The Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended the February 10 deadline for the swap of old naira notes with new ones given by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The CBN had moved the deadline earlier set for the expiration of the legal tender status of the old notes from January 31 to February 10 after the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, met with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Nigerians have been groaning under the pain caused by the deadline as they are unable to get the new notes, while the old notes are being sold to them by Point of Sales vendors.
Moreover, the naira redesign policy has caused some wrangling within the ruling All Progressives Congress with some chieftains of the party alleging that the policy is targeted at reducing the winning chances of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, at the February 25 poll.
Tinubu also had made some comments in some of his campaign rallies which were believed to be directed at Buhari and some unnamed persons in the Presidency, a notion that the APC PCC spokesperson, Bayo Onanuga, had continued to dismiss.
Not favourably disposed to the naira redesign policy, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, granted an interview to Arise TV where he said some “elements” in Aso Rock working against the ambition of Tinubu were behind the naira and fuel crises in the country. He also alleged that Buhari was “deceived” by the CBN to give a nod to the controversial naira redesign policy.
Some APC governors initiated the suit
El-Rufai and two other APC governors —Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State dragged the CBN and the Federal Government to the Supreme Court, seeking a halt to the full implementation of the naira redesign policy initiated by the apex bank.
It is a temporary halt, a suspension. The Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday temporarily halted the move by the Federal Government through the CBN to ban the use of the old naira notes from February 10, 2023.
It is noteworthy that the ruling is an “interim injunction” not a complete stop to the naira redesign policy pending the hearing and determination of the case filed by the APC governors.
Justice Okoro of the Supreme Court held that, “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 an interlocutory injunction.”
Why Supreme Court Judgement Cannot Stand
Neither CBN nor the commercial banks was joined as parties to this suit.
The three state governments simply took advantage of the fact that in matters purely between the state and the FG the supreme court can serve as a court of first and only instance. Joining CBN in the matter would immediately rob the supreme court of jurisdiction.
The attorney general cannot issue a binding order on the CBN governor, the CBN act didn’t contemplate such and the interim order is simply an academic attempt at grandstanding.
The CBN is empowered by law to determine what is termed legal tender.