The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) naira redesign strategy has remained in flux, leaving Nigerians dissatisfied and sparking a wave of protests across the country.
While the misery caused by the paucity of naira notes and the rejection of old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes persists, the Supreme Court yesterday deferred the case challenging the CBN’s February 10 deadline to end the legal tender status of the old notes to February 22.
A panel of seven Justices, chaired by Justice John Okoro, added nine more states to the complaint as plaintiffs and co-defendants. The newly admitted states as plaintiffs are Lagos, Cross River, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Sokoto, while Bayelsa and Edo states were joined as defendants.
All parties in the dispute were ordered by Justice Okoro to appropriately update their processes and originating summons. The court also ruled that the order issued last week remains in effect until the suit is heard on February 22.
The court issued the clarification in response to a complaint by Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN), a counsel for Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara states, that the Federal Government and its agencies had failed to comply with the judgment and had reportedly instructed the rejection of the old notes.
Mustapha stated that the plaintiff filed a notice of noncompliance with the court’s order dated February 8 and sought that the court take action against the respondent to defend the court’s honor. However, the court stated that the injunction is still in effect until the outcome of the lawsuit.
Subsequently, President Muhammadu Buhari met with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, just hours after the Supreme Court delayed the case. Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, verified this to The Guardian, stating Emefiele spoke with the President following the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
In response to rumors that the President is considering extending the validity of old naira notes by 60 days, the presidential spokesman said he was unable to confirm or refute the story.
Earlier, President Buhari, Wednesday, had conducted a closed door meeting with the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Reliable sources say the meeting, which agenda was not known, was place at the President’s apartment within the Villa before the weekly FEC meeting.
For the first time, the President arrived late for the FEC meeting, which began at 10:40 a.m. According to a source, President Buhari arrived late because he was waiting for the outcome of the Supreme Court’s case against the naira redesign scheme.
In response to reports that the President was considering extending the deadline on the naira swap policy, Muyiwa Adekeye, Special Adviser to the Governor of Kaduna on Media and Communication, said there had been no meeting this week between the FG and either the NGF or the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), let alone one that lasted until the early hours of Wednesday and resulted in a decision on some out-of-court concessions.
But, lawyers are divided on the application of the Supreme Court’s ruling, with some claiming that the old currency is still legal tender and others claiming the opposite.
According to Douglas Ugbankwa, a lawyer, the old currency is still legal tender because the ex parte order was imposed pending the hearing and resolution of the motion on notice.
“The CBN should execute the court decision, as you can see, not doing so will lead to a total breakdown of law and order. The government lacks the moral fortitude to arrest anyone who destroys property, as it is their defiance of a court order that has intensified attacks on banks and government facilities.
According to Douglas Terkura Pepe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the old note will no longer be lawful money because the CBN refused to respect the ruling in the first instance.
Despite what the CBN states, human rights lawyers Monday Oyekachi Ubani and Ige Asemudara of Lagos argue the old currency is still lawful tender in the country. In his statement, Ubani stated that the Supreme Court’s order from last week is still in effect.
“That order was not vacated today; instead, the court adjourned until February 22, so old naira notes remain legal tender.”
Another lawyer, Barnabas Hunjo, noted that if the states that brought the petition wanted to challenge the legal tender, they should have joined CBN because the subject of legal currency falls under CBN’s jurisdiction.
He emphasized that the CBN Act allows the central bank to be sued on its own for any violation of his Act, rather than challenging the Federal Government, because the legal tender dispute is between state governments and the Federal Government.
“What the governors are contending is that there should have been an Economic Council Meeting headed by the Vice President and FEC representatives. However, the constitutional role of CBN is to inform the President as a norm, which the CBN Governor has done and he has got the consent of the President.
“The state Attorney Generals are aware that they may be in violation of jurisdiction, which is why they did not join CBN at the Supreme Court.”
ONDO State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu stated yesterday that the hardship caused by petrol and naira scarcity has hurt the ruling APC’s ratings ahead of the general election next weekend.
