Exactly 10 days after the Supreme Court judgement mandating the use of old N,1000 and N500 notes as legal tender till December 31, 2023, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on Monday bowed to pressure and officially ordered commercial banks to comply with the court verdict.
He also announced that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 would remain legal tender till the end of the year.
Emefiele said the decision followed a meeting with Bankers Committee that held on Sunday.
The development has put an end to the confusion over the legality of the old naira notes. The action is also expected to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians who have faced severe hardships over the scarcity of new naira notes amid the controversial ban on the old notes.
The Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Isa AbdulMumin, disclosed the latest development in a statement titled ‘Old N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes remain legal tender – CBN’
The statement read, “In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the rule of law principle that characterised the government of President Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and by extension, the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of March 3, 2023.
“Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023. Consequently, all concerned are directed to conform accordingly.”
Earlier on Monday, the Nigerian Bar Association and Nigeria Labour Congress had berated the Federal Government and the CBN for failing to obey the Supreme Court judgment on the old naira notes.
On Sunday, the Arewa Consultative Forum in a statement said Buhari’s failure to obey Supreme Court would tarnish the reputation of his regime.
The NBA came down hard on the President and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for failing to obey the Supreme Court judgment.
The Supreme Court had in its March 3 judgment extended the legal tender status of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes until December 31.
However, the AGF and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele refused to comply with the order despite pressure from Nigerians. Their actions also encouraged commercial banks to reject the old notes as legal tender.
Worried by the development, state governments involved in the suit threatened to file contempt charges against the two officials on Tuesday (today) should they fail to obey the apex court order.
In the judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the Supreme Court held that Buhari breached the constitution in the manner he issued directives for the naira notes.
The seven-man panel also slammed the President over his February 16 broadcast in which he said only the N200 note should remain legal tender in flagrant violation of the restraining order made by the apex court.
Justice Agim stated, “The rule of law upon which our democratic governance is founded becomes illusory if the President of the country or any authority or person refuses to obey the orders of courts. The disobedience of orders of courts by the President in a constitutional democracy as ours is a sign of the failure of the constitution and that democratic governance has become a mere pretension and is now replaced by autocracy or dictatorship.”
Speaking on the continued disobedience of the Supreme Court, the NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, on Monday warned that the bar would resist any action undermining the rule of law, constitution and democracy in the country.
The seven-page statement was titled, ‘’Statement of the NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, on the naira redesign policy: Demand for compliance with the judgment of the Supreme Court in suit no.: SC/CV/162/2023 Between Attorney-General of Kaduna State and nine others vs Attorney-General of the Federation and two others delivered on March 3, 2023.
Citing several paragraphs of the Supreme Court verdict which berated the President for disregarding the orders, the NBA said it was sad and disheartening that the Federal Government and its agency, the CBN remained adamant about the plight of Nigerians which was a direct consequence of the implementation of the naira redesign policy in spite of several interventions for its review.
The body of lawyers noted, “Regrettably, not even the clear findings by the Supreme Court as to the unfair and deceptive nature of the policy could make the Federal Government retrace its steps.
’The Supreme Court went to the extent of not only condemning the actions of the President as contemptuous of the court but also held that the actions constitute a threat to the rule of law and the existence of our democracy.
“We cannot under any guise or pretence accept or tolerate any appearance of autocracy or dictatorship. Our system of democratic governance has come to stay, it must not only be respected by all and sundry but must also be jealously guarded and protected.’’
The NBA president described the situation as the greatest test or challenge to the nation’s constitutional democracy, stressing that the executive could not afford to disregard the orders of the Supreme Court made for the benefit of the people that elected it to power.
“I therefore, on behalf of all Nigerians, call on the President to immediately direct compliance with the terms of the orders made by the Supreme Court in its judgment delivered on 3 March 2023,’’ he said.
Insisting on obedience to the orders of the court, Maikyau declared, “The Supreme Court has issued directives to the Federal Government for the benefit of the people and there is no option other than to comply. The President is under constitutional obligation to comply and enforce the decision of the Supreme Court.’’
Maikyau said the NBA remained committed to the promotion, entrenchment and respect for the rule of law, the integrity of the court and the independence of the judiciary, adding, “The NBA shall stand up against any action that seeks to undermine the rule of law, the integrity of the court and the independence of the judiciary.’’
He commended the judgment of the apex court, saying it not only spoke to the responsibility of the court to the people but also its bounden duty to protect the rule of law and the integrity of the court.
Source: Punch Newspaper