FCT, Abuja – On Friday, March 3, the Supreme Court finally gave its long-awaited judgement on the suit filed by some state governments against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Naira redesign policy.
The controversial policy has made life difficult for Nigerians and pitched the federal and state governments against each other in the past few weeks.
After introducing new N200, N500 and N1000 notes, the CBN announced January 31 deadline to phase out the old notes.
It, however, extended the deadline till February 10 after realising many Nigerians had not been able to get the new notes in exchange for the old notes.
But the situation still did not improve. Then some state governments stepped in by asking the Supreme Court to stop the federal government and the CBN from implementing the February 10 deadline for swapping the old naira notes with the new ones.
The apex court subsequently gave an order restraining the FG from implementing the deadline pending its substantive judgement on the suit filed by the states.
However, the federal government challenged the state government’s suit and asked the court to dismiss it over lack of jurisdiction.
Also, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, said there was no need to shift the deadline.
President Muhammadu Buhari subsequently ordered the CBN to recirculate only old N200 notes, declaring that old N1000 and N500 notes were no longer legal tender.
The governors then filed a fresh suit to challenge the federal government for not obeying the court order, while Bayelsa and Edo states joined the federal government as co-defendants.
Nevertheless, the controversies have now been put to rest as the apex court on Friday ruled on the matter.
Here are five key things to note about the Supreme Court verdict:
- Nullification of Naira swap policy
The Supreme Court nullified the federal government’s withdrawal of N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes from circulation.
A seven-member panel of the court led by John Okoro held unanimously that President Muhammadu Buhari issued the directive without consultation.
According to the court, the federal government ought to have consulted with the state government through the relevant bodies such as the National Council of States and the National Economic Council before embarking on the naira redesign policy.
- Buhari’s directive on naira notes illegal
The Supreme Court also held that the directive of President Buhari that only the old N200 notes remain legal tender till April 10 is illegal. Recall that the president had issued the directive against the order of the apex court.
- New deadline for the old naira notes
After declaring Buhari’s directive withdrawing the old notes from circulation as illegal, the court went on to issue another order.
The apex court subsequently issued another order nullifying the president’s directive and extended the legal tender status of the currency notes till December 31, 2023.
- Failure of the rule of law
The panel held that the suit filed by the state governments has merits, adding that the defendant (FG) ought not to be heard when it has refused to obey the orders of the apex court. According to the justices, the disobedience of the orders of the Court is a sign of the failure of rule of law.
- Nigerians look up to FG and CBN for the next step
Though the Supreme Court has ruled on the matter, Nigerians are yet to know the next step to take as the federal government and the CBN are yet to react.
Though the ruling of the apex court is binding and must be obeyed, the federal government may, illegally, choose not to abide by it as it has done in the past.