Naira swap: Heavy protest rocks CBN Headquarters over Supreme Court ruling


…Buhari, Emefiele in closed-door meeting

…As S’Court bars FG from Feb.10 deadline

…Extend Feb.10 deadline, revisit cashless policy — Govs

Olaseinde Gbenga, Abuja

The Presidency and the authorities of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may have been cut in another mist over the Naira redesign controversies, as the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Wednesday granted an order restraining the Federal Government from carrying on with the full implementation of the demonetisation policy.

A seven-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice John Okoro, in a unanimous ruling, granted an interim injunction restraining the Federal Government, CBN and their agents and commercial banks from implementing the February 10 deadline set for the  old denominations of 200, 500 and 1,000 Naira notes to cease from being legal tender.

Justice Okoro, who delivered the ruling on the motion, held that after careful consideration of the motion ex parte the application is granted as prayed, “An order of Interim Injunction restraining the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria or the commercial banks from suspending or determining or ending on February 10, 2023, the time frame with which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 denomination of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”

The apex court further held that the Federal Government, CBN and commercial banks must not continue with the deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue on February 15.

The verdict trailed the legal suit instituted by three northern states – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara – which in a motion ex-parte filed on February 3rd, prayed the Supreme court to halt the CBN Naira redesign policy.

The three States had specifically applied for an order of Interim Injunction restraining “the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria or the commercial banks from suspending or determining or ending on February 10, 2023, the time frame with which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 denomination of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”

Moving the application on Wednesday, counsel to the applicants, Mr A. I. Mustapha, SAN said that the policy led to an “excruciating situation that is almost leading to anarchy in the land.”

He urged the apex court to grant the application in the interest of justice and the welfare of Nigerians.

He referenced the CBN statistics which put the number of people without bank accounts at over 60 per cent.

Lamenting that the few Nigerians with bank accounts have not been able to access their monies from banks as a result of the policy, he argued that unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the situation will lead to anarchy because most banks are already closing operations.

Justice Okoro adjourned to February 15, 2023 for hearing of the main suit.

…Buhari receives CBN Gov. in Aso Rock after Court order

Meanwhile, barely few hours after the Court order, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, again received the Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele in Aso Rock, Abuja.

The meeting it was gathered was not unconnected with discussions over the controversies which have trailed the implementation of the naira redesign policy which has attracted wild reactions following the scarcity of naira notes and its attendant consequences.

…Protest rocks CBN Headquarters over Supreme Court ruling

Meanwhile, a Civil Society Organisation, the Civil Society Central Coordinating Council (CSCCC) on Wednesday, stormed the headquarters of the CBN in Abuja, to protest against the ruling of the Supreme Court on the deadline for use of old Naira notes.

The National Coordinator of CSCCC, Obed Okwukwe, while speaking on

Wednesday, urged Buhari to issue an executive order maintaining February 10 as the deadline for use of old naira notes.

Okwukwe added that the apex court order did not restrain the exercise of the constitutional powers of the president.

He also called on the Supreme Court not to yield its platform for election riggers to have access to illicit cash to compromise the forthcoming elections.

…Extend Feb. 10 deadline, revisit cashless policy — Govs to Buhari

Meanwhile, the 36 State Governors in Nigeria have urged President Buhari to extend the deadline for the implementation of the old naira notes swap with its new equivalent.

The Governors, under the aegis Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), made the demand in a letter addressed to the President dated February 6, 2023, signed by the Chairman of the Forum Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.

The Governors also urging Buhari to revisit the cashless policy of the CBN, said in the letter, “Even though the identified constraints are to be found in almost every state in the country, they are particularly evident in states like Borno in the North East and Bayelsa in the South-South where one finds a pitiable number of banks located only in the State capital which would basically render the workability of the new policies impossible for now.

“The speed of implementation of the policy is a recipe for anarchy in the country and we urge a re-think of the policy. Regarding the reviewed cash withdrawal limit, we have found from synthesising experiences across the country that the informal sector in the States, particularly in the Northern and Niger Delta States almost wholly depends on cash transactions because of the nature of their trade.

“It is our view, Sir, that an immediate limitation in the use of cash without robust engagement with stakeholders as well as the provision of accessible alternatives will deny such people legitimate sources of livelihood.

“We fear that the cumulative effect of these unintended but very profound and probable consequences of these policies would be a rise in the number of unemployed and unengaged persons who will inevitably resort to crime to make ends meet. This has a dangerous implication for the security of the country and the potential to derail Mr President’s security agenda.

“We most respectfully pray Mr President to approve an expanded time frame for the implementation of the policy and direct the CBN to make the new notes available within the enlarged time frame.

“Direct a thorough assessment of the prevailing economic conditions related to the implementation of the currency change and cash withdrawal limit policies. Direct that States be involved in future discussions regarding the policies in order to have revised policies that would recognize and consider states’ peculiarities.

“Consider and approve the putting in place of necessary infrastructure and facilities within a reasonable time frame to facilitate the implementation of the policy, including introducing incentives to encourage the use of digital payment solutions. This will help reduce the pressure on physical cash and promote financial inclusion, investing in infrastructure to expand access to financial services.

“Direct that a robust enlightenment campaign be mounted to create sufficient awareness in the citizens of the thrust of the policy. This will help people better understand the implications of the naira redesign and cash withdrawal limits and how to use digital payments platforms.”

The naira redesign policy has been clouded with controversies with the scarcity of naira notes biting hard on the masses, a situation which has generated into protests across the country.

Nigerians have begun to fear the situation may degenerate into a national crises that may affect the general elections, as political parties have begun to suspend their campaigns.

In consultation, President Buhari had on Tuesday met again with the CBN Governor, over the scarcity of naira notes in the Country.

In attendance were also Governor of Sokoto State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Aminu Tambuwal; Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu; the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor; and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa.

The Federal Government, had on Tuesday, accused opposition political parties that went to court to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari, from stopping, extending or interfering with the Naira swap deadline date, of being inconsiderate.

It also accused the parties of politicising the situation, stressing that they were not mindful of the plight of Nigerians over the currency crunch, but have turned the situation into an instrument of political game.

Recall that on Monday, 14 political parties threatened to boycott the February 25 election should the CBN extend the February 10 deadline for the currency swap which it had earlier announced.

This was just as a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory restrained the President, the CBN, its Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and 27 commercial banks from suspending, stopping, extending or interfering with the currency swap terminal date.

The order was handed down on Monday by Justice E. Enenche following an application by four political parties.

Reacting to this, while speaking at the 23rd edition of the PMB Administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023), which featured the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the action by the political parties was unscrupulous.

He said, “Recall that after his (Buharis’) meeting with the Progressives Governors’ Forum on Friday, President Buhari urged the citizens to give him a seven-day window to resolve the currency crunch that has emanated from the implementation of the Naira redesign policy.

“Unfortunately, on Monday, some opposition political parties ran to court to obtain an injunction restraining Mr President and the CBN from extending the February 10 deadline for Nigerians to exchange their old notes for new ones.

“These curious actions by the parties concerned are a clear evidence that the opposition has turned this whole issue into a political game, preferring to make Nigerians suffer more on the altar of an unconscionable political gamesmanship.

“Or how else can one explain the fact that these unscrupulous opposition parties do not want any action that could reduce the pains being experienced by Nigerians?

“How else can one explain the fact that they have decided to legally hamstring Mr President, in particular, from providing any relief for Nigerians suffering from the cash crunch?”

He argued that it was bad politics when one puts the interest of desperate political parties over and above that of Nigerians.