has also increased this time around, despite the cash crunch that people are facing. You can see mass transit buses from different states, and each one has PoS machines through which passengers pay fares into the state government accounts using.
“People have been coming here to travel to Kano, Kaduna, Gombe, Plateau, Nasarawa, Katsina, and the rest, and this has been on since last week,” he said.
Yakubu said people were also travelling to local government areas, especially southern Borno.
One of the passengers, Muhammad Bayero, told our correspondent that he was travelling to Kaduna to spend the election period there.
“It is always good to go home and cast your vote there, at least you will stay with your family, especially during the election period because one cannot predict what would happen. Basically, this is why I’m travelling home,” he said.
Another traveller, Naomi Eleja, who was travelling to Biu LGA, said she registered in Miringa town and it is where she feels safer to stay during the elections.
“I arranged to travel with my family members but ended up being the only one to hit the road because of the economic situation. I don’t have enough money to pay for everyone, and the issue of scarcity of cash also affected some of them.
“Believe me, many people would not vote this time around because of the current situation in the country, and things have kept getting worse by the day,” she said.
Meanwhile, in the conventional motor parks, when Daily Trust visited, the commercial vehicles were scanty and passengers complained that some drivers were not accepting transfers.
“You have to pay cash or else you wouldn’t board their vehicle. We are facing a lot of difficulties travelling this time around,” she said.
In Kano, there were mixed feelings among people wanting to travel for elections and park officials as the cash crunch bites harder by the day.
One of our correspondents, who visited the Luxury Motor Park and the popular Unguwa Uku Motor Park in Kano, observed the parks were not as busy as they used to be.
Activities have grossly reduced with few passengers boarding the buses and cars to travel.
Nasiru Ibrahim, who is the chairman of Kaduna Line at Unguwa Uku Park, while lamenting the scarcity of passengers blamed the issue on the cash crunch and inefficiency of online transactions.
“People are not going anywhere; we are pissed off with the situation. As you can see for yourself, the park is not active at all.
“People now come here to travel but return home at the end because there is no cash at PoS and because of no network, transfers are not going also.
“Honestly, a few are travelling while the majority are not going anywhere. We have spent decades here; during past elections it was not like this. Parks used to be very busy at times like this when it was few days to the elections,” he said.
A driver, Abubakar Sani, also told our reporter that many people who wanted to travel for elections returned home.
“We are just here waiting for them. They do come and go back. Some get to go and most of them are travelling because of the election. So, this will affect the election seriously.
“And the way people are angry about this issue, it might result in voter apathy in the end. People will sit back at home and decide not to come out while in some places, that anger will work in pushing people to vote,” he said.
The case is the same at the luxurious bus park where most people board for long journeys, especially to the eastern and southern parts of the country.
Daily Trust further observed that while few buses were in the park, there were few passengers boarding the buses —the majority of whom were businessmen and women.
Speaking, one of the park officials, Judo Ogbiano, said people were willing to travel but there was no money for them to go.
He said: “Most of the people you are seeing here did transfer. Nigeria is over 60 years old now but instead of bringing life to us we are still suffering. When are we going to enjoy the country?”
For Collins Ogbonna, he was going to miss voting because he didn’t have money.
“I am supposed to vote in Lagos, not Kano. But as you can see, I just brought some of my family members. The transportation is high and drivers are also complaining of no gas.”
A phone repairer at Computer Village, Ikeja in Lagos, Nnamdi Felix, said he would be travelling to Enugu to cast his vote.
“Things are difficult but this is our opportunity to make the sacrifice, endure the pain and get it right,” he said.
However, a resident of Oke-Aro community, Ebere Achusi, whose polling unit is in Ibadan, stated that she would not partake in the 2023 election process as she would not be able to travel.
“There is no cash in circulation. You’d have to stand for long hours in the queue at the banks and PoS agents are charging outrageously. Also, transportation fare is really expensive at the moment. I am pained that I will not be able to exercise my voting rights to make a change in this country.
“I no longer reside there. I’d not only pay for transportation but have to look for someone to put up with because plying the road that same day might not be safe for me,” she said.