Uncertainties trailing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s naira redesign policy continued, yesterday, when the Supreme Court overruled an earlier injunction granted by a high court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) restraining the Federal Government and the CBN from undermining the February 10 deadline for the ongoing currency swap.
While the Supreme Court ruling appeared to have doused the tension scarcity of cash had induced in the polity, the Federal Government, last night, approached the Supreme Court, asking it to dismiss a suit challenging the February 10 deadline set by CBN to end the legal tender status of the old currency notes of N200, N500 and N1,000.
It argued that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit, which was filed by three states – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara – all in the northern part of the country and controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The respondent maintained that the case is not a dispute between the federation and the state governments, but merely an issue about CBN’s policy. It said the suit is, therefore, not qualified to be taken directly to the Supreme Court for adjudication, arguing that the suit ought to have commenced at the Federal High Court.
Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), sued as the sole defendant, as the representative of the Federal Government, filed his opposition to the suit as a preliminary objection against it at the Supreme Court on Wednesday night.
The three state governments, in their application filed to challenge the naira redesign policy, prayed for an order restraining CBN from ending the use of the old notes on February 10. They cited the sufferings scarcity of the new notes had brought upon many Nigerians.
After listening to the applicants’ lawyer yesterday, a seven-member panel of the court, led by John Okoro, issued an order of interim injunction halting the plan by CBN to end the use of the old banknotes as scheduled. The court then adjourned the hearing of the main case until February 15.
Shortly after, President Muhammmadu Buhari met with the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and AGF, Malami, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Outcome of the meeting was yet to be known as at press time, apart from the AGF asking the apex court to dismiss the governors’ suit.
This is as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), yesterday, called for the extension of the February 10 deadline for cash swap. The IMF, in a statement by its Resident Representative to Nigeria, Ari Aisen, issued on his behalf by Office Manager for Resident Representation for Nigeria, Laraba Bonnet, in Abuja, hinged its plea on the hardship Nigerians were going through.
It said: “In light of hardships caused by disruptions to trade and payments due to the shortage of new bank notes available to the public, in spite of measures introduced by CBN to mitigate the challenges in the banknote swap process, IMF encourages CBN to consider extending the deadline should problems persist in the next few days, leading up to the February 10 deadline.”
IMF is the first international financial organisation to openly call for extension of the deadline for the deposit of old Naira notes.
Governor el-Rufai has urged Nigerians to continue spending the old denominations of the redesigned notes. El-Rufai said Nigerians should disregard the CBN directives because the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, would reverse the decision if elected on February 25.
Speaking in Kaduna, the governor said: “Continue running your businesses and daily activities with whatever notes (old or new) you have. Don’t rush yourself into taking old naira notes to the bank, and wasting your time in the unnecessary queues at the bank. Nobody can stop you (people) from using the notes. When we come to power, if Tinubu becomes the president, we’ll give people more time to get rid of the old naira notes.”
BUT more commercial banks have shut their doors to customers, halting cash operations as safety concerns take priority in management decisions.
Findings suggest that most bank managers have been strongly advised to avoid putting the lives of their employees at risk until there is “reasonable assurance of safety”