The Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained the the Central Bank’s move to stop the use of old naira notes on February 10, 2023, as proposed. Ruling on an ex-parte application brought by the governors of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, Justice John Okoro who led a seven- member panel held that “after a careful consideration
The Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained the the Central Bank’s move to stop the use of old naira notes on February 10, 2023, as proposed.
Ruling on an ex-parte application brought by the governors of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, Justice John Okoro who led a seven- member panel held that “after a careful consideration of the motion ex-parte this application is
granted as prayed”.
His words:” An order of Interim Injunction restraining the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or the commercial banks from suspending or determining or ending on February 10, 2023, the time frame with which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 denomination of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”
The three states had specifically applied for an order of Interim Injunction restraining “the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or the commercial banks from suspending or determining or ending on February 10, 2023, the time frame with which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 denomination of the Naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”
He accordingly adjourned to February 15, 2023 for hearing of the main suit.
On Wednesday, Mr AbdulHakeem Uthman Mustapha, SAN, counsel for the applicants, prayed the Supreme Court to grant the application in the interest of justice and the well-being of Nigeria. According to him, the policy of the government had led to an “excruciating situation that is almost leading to anarchy in the land.”
Quoting from a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) statistics indicating that more than 60% of Nigerians do not have bank accounts, Mr. Mustaph lamented that the few Nigerians who do have bank accounts are unable to access their funds as a result of the policy.
Nigerians have been having difficulty obtaining the new naira notes as the February 10 deadline approaches. This was why some banks in the state have been attacked, and protest in states such as Ondo, Edo and Oyo have devolved into riots.
Banks have recently been the target of violent attacks. When riots erupted over the weekend in Ibadan, a Wema Bank branch was vandalised. Many banks have increased their security and caution as a result of this.
Due to the heightened tensions caused by the country’s protracted Naira scarcity, some commercial banks on Tuesday ordered the closure of some of their branches until further notice.
Governors of the ruling party had met with the President last week and pleaded with him to allow old notes and the new ones co-exist. The president had told them to give him seven days to look into the issues arising from naira redesign.
However, after the meeting, Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, warned that the apex bank was not considering shifting the February 10 deadline for the old notes to cease being legal tender. The three governors had on Monday filed a suit against the Federal Government over the non-availability of the nation’s legal tender.
Specifically, the Governors of Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara states have sued the federal government seeking an order from the Supreme Court restraining the FG and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from implementing the naira redesign policy.
The three state governors which filed the action through their Attorneys-General claimed that both the old and the new Naira notes are scarce, thereby affecting people, especially the poor.
According to the suit, the Plaintiffs in the suit are the three Attorneys-General and Commissioners for Justice while the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) is the sole Respondent.
The plaintiffs in an ex-parte motion through their lawyer, Mr. Mustapha (SAN), are urging the Supreme Court to grant them an interim injunction, stopping the Federal Government either by itself or acting through the CBN, the commercial banks, or its agents from carrying out its plan of ending the timeframe within which the now older versions of the 200, 500 and 1000 denominations of the Naira may no longer be legal tender on February 10, 2023.
“Unless this Honourable Court intervenes, the Government and people of Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara State will continue to go through a lot of hardship and would ultimately suffer great loss as a result of the insufficient and unreasonable time within which the Federal Government is embarking on the ongoing currency redesign policy,” Mr. Mustapha averred.
The states said there has been a shortage in the supply of the new naira notes in Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara states and that citizens who have dutifully deposited their old naira notes have increasingly found it difficult and sometimes next to impossible to access new naira notes to go about their daily activities and transactions.
The states drew the attention of the court to the fact that the CBN policy is imposing a lot of hardship on Nigerians and insisted that the 10-day extension by the Federal Government is still insufficient to address the challenges of swapping their old Naira notes for new ones.
“That the majority of the indigenes of the Plaintiffs’ states who reside in the rural areas have been unable to exchange or deposit their old naira notes as there are no banks in the rural areas where the majority of the population of the states reside.
“Most people in rural areas of the Plaintiffs’ states do not have bank accounts and have so far been unable to deposit their life savings which are still in the old naira notes.
“There is restiveness amongst the people in the various states because of the hardship being suffered by the people, and the situation will sooner than later degenerate into the breakdown of law and order.
“The Plaintiff State Governments cannot stand by as they are duty-bound to protect citizens in their states and prevent the breakdown of law and order.
“I know that if the Federal Government of Nigeria had given sufficient and reasonable time for the naira redesign policy, all the current hardship and loss being experienced by the Plaintiffs’ state governments as well as people in the various states would have been avoided,” the three states stated.
Already some banks in Abuja and other parts of the country are ‘ closing shop’ over the scarcity of the new notes and the hostility of bank customers who strongly believe that the bankers are deliberately punishing them. Some Nigerians have also been killed following protests in some states particularly Oyo and Ogun states. Some branches of a commercial bank was touched in Oyo state on Monday.
Some governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress(APC) met with President Muhammadu Buhari over the issue last week.
On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) paid a working visit to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN). He expressed fears that the current scarcity of the nation’s currency may negatively affect the conduct of the election.