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The Supreme Court interim order and the naira mess

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For more than a month and still counting, Nigerians have been going through harrowing experiences at the banks, in the markets and other places of commerce because they do not have cash to transact their businesses. The most affected by the cash crunch are the less privileged, peasants and artisans (the daily pay workers) who rely on cash every day for their transactions. Pursuant to its powers under the Central Bank Act, the CBN Governor came up with the naira re-design policy which was approved by President Buhari last year and welcomed by Nigerians.

The recall of national currencies and replacement by new currencies is not something new. It is a global best practice. The CBN touted the policy as having a lot of benefits which includes being a check on illicit funds as a result of crimes like kidnapping and looting of public funds. Nigerians believed him. However, Nigerians were never told that after returning all their old notes to the banks, there would not be sufficient quantities of the new notes. Nigerians are now keeping vigils at the ATMs. The naira is now being sold and bought like hard currencies on the streets at a premium by Nigerians. Recently, I had cause to buy N20, 000 for N23, 000.  There was no time to negotiate because there were others waiting and ready to buy same at a higher price. Many of the Banks were caught hoarding the new naira notes for unpatriotic reasons. It was alleged that the banks were also selling the new currencies and making a huge gain. The enemies of Nigeria are certainly many.

In view of the obvious scarcity of the new notes, which is an embarrassment to Nigeria, it became obvious that the deadline of the 10th of February, 2023 set by the CBN was no longer practicable. The admission few days ago by the CBN Governor at the Council of Sate meeting that it did not have enough quantity of the new notes before asking Nigerian to return their old notes, was like pouring fuel on the already burning fire. The CBN Governor ought to have been sacked immediately because he put the country on the verge of another #EndSars-like protest.

Then came the intervention of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case filed by three States seeking an extension of the deadline set by the CBN. The Supreme Court hearkened to their cries and restrained the CBN from stopping the use of the old naira notes of N200, N5000 and N1000 until the 15th of February, 2023. Many other States like Ondo State, Ