Supreme Court cancels old naira deadline

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The Central Bank of Nigeria, on Wednesday, directed all banks to continue to issue and accept both the old and the redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 notes until further notice.

It noted that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 would no longer be withdrawn from circulation from December 31.

The apex bank announced this in a statement by its acting Director, Corporate Communications, Ali Sidi Hakama.

The directive was in response to Wednesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court, which lifted the December 31 deadline for the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes.

The Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, praying for a review of the apex court verdict of March 3 that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 should be legal tender till December 31.

The March 3 order followed an earlier move by the CBN, under its former governor, Godwin Emefiele, to withdraw the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes from circulation in February this year.

But stopping the earlier planned withdrawal, the apex court described it as hasty and ordered that the old notes should remain in circulation till December 31.

However, the CBN, under its new governor, Yemi Cardoso, said it no longer wished to withdraw the old notes from circulation.

As a result, the Federal Government, through the AGF, approached the apex court to review the March 3 order.

The Federal Government prayed for: “an order of this honourable court reviewing/or varying its consequential order contained in the judgment in Suit No: SC/CV/162/2023, delivered on the 3rd day of March 2023 to the effect that the old 200, 500 and 1,000 Naira notes should be legal tender until 31st of December 2023.

“An order of this honourable court varying its consequential order contained in the judgment in Suit No: SC/CV/162/2023, delivered on the 3rd day of March 2023 to the effect that the old 200, 500, and 1,000 Naira notes should be legal tender until 31st of December 2023.

“In view of the above, the 1 to 10 plaintiffs/respondents instituted Suit No: SC/CV/162/2023 under the original jurisdiction of this honourable court, seeking the nullification of the policy on the grounds that the policy is unconstitutional, having been carried out without: (i)adequate notice (ii)consultation with the respondents pursuant to Section 5(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), (ii) making the new Naira notes to be in full circulation in the respondents’ states and (iv) putting in place necessary measures for the easement of the policy on the citizens of the respondents’ states.”

In a unanimous ruling on Wednesday, a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Inyang Okoro, granted the prayers.

Justice Okoro held: “The old versions of 200, 500, and 1,000 Naira notes/currency shall continue to be legal tenders alongside the new or designed versions until the government decides to bring the circulation of the old versions to an end after its consultation with critical stakeholders and after putting all required structures in place.”

Other Justices on the panel agreed with the verdict.

They are Justices Uwani Aba-Aji, Helen Ogunwumiju, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijani Abubakar, and Emmanuel Agim.

The PUNCH reports that Wednesday’s order was the second time the Supreme Court extended the lifespan of the old naira notes.

The apex court had on March 3 faulted the Naira redesign policy of the immediate-past administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, holding that the timing and implementation were defective.

Reacting to Wednesday’s ruling, the CBN directed banks to continue to give out and receive the old notes, while also urging Nigerians to handle the currency with care.

It said, “For the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court ordered that the old versions of N200, 500, and N1,000 banknotes shall continue to be legal tender, alongside the re-designed versions.

“Accordingly, in line with Section 20(5) of the CBN Act 2007, all banknotes issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria will continue to remain legal tender, indefinitely.

“To accept all Naira banknotes (old or re-designed) for their day-to-day transactions and handle these banknotes with the utmost care, to safeguard and protect the lifecycle of the banknotes.

“Furthermore, the general public is encouraged to embrace alternative modes of payment, e-channels, in order to reduce pressure on the use of physical cash.”