HomeUS News updateNigeria to choose president amid national bank note crisis

Nigeria to choose president amid national bank note crisis

Voters in Nigeria go to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president as Africa’s largest population grapples with a national banknote shortage as some observers fear a lower turnout than expected.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are being held amid fears of violence from Islamist militants in the north to separatists in the south, although officials insisted this year’s vote would not be postponed like the last two presidential elections.

Out of a field of 18 presidential candidates, three main candidates have emerged in recent weeks: the candidate of the ruling party, the candidate of the main opposition party and a third-party candidate who has drawn strong support from young voters. But whether those supporters will show up in force at polling stations is unclear as Nigerians have waited hours in queues at banks across the country this week in search of money.

The vote is being watched closely because Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and one of the continent’s top oil producers. By 2050, the United Nations projects that Nigeria will tie with the United States as the third most populous country in the world, behind India and China.

It is also home to one of the world’s largest youth populations: about 64 million of its 210 million people are between the ages of 18 and 35, with an average age of just 18.

The tenure of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was marked by concerns about his ill health and frequent trips abroad for medical treatment. Two of the top candidates are in their 70s and both have been in Nigerian politics since 1999.

In contrast, at 61, Peter Obi, the Labor party’s third-party candidate, is the youngest of the front-runners and polls surged in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s vote.

Nevertheless, Bola Tinubu has strong support from the ruling All Progressives Congress party, which is an important supporter of the president. And Atiku Abubakar has been named to be one of the richest businessmen in Nigeria, who has also served as the vice-president and presidential hopeful in 2019 for his People’s Democratic Party.

This presidential election also includes many first-time voters, such as 30-year-old Wuraola Abulatan in Lagos, who accused the ruling party of failing to deliver on promises it made when it first came to power in 2015.

“I had lost hope for Nigeria but when Peter Obi started campaigning, that hope came back,” she said. “I want to see Nigeria get better.”

The full impact of Nigeria’s currency crisis on Saturday’s election was not immediately clear, although officials said they were able to get the government the money needed to conduct the vote.

In Lagos, a female policewoman who was in line at a bank to withdraw cash told The Associated Press on Thursday that she could not go where she was deployed for election duty because she had not received the cash.

After authorities in November announced a decision to redesign Nigeria’s currency, the naira, new bills have been slow to circulate. At the same time, the old banknotes were stopped being accepted, creating a shortage in a country where many people use cash for daily transactions.



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