By Sunny A Ijomah
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has restrained the Federal Government from implementing the February 10 deadline for the old 200, 500 and 1000 Naira notes to stop being legal tenders.
Three Northern States: Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara, had in a motion ex-parte filed on February 3rd, by their lawyer, AbdulHakeem Mustapha (SAN), prayed the Apex Court to halt the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) Naira redesign policy.
A seven-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice John Okoro, in a unanimous ruling, granted an interim injunction restraining the FG, CBN, commercial banks, among others, from implementing the February 10, deadline for the old 200, 500 and 1000 Naira notes to stop being legal tenders.
The Court further held that the FG, CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the deadline pending the determination of a motion on notice in respect of the issue on February 15.
By this ruling, the old Naira notes continue to be legal tenders in Nigeria.
After the ruling, the lawyer to the three state government, Mustapha, said Zamfara, Kogi and Kaduna States dragged the Federal Government and the apex bank to the highest court because the policy was causing hardship on Nigerians, especially those in the rural areas.
His words, ‘We invoked the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court when there is a dispute between the State government and the Federal Government. It is one of the few occasions where the Supreme Court acts as the original jurisdiction. So, we invoked the powers of the Supreme Court to hear this application.’
‘The reason for it is that, as well-intentioned as this policy of the Federal Government on this naira redesign is, it is causing hardship all over the country. As we can all see, banks are being harassed, Nigerians are suffering, especially the downtrodden, even in the urban areas, they are having difficulty, but it is more excruciating in the rural areas.
‘So, the three state governments: Zamfara, Kaduna and Kogi, deemed it fit for us to invoke the powers of the Supreme Court to intervene,’ rthe senior advocate stated.
The pandemonium over the February 10 deadline for the validity of three old naira notes assumed another dimension on Monday as five political parties and three state governments began legal battles.
Whilst the Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara governments dragged the Federal government before the Supreme Court, seeking an extension to the February 10 deadline, five political parties took the matter to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court and secured an order barring the Federal Government and the apex bank from any extension of the deadline.
The CBN had on October 26, 2022, announced its plan to redesign the three banknotes. President Muhammadu Buhari subsequently unveiled the redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 notes on November 23, 2022, while the apex bank fixed a January 31 deadline for the validity of the old notes.
The CBN also pegged its weekly cash withdrawal limits to N500, 000 for individuals and N5m for corporate firms.
With cries by many Nigerians, the apex bank extended the deadline from January 31 to February 10, saying it got the approval of the president.
The national assembly asked for a six-month extension of the policy, amid scathing criticisms by governors, lawmakers and stalwarts of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), including the standard bearer of the party, Bola Tinubu; former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; among others.
Buhari on Friday, February 3, after a meeting with some APC governors, had asked for seven days to make a major decision on the policy.
It remains to be seen whether the latest development will ease the problems encountered by the citizenry at banks.