INEC pledges to swiftly prosecute electoral offenders; Tinubu’s aide urges President Buhari to suspend CBN Governor Emefiele over Naira scarcity | 5 Things That Should Matter Today

  • INEC pledges to swiftly prosecute electoral offenders
  • Tinubu’s aide urges President Buhari to suspend CBN Governor Emefiele over Naira scarcity
  • IATA reports foreign airlines’ frozen funds in Nigeria amount to $743m
  • British High Commissioner: Nigerians should be proud of 2023 presidential election
  • INEC clarifies appointment of ICT head, denies bias allegations

Across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, these are the five top Nigerian news stories you shouldn’t miss:

INEC pledges to swiftly prosecute electoral offenders

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, stated on Tuesday that the commission is assembling a legal team to handle cases of electoral offenders during the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25.

According to him, the upcoming gubernatorial and state Houses of Assembly elections will be significantly more difficult than the presidential election, and he asked the security agencies to remain vigilant.

Tuesday in Abuja, the chairman of INEC addressed the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security.

Yakubu cautioned political parties to exercise prudence with their followers, emphasizing that the gubernatorial and state Assembly elections scheduled for March 18 are a contest, not a war.

As promised by the Inspector-General of Police, he said INEC was anticipating receiving the case files of electoral offenders.

Yakubu said, “The governorship and state Assembly elections this weekend involve more constituencies than the national elections held about three weeks ago. Unlike the last elections involving 470 constituencies (one presidential, 109 senatorial districts, and 360 House of Representatives seats), the state elections will involve 1,021 constituencies (28 governorship and 993 state Assembly seats). There will also be more candidates involved and more collation centres to protect. There are also local elections involving keen contests.

“It is, therefore, important for parties and candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest and not war. They should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media, and service providers.

“The commission is encouraged by the directive to state commands by the Inspector-General of Police to handle all cases of electoral offences expeditiously. We look forward to receiving the case files. We will immediately set up a legal team to handle such cases in earnest.”

On his part, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, described Saturday’s polls as complicated but gave the assurance that security agencies would ensure peace.

Monguno said a lot of meetings had been going on, especially with the Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector-General of Police, to ensure peaceful polls.

He said, “Of course, the elections on Saturday are going to be much more complicated, and contextually different. First of all, we are going to have 1,021 constituencies, which means more people are interested, and more people will vote. Obviously, the dynamics would be much more different than the elections that were just concluded.

“For the security agencies, I know a lot has been done. I have been talking with the Chief of Defence Staff, and with the Inspector-General of Police, who is the head of the lead agency in the process of elections. So far, so good, we do not envisage anything that is going to be terrible or apocalyptic in the next few days. But that does not mean that we should all do away with our state of readiness. We must comply with the rules. We must also allow everyone to exercise their fundamental rights as citizens of this country.”

The NSA urged political parties and candidates to demonstrate a high level of discipline and maturity during and after the polls, advising them to caution their supporters.

Tinubu’s aide urges President Buhari to suspend CBN Governor Emefiele over Naira scarcity

President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to suspend the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele.

The Director of Media and Publicity to Bola Tinubu, the President-elect, Bayo Onanuga, made the call over the continued naira scarcity.

Onanuga said Emefiele should not be occupying the office of the CBN governor after he scrapped the cashless policy.

Onanuga tweeted, “I am surprised Godwin Emefiele is still sitting pretty in office, without contrition, after he was forced to scrap his ghastly cashless policy.

“President Buhari should suspend him from office. Emefiele should go NOW.”

The cashless policy introduced by the CBN in December 2022 had led to the suffering of Nigerians.

The CBN policy was contested by some state governors in court, prior to the presidential election.

The Supreme Court declared that the old notes remained legal tender till December 31, 2023.

IATA reports foreign airlines’ frozen funds in Nigeria amount to $743m

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that Nigerian government restrictions on the repatriation of international airlines’ earnings have grown to $743 million from $662 million in January 2023.

The group reported this on Tuesday in a letter.

