The Supreme Court of Nigeria has berated President Muhammadu Buhari for not obeying its order of injunction halting the old naira policy.
Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had introduced the naira policy wherein it told all Nigerians to go exchange their old naira notes with new one.
The CBN had also redesigned the naira, giving the country’s currency a new look.
Policy Causes Hardship:
In order to meet up with the deadline of February 10th placed by the CBN for every Nigerian to have exchanged their old naira notes with the new ones, Nigerians deposited all their old naira notes to Deposit Money banks with hopes of getting the new notes.
However, weeks after depositing all their cash, the new naira notes are not much in circulation.
This resulted in anger, chaos, hardship and in some cases, deaths of some Nigerians who could not get cash to sort their daily needs.
Consequently, governors of some state, led by Zamfara state, sued the Federal government to court. The states, 16 in number, prayed the Supreme Court to reverse the naira policy of the CBN.
They prayed the apex court to order the Federal government to prevail on the Central Bank Of Nigeria, CBN, to desist from declaring as illegal tender, the old naira notes of N500, N1000 and N200.
The Supreme Court Gives Interim Injunction:
Entertaining the case, the Supreme Court had, before Nigeria’s 2023 general election that held on the 25th of February, 2023, adjourned ruling on the matter.
However, it had given an interim injunction to the federal government, ordering it to halt declaring the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes as illegal tender as from February 10th.
While the order was widely hailed and welcomed by many Nigerians who said although the CBN’s cashless policy was a welcome development, its timing was ill.
They said the timing of the policy was not ideal as it ended up causing more pains and hardship on Nigerians that the problems it came to solve.
President Buhari, CBN flouts Supreme Court’s order:
Despite the order by the Supreme Court, the Federal government did not obey the order.
The CBN, instead, continued with its policy, maintaining that it stuck with a later order given to it by the president during the latter’s nationwide broadcast on the issue.
CBN Sticks to Presidential Directive to Reissue only 200 Naira Old Banknotes pic.twitter.com/qrrg1kvomT
— Central Bank of Nigeria (@cenbank) February 21, 2023
Buhari’s nationwide broadcast that disobeyed Supreme Court’s order:
President Buhari, during a nationwide broadcast, acknowledged the policy by the CBN. The president had also said during the broadcast that the policy had come to stay.
He had urged Nigerians to endure the hardship brought upon them by the policy, maintaining that it was for their own good.
President Buhari had, instead of halting the policy, ordered the CBN to rather return only one denomination of the old naira notes back into circulation.
He had told the CBN to return only the old N200 naira notes back into circulation to ease the sufferings of Nigerians.
Still no naira after president’s order:
Meanwhile, weeks after the order by the president for the old N200 to be readily available in circulation, the note is still not sufficient. Also, the new notes are still equally not much in circulation.
The naira scarcity led to many Point of Sale operators making brisk businesses off the people.
Nigerians began buying back both the old and or new naira with more naira. Some POS agents charged as high as N2000 for N10,000.
Nigerians kept groaning in pains as economic activities, businesses and other sectors of the whole economy took a serious hit. Some businesses folded immediately for lack of cash.
The argument of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the matter:
The CBN and proponents of the case argued that the apex court lacked the jurisdictional right to entertain the case.
Meanwhile, opponents, among whom are the state governments, countered the argument, saying the CBN is an agent of the government and so, any order binding on the federal government was supposed to be binding on the CBN.
This argument heated up because the first five states among the sixteen states who took the mater to court did not include the CBN as defendant in the case.
Consequently, even the CBN decided to go with the president’s order instead of obeying that of the Supreme Court.
President Buhari’s government also did not prevail on the CBN to obey the order, thus, flouting the court’s order.
Supreme Court ruling:
While hearing the case, the Supreme Court accused president Buhari’s disobedience to its order as autocratic. It said the president’s directive to the CBN in a national broadcast directing that only the old N200 remain legal tender and in circulation while N500 and N100 cease to be legal tender, did not yield any result.
The court also said that president Buhari’s disobedience of its order shows that the government is pretending to be operating a democratic system of government when, in actual sense, it is practicing autocracy.
Meanwhile, in reading out the judgement of the Supreme Court, Justice Emmanuel Agim, said the apex court has the jurisdiction to hear the case.
It therefore berated President Buhari, accusing him of being autocratic and not following democracy as enshrined in the constitution.
According to the Supreme Court’s judgement, “Disobedience of order of court shows the country’s democracy [is] a mere pretension and now replaced by autocracy.”