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Supreme Court reverses policy on naira redesign, keeps old currencies

The Supreme Court has voided the naira redesign policy of the Federal Government, declaring it as unconstitutional and ordered that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes remain in circulation till December 31, 2023.

On Friday the Supreme Court noted that “President Muhammadu Buhari acted ultra vires by not consulting with the Federal Executive Council (FEC), National Council of States (NCS) and the National Economic Council (NEC) before directing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unlawfully introduce new naira notes”.

Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the lead judgment cited Section 23(2)1 of the constitution, and stated that the dispute between the Federal Government and states must involve law or facts as the court held that the president in his broadcast admitted that the policy is flawed with a lot of challenges.

The Justice noted that the unconstitutional use of powers by Buhari on the naira redesign policy breached the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens in various ways.

Justice Agim, also held that the preliminary objections by the defendants, which include the Attorney General of the Federation, Bayelsa State and Edo State government are dismissed as the court has the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

The cashless policy which the naira redesign was aimed to achieve was also implemented to reduce the amount of naira  outside the official banking system amidst a rising trend of terrorism financing, and foreign currency speculation.

The policy led to scarcity of naira notes and triggered unrest that forced many deposit money banks to shut down operations across states.

The Supreme Court said took notice that the policy led to some people “engaging in trade by barter in this modern age in a bid to survive.” The court added that the President’s disobedience of the February 8 order, is a sign of dictatorship.

The suit to challenge the Federal Government and the CBN was initially instituted by the governors of Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) but 16 other states of the Federation joined to question the legality or otherwise of the policy.

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.

The CBN had extended the deadline for the swap of old N200, N500, and N1,000 from January 31 to February 10 following complaints by many Nigerians due to inadequate supply of new notes to bank customers.

Later, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the CBN 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.

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