The letter was addressed to Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, and signed by Samson Fatokun, the association’s area manager in West and Central Africa.

The air transport association and the worldwide airline community appealed to the federal government requesting a novel approach for the unblocking of airlines’ cash in the country.

“For over a year, Nigeria has been the country with the highest amount of airline-blocked funds in the world. Please find attached the comparative table of airlines’ blocked funds by country,” the letter reads.

“Moreover, as of January 2023, airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria have increased to $743,721,092 from $662m in January 2023 and $549m in December 2022.”

Since the amount increased from $450 million in May 2022, to $464 million in July of the same year, the trapped funds have been linked to some of the challenges in Nigeria’s aviation sector with far-reaching effects.

In an effort to recoup lost revenue from the previous year, Emirates Airlines suspended its flight operations to Nigeria but resumed scheduled passenger flights in December 2022.

In a similar manner, British Airways (BA) closed inventory in Nigeria in the global distribution system (GDS), preventing local travel agencies from making reservations through their respective booking portals.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued $265 million to foreign airlines operating in Nigeria to settle outstanding ticket sales, following a series of meetings with government officials aimed at resolving the standoff.

However, the issue is not yet entirely resolved.

Susan Akporiaye, the national president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), requested that the federal government propose remedies to the problems posed by airfare profiteering in the aviation industry.

She stated that the conflict with foreign airlines has impacted travel brokers’ businesses in multiple ways, as the airlines blame their locked funds for the increase in airfare.

British High Commissioner: Nigerians should be proud of 2023 presidential election

The British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Catriona Laing, acknowledged setbacks in the presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday, February 25.

However, she also highlighted positive developments to be taken from the polls. Laing noted that since she arrived in Nigeria in 2019, there has been a remarkable difference.

Despite ongoing litigation, she found the elections fascinating and a promising indication of democratic governance in the country’s future.

During a courtesy visit to Senate President Ahmad Lawan at the National Assembly in Abuja yesterday, the British envoy expressed that despite some political actors contesting the election process, the election itself indicates a bright future for the country.

She said, ”I made very good friends, I love Nigerian music a lot, the culture here is so rich. Secondly, the politics in Nigeria is so fascinating.

“I was here till the last election and I finished with this election and I’m impressed with Nigeria’s democratic journey.

“Yes a bit of setbacks but overall, I see this as positive and Nigeria should be proud, but with a remarkable difference when I came in 2019.

“Nigeria is the biggest democracy in Africa; the world watches your progress to democracy.

“Though there were some disappointments in the last election but overall, every Nigerian should be proud because since 1999, Nigeria has been on the right track as far as participatory democracy is concerned.

“The election here is very different and fascinating as you are moving to three party system or maybe even four. I think Nigerians as well should realise that their votes count.”

Aside election, the British envoy, who hailed Nigerians for being resilient at times of difficulties, added: “There had been some tough times. We had COVID-19, insecurity has got a lot more since I was here. Nigerian people are incredibly resilient.

”I remain very optimistic about Nigeria’s future. So it’s been very wonderful tour and very sad to be going.”

INEC clarifies appointment of ICT head, denies bias allegations

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has reacted to the report making the rounds that it has appointed a partisan politician to head its ICT department in Lagos ahead of the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections on Saturday.

Chief Olabode George, a former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had on Monday insisted that INEC boss, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, must remove the Commission’s Director of ICT, Mr. Femi Odubiyi, arguing that he is partisan.

The elder statesman said that INEC must explain to Nigerians how Odubiyi, a former commissioner for Science and Technology in Lagos State, became the Head of its ICT in the state.

But the Commission, in a statement signed by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, said Bode George’s claim was far from the truth.

“To set the record straight, the name ‘Femi Odubiyi’ does not even exist within our ICT Department at the INEC headquarters in Abuja or any State office of the Commission,” the Commission said.

Okoye explained that INEC’s ICT staff were career officers and had never held any political appointment in any State.

He called on the general public to disregard the report.

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