By Emmanuella Obaje-Daniels
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that old N200, N500, and 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 in a bid to survive. The court added that the President’s disobedience of the February 8 order, is a sign of dictatorship.
The apex court held that President Buhari breached the Constitution of the Federation in the ways he issued directives for the re-designing of the Naira by the CBN.
Justice Agim further held that the President failed to consult the National Council of States, Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the National Economic Council (NEC) before directing the CBN to unlawfully introduce new Naira notes.
He held that the unconstitutional use of powers by President Buhari on Naira Re-designing has breached the fundamental rights of the Nigerian citizens in various ways.
The apex court said such use of powers by President Buhari is not permitted under democracy and in a society like Nigeria.
In the unanimous judgement, the court held that the unlawful use of executive powers by the President, inflicted unprecedented economic hardship on the citizens by denying them ownership of and access to their money.
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 a 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.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello were in court to witness the judgement on Friday. The two governors were also in court at the last hearing. Also, Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle was in court on Friday.
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 but the Supreme Court, after a suit filed by the states, held that the Federal Government, the CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue.
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).
Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Umar Ganduje (Kano); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; and many stalwarts of the ruling APC have openly censured and faulted the President’s directive, arguing that it has no grounds because the case is before the apex court.
Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome have equally faulted the President’s move, saying he cannot overrule the apex court of the land.
Also, three State Governors- Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi have filed another suit against Malami, and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele over contempt of court and their alleged failure to comply with the Supreme Court order on the old naira notes.