The World Today for February 23, 2023


Quite the Handoff


Rioters in Nigeria recently attacked banks and blockaded roads to express their anger over the scarcity of cash since the country’s central bank began replacing old banknotes with new, supposedly more secure designs of the local naira currency. A shortage of new notes means that many banks can’t give customers cash on demand.

As Agence France-Presse reported, the central bank, which has set and extended deadlines for bank account holders to convert their notes, is seeking to crack down on counterfeit money as well as illicit transactions in cash. But the policy is causing hardships on the streets.

“I don’t have any cash,” said Abraham Osundiran, a construction worker in Lagos and among the 40 percent of Nigerians without bank accounts and who only use cash in their daily transactions, told the BBC. “I’ve had to skip breakfast so I could come here, and I don’t know what I will eat for the rest of the day.”

The unrest comes as Nigerian voters prepare to cast ballots for a new president on Feb. 25, an election that is important for a few reasons. Nigeria’s population is becoming one of the world’s largest and the country is an important oil producer, Foreign Policy magazine wrote. Current President Muhammadu Buhari is leaving office after two terms grappling with Islamic terrorism, the coronavirus pandemic, and other crises. And, Al Jazeera noted, misinformation-fueled violence has marred Nigerian elections in the past.

A former military dictator who ran Nigeria in the 1980s, as the Council on Foreign Relations recalled, Buhari has not earned plaudits for respecting human rights. He has arguably comprised them while doing little to curb corruption, grow the economy or stop the jihadists and other militants who roam the country’s remote northeastern regions from killing, kidnapping and terrorizing with near impunity, added University of Lagos researcher Sa’eed Husaini in a New York Times op-ed. The US recently even announced new sanctions on Nigerians who impede the country’s democracy, The Hill noted.

Now Bola Tinubu, the candidate from Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress political party, is facing off against Atiku Abubakar of the primary opposition group, the Peoples Democratic Party, as well as underdog Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Remarkably, Obi is now leading in the polls, wrote Bloomberg, suggesting that voters want someone who will confront the corrupt elites in the two main parties that trade power in the capital of Abuja.

Buhari’s successor has much to do. The country’s oil industry is unproductive due to corruption and a lack of investment, according to Deutsche Welle. The Nigerian army is still battling Boko Haram fighters who are affiliated with the Islamic State, Nigeria’s the Guardian reported.

The country, though, is big enough and powerful enough to solve its problems. Many hope Buhari’s successor will make a strong start.

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