FULL REPORT: Nigeria – Unrest over cash shortages will continue in coming days and disrupt voting in some southern states on 25 February

West AfricaNigeria24 February 2023

FULL REPORT: Nigeria – Unrest over cash shortages will continue in coming days and disrupt voting in some southern states on 25 February

Written by:
Nhlanhla Moyo
Image Credit: Skorzewiak / Shutterstock

TorchlightTorchlight Predictions

  • Protests will be violent and disrupt commercial activities as demonstrators target ATMs and banks
  • Demonstrations will block travel and supply chains on major highways and routes, including in Lagos and Abuja 
  • Protests and destruction of polling stations will lead to postponement of voting in some constituencies, increasing risk of a disputed election 


  • Protesters burn two banks in Ogun state over shortages of new naira notes. Citizens nationwide have been subjected to long queues to access banknotes in recent weeks, with cash shortages undermining their ability to pay for basic goods and services. Related unrest has also been witnessed in Edo, Oyo, Delta, Kwara, Ondo, Benue, Rivers and Lagos states, with at least a dozen people killed. (20 February) 
  • President Buhari approves the extension of a deadline to swap old banknotes for new ones to 10 April. The original deadline was 31 January. The currency swap scheme is intended to replace counterfeit notes and curb vote-buying ahead of the 25 February elections. (16 February)


Protests over cash shortages will continue in the coming days, particularly in urban areas in South West and South South states. More banks are likely to be targeted, as are local government and central bank offices, while main roads in urban centres will be blockaded. Civil society organisations have also accused both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of politicising the crisis to exacerbate electoral violence in opposition strongholds, including in Osun state. It is therefore likely the issue will contribute towards disrupting voting in some areas on election day

Buhari’s decision to extend the deadline for swapping old notes meanwhile will not alleviate the cash crisis in the coming days amid high demand for new notes. Several banks, transport operators, and shopping outlets in major cities are already refusing to take the old banknotes and issue new ones due to uncertainty around the deadline. This will exacerbate anti-government sentiment, prompt more protests, and trigger acts of arson and vandalism at these locations. 

Cash shortages of the new banknotes will also widen the rift between Buhari and supporters of the APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu. Tinubu’s allies have accused Buhari of deliberately sabotaging Tinubu’s prospects of winning the election through the naira redesign, which has frustrated Tinubu’s ability to pay campaign staff and mobilise political support. However, we assess the cash shortages are unlikely to significantly affect Tinubu’s prospects and he will win the election. Tinubu still has significant political support in key battleground states, while many voters will have decided on their preferred candidate despite the cash crisis. 

Implications for Business

Supply chains: Protests will disrupt travel and supply chains along major roads in most southern states. In Delta state, protesters will continue to block major roads in the Udu area, staging bonfires and burning old tyres, forcing motorists to seek alternative routes. Supply chains along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a major highway that connects Lagos to the rest of Nigeria will also be at risk of disruption as protests block motorists and the movement of goods. Demonstrations will be sporadic, and will continue for the coming weeks. 

Elections: The cash shortages will also affect the electoral commission’s ability to conduct the general elections, as it needs to pay some service providers in cash for transportation and support services on election day. This will affect the commission’s ability to conduct a smooth election and will likely see voting disruption in some areas, particularly in South West states. This situation will increase the risk of disputed election results and post-election violence in areas where voting is delayed.

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