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Naira Swap: Over N500bn Yet to Be Returned to CBN, Says EFCC Boss

He has deployed a full contingent of operatives and technology to tackle vote-buying.

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. AbudulRasheed Bawa, on Wednesday disclosed that over N500 billion of the old N500 and N1,000 banknotes were yet to be returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in line with the apex bank’s directive following the naira redesign project.

The CBN as part of its demonitisation policy had redesigned the N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations of the nation’s banknotes.

A timeframe of three months was given to Nigerians to deposit the old bank notes of the affected denominations with a January 31, deadline for the recall of the old notes.

Besides the economic benefits of the naira redesign policy, it was expected that the policy would curtail incidents of vote buying as well as address issues of kidnapping for ransom amongst other insecurity challenges.

Since the introduction of the policy last October, nearly N2 trillion had been returned to the CBN according to the apex bank.

However, speaking during a programme monitored on TV on Wednesday, on the level of preparedness of the anti-graft agency for the 2023 general elections, the commission’s chairman disclosed that, “over N500 billion is yet to be returned to the CBN.”

Bawa further disclosed that a large chunk of the N500 billion of the new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes in circulation were being hoarded allegedly for vote-buying in the general elections which commences this Saturday with the presidential and National Assembly polls.

He, however, warned that all machineries have been put in place to drastically reduce the influence of vote buying in the election.

Bawa expressed confidence that the agency would record more success compared to the recent Ekiti and Osun governorship polls because of the naira redesign policy.

“As you know we have new currency in circulation, it is easier to track this new currency by their numbers, the CBN knows the serial numbers of these currencies as they distributed them across the country.

“So we even have another added responsibility because all the funds that we will eventually recover out there in the field that would be used for buying of votes; we can actually check and see whether they are genuine currencies that are gotten from ATMs and across the counter or somebody somewhere gave them in bulk and gave politicians the money,” he said.

According to Bawa some bankers had been suspected of sabotaging the equitable distribution of the new notes.

While stating that no arrest had been made since October, when the policy started because the federal government does not want to create chaos and raise tension, the commission chairman, assured that after the elections a lot of people who had deposited very huge sums would certainly have answers to provide to the agency.

He assured that the EFCC would do everything to ensure that “dirty money does not find its way into the electoral process,” by stopping all those who wants to buy votes from doing so.

Bawa said although the commission’s operatives are not many but, all of them would be deployed to the field to prevent vote buying.

He called on all Nigerians to buy into the fight if the country must get rid of corruption which is the cause of the insecurity and economic woes facing the country.

He specifically charged Nigerians to “say something” when they “see something,” by reporting incidents of vote buying in their areas through dedicated phone lines.

Bawa, in addition, urged all Nigerians to download the EFCC’s app through which the can upload pictures and videos of vote buying during the election.

“Issues of vote buying is about our future, country and the system itself” he said, hence all Nigerians must own the fight,” he added.

He also assured that all those caught would be brought to book as the commission has already gotten the fiat to prosecute vote buyers as well as sellers.

Meanwhile he appealed to Nigerians to be calm and remain peaceful because after Saturday’s election those hoarding the new notes would definitely release them.

Alex Enumah in Abuja and Laleye Dipo in Minna

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