Another year gradually but eventfully winds down for Nigeria and what a year it has been. What a year Nigerians can indeed say it has been.
There have been cheers and tears as well as highs and lows. Many Nigerians have experienced the full range of different emotions this year.
For many Nigerians, it has been a year of crushing disappointment. But what cannot be taken away from the year is the excitement it has generated.
With pivotal elections and all it means to look forward to next year, a large chunk of this year has been dominated by the coming elections.
Nigerians are thrilled at the prospects of going to the polls but more than that, they are in thrall of the politics that would yield the next president.
As with politics of political parties and candidates, there has been enough going on in the money and banking world to suggest the politics of money is afoot.
Firstly, the Central Bank of Nigeria decided to replace the old naira notes with new ones in what is clearly a deliberate plan.
The plan to phase out the new notes was hatched some months ago but only began to find perfection this month.
The new notes went into circulation on December 15 and the plan is that by January 31,2023,the old notes would be obsolete.
The Central Bank of Nigeria marching in lockstep with the executive has also announced that from 2023, there would be daily withdrawal limits.
For individuals,it is 100,000 weekly while for corporate entities, it has been put at 500,000 weekly until further notice.
The steps would appear to be a sign of President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed commitment to ensure free and fair elections.
However, the moves, especially the one about the daily withdrawal limit,is one that is poised to bite sections of the country hard.
Already,Point of Sale(POS) operators have already written President Buhari to protest the move.
According to them,it will put many out of business. Also, concerns have also been raised by the Arewa Consultative Forum.
According to the Forum, the daily and weekly cash limits would affect the commodities markets in rural areas that are entirely cash-based.
There is no doubt that the cash withdrawal limit would heap pressure on those who rely on cash for their business.
But if it is with an eye on ensuring the integrity of the 2023 elections, would it be worth it? If that is the aim, is a sacrifice worth making?
Ahead of the elections, one of the chief concerns of observers is that money would play an inordinate role in the elections.
In recent elections ,vote buying has become a big issue as Nigerians are not immune to the occasional stray cash especially when it is coming from dubious people.
Nigerian authorities must ensure that the appropriate structures are put in place to ensure that all those who would attempt to buy and sell votes fail.
To do this, the prosecutorial agencies have to be at their best during the elections to apprehend, prosecute and incarcerate those who would trade in votes.
The new policies must also be sufficiently tweaked to ensure that those who do business do not suffer economic losses beyond mere inconvenience.
Measures must also be taken to ensure the transparency of the implementation of the new policies as Peter cannot be robbed to pay Paul.
Finally, there is a need to review the limits upwards. By any measure,100,000 for individuals and 500,000 for corporations per week is not enough.
But whatever it is that is being done to make the next elections free and fair, the hope is that it works for the sake of Nigeria’s future.