By Simeon OSAJIE
The Supreme Court on Friday, 3rd March, 2023 has ordered Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Federal Government to ensure that the old N200, N500, N1,000 notes remain in circulation till December 31, 2023.
The apex court also nullified the Federal Government’s naira redesign policy, declaring it as an affront to the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the lead judgement, held that the preliminary objections by the defendants (the Attorney General of the Federation, Bayelsa and Edo states) are dismissed as the court has the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Citing Section 23(2)1 of the constitution, the court held that the dispute between the FederaL Government and states must involve law or facts.
The apex court further held that President Muhammadu Buhari in his broadcast admitted that the policy is flawed with a lot of challenges.
The court said the policy has led to some people engaging in trade by barter in this modern age ina bid to survive. The court added that the President’s disobedience of the February 8 order, is a sign of dictatorship.
Sixteen states of the Federation instituted the suit to challenge the legality or otherwise of the introduction of the policy.
The suit initially instituted by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states has been slated as the first case on the cause list for final verdict.
Justice John Inyang Okoro who led a seven-man panel of Justices of the Court had on February 22 fixed today for the court to make its decision known on the suit.
The 16 states led by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara are praying the apex court to void and set aside the policy on the ground that it is inflicting hardships on innocent Nigerians.
They accused the President of usurping the function of the CBN in the introduction and implementation of the policy and asked that the directive issued by Buhari be voided.
However, the President, in a national broadcast, directed the apex bank to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days — by April 10, 2023. He also said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
There has been a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).