While faulting the timing of the currency swap strategy, Akeredolu urged President Buhari to direct Emefiele to reverse the naira redesign policy today.
The governor made the announcement while meeting with members of the APC’s Youth Directorate of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), led by Tinubu’s son, Seyi Tinubu.
He said: “We have a crisis we are facing in this country today. Our party’s ranking is not particularly favorable. Let us not fool ourselves. Is it necessary to have this financial policy now?
“How? What about the fuel and anything else? Things are not going well. This policy is not appropriate at this time. It should be the other way around. Reverse it, and notify CBN of the change. Allow old and new notes to coexist.”
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government, led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, pledged on Wednesday to prosecute anyone who refuses to accept outdated naira notes as legal tender across the state.
The governor added in a statement issued by the state’s Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, that while the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the subject, the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes are still legal tender.
“The Lagos State Government wishes to record the tolerance and tranquility of Lagosians amidst the uproar sparked by the Naira scarcity problem,” said the statement.
“The State Government has joined the case at the Supreme Court, which today deferred the hearing until February 22. When the case was initially heard on February 8, the Supreme Court ruled that the old notes remained legal money.
“That stance has not altered. The state administration today advises those who refuse to accept the old notes to stop or face prosecution. It is illegal to reject the old notes because it contradicts the Supreme Court’s opinion.
“Governor Sanwo-Olu urges Lagosians to be law-abiding and shun mischief-makers who may exploit this temporary scenario to push their anti-people agenda. He believes that the judiciary will decide all matters related to the money shortage dilemma.
“To soften the effect of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive on the old notes, especially on the vulnerable among us, Lagos State has commenced the distribution of food boxes promised by the Governor. As instructed by Mr. Governor, the 50% fare reduction on all state transit facilities remains.”
Senator Shehu Sani, a FORMER legislator, has stated that allowing the old notes to be legal cash before the February 25 and March 11 elections will allow unscrupulous politicians to participate in vote buying. On Channels Television’s The 2023 Verdict show on Wednesday, the senator, who represented Kaduna Central senatorial district in the 8th National Assembly, announced this.
Sani stated that the country is riddled with poverty, which politicians would exploit by purchasing votes with stolen funds.
“The struggle over the new naira note is as crucial as the soul of democracy in Nigeria. If these outdated notes are allowed to be used on or before February 25th, forget about credible and transparent elections. There is a lot of poverty in this country right now.
“People will not notice money and turn the other way; money has for a very long time influenced actions of regular people because poverty has been so weaponised. So, in my opinion, this new letter should not be validated until after the election. If you do that now, the election would be so commercialized,” Sani said.
Former congressman wondered why APC governors insisted on utilizing obsolete naira notes. He questioned the argument that governors are resisting the strategy because of ordinary citizens, questioning why the governors have not taken the Federal Government to court given Nigerians have been “traumatised” by insecurity over the last seven years.
He also stated that some opponents of the policy are pleased to see people protesting on the streets.
He warned Nigerians not to oppose the naira swap because doing so may create a conflagration that would incinerate the country, undermine the democratic process, and destroy democracy as a whole.
Most Rev Henry Ndukuba, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), has called on the government to stop the continuous exploitation of Nigerians as a result of the naira redesign strategy.
He remarked that though the program was well-intended, the exploitation must be regulated to avoid unrest and severe hardship that may cripple small enterprises.
Similarly, the Anglican Bishop of Kubwa Diocese, Rt Rev Dr Duke Akamisoko, has remarked that the policy has made life unpleasant for Nigerians.
Instead of the suffering and pains that people are currently experiencing, Akamisoko said that government measures should be designed to provide them hope and succour.
Speaking at the 2023 Church’s Standing Committee Meeting held at St Bartholomew’s Cathedral, Kubwa, Abuja, Ndukuba, who criticized the scarcity of the Naira, cautioned that Nigerians are being pushed to the breaking point and that if citizens rise out in protest, it will be disastrous.
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