• Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Election postponements cost Nigeria dearly – SBM

Election postponements cost Nigeria dearly – SBM

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s postponement of the gubernatorial elections last night can lead to huge economic and financial losses to Africa’s biggest economy.

INEC budgeted N355 billion for the 2023 elections and putting off any aspect of the election until a later time means a staggering loss arising from the suspension of economic activities and movement restrictions, a new analysis by SBM Intelligence, an Africa-focused geopolitical research and strategic communications consulting firm revealed.

“In 2019, SBM Intelligence estimated the cost of the election postponement to be $2.23 billion because its primary and secondary effects cost Nigeria two percent of its $420 billion Gross Domestic Product,” the firm said in a document on its website Thursday.

According to SBM, given the effects of inflation and the variance in the value of the Nigerian naira in 2019 and 2023, it can safely be said that yesterday’s announcement, coupled with a possible rerun of the presidential contest on the unlikely chance the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party prove their claims of rigging in court, would come at a greater economic and social cost.

“Moreover, the postponement could have the immediate effect of harming voter enthusiasm and turnout rates, as some voters might be too drained by a long drawn out political process and the aftereffects of a flawed presidential exercise to carry on with the process on the newly chosen date,” it added.

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On Wednesday night, INEC postponed the governorship and state houses of assembly elections scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2023 to March 18.

Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, said the shift is to enable the umpire body back up the data and reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines deployed for the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls to be used for guber and state legislative elections.

This came some hours after the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja granted INEC’s request on the reconfiguration of BVAS, ahead of the March 11 state elections.

SBM said INEC’s efforts at ensuring the elections were not helped by the crippling cash shortage and fuel scarcity that resulted in protests and riots in some parts of the country, with some state governments openly declaring their refusal to align with Abuja’s currency redesign policies.

“Needless to say, the time chosen to implement this demonetisation programme harmed trade and the economy at large. The controversy around BVAS following the February 25 federal elections did not help either,” it said.

Since the fourth quarter of last year, Africa’s most populous nation is being roiled by internal crises as households and businesses are whipsawed by a severe petrol scarcity and a chronic shortage of cash occasioned by the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Manufacturers told BusinessDay that the shortage of naira notes has caused a drastic reduction of more than 25 percent in sales of locally manufactured products.

“What should ordinarily be a welcome monetary policy to improve the CBN management of naira currency has become enmeshed in tardy implementation and needless disruption of businesses and everyday life of the people,” Segun Ajayi-Kadir, director-general of MAN said.

Nigeria has gone through a lot recently, and a rescheduled election is the last thing an already volatile polity and distressed economy needs, but it has happened, analysts at SBM said.

“It might be only a week, and the reasoning may be legitimate, but the costs of this postponement may be paid in a fraught and delicate democratic transition,” they said.