On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled to temporarily suspend the February 10, 2023 deadline to phase out the old Naira notes.
The ruling was in favour of three Northern States, Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara, who filed a lawsuit against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government.
Ripples Nigeria gathered that the ruling was made pending the final judgement on the lawsuit by the states to stop the CBN and FG from phasing out the old Naira notes.
What you need to know?
Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States’ governments said in their joint suit that the Naira redesign was affecting people living within their states, as they are unable to access their funds in the banks.
They told the Supreme Court that the banks have insufficient new Naira notes to disburse to their residents after the central bank instructed Nigerians to deposit their money at the commercial banks to swap for the redesigned banknotes.
According to their lawyer, AbdulHakeem Mustapha (SAN), the inability of the residents to access their money at the bank has made life difficult for them.
In its ruling, the apex court said, “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 timeframe with which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 denominations of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”
The Supreme Court, led by Justice John Okoro, has set February 15, 2023, as the date to make its final judgement on the case.
Addressing the controversy surrounding the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on the case, a lawyer who chose to remain anonymous, told Ripples Nigeria that, “The Plaintiffs have activated the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, that is, instead of starting the matter at the lower court, that is, the Federal High Court, they went directly to the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the country.
“This is permissible under the law where an action is instituted by a state government or some state governments against the federal government.”
What does the Supreme court ruling mean?
Ripples Nigeria gathered that the ruling of the Supreme Court nullifies the February 10, 2023 deadline, which means the old Naira and the new banknotes will remain legal concurrently till the apex bank’s final judgement next week Wednesday.
To make sense of the ruling, the lawyer explained that, “The legal implication of the order made is that, in the interim, Nigerians can continue to use the old naira notes meaning that the deadline of 10th February earlier fixed by the CBN no longer has effect.
“That is an order made by the highest court in the land and the CBN and all commercial banks are under legal duty to obey the order,” he said.
The ruling also translates to banks making the old Naira available to the public, considering the Supreme Court stated that the timeframe to end its circulation should be suspended.
According to a legal practitioner, Sunday Oyeyinka, who echoed the previous lawyer’s assertion, the ruling also covers the continuous disbursement of the old Naira notes to the public.
However, that might not be possible considering the banks would have deposited the old Naira notes to the central bank in exchange for the new Naira.
He said with the old Naira notes with the financial regulator, it will be impossible to know what the CBN will do as regards the disbursement of the old currencies.
Supreme court ruling to have no impact
Despite the ruling, a banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity said till she left the office on Wednesday, her firm hadn’t sent any internal memo informing the staff about the Supreme Court ruling and how it affects the CBN’s deadline.
“No mail has been sent as regard that before I left the office,” the banker said, adding, “But it should be communicated to us soon.”
However, the Supreme Court ruling might not improve or resolve the scarcity of Naira between now and February 15, as the banker disclosed that the central bank has not been supplying the currencies to her bank.
“All I know is that we don’t get supplies from CBN that’s why it is so difficult to issue it out,” she revealed. The banker further stated, “What we don’t have we can’t pay out.”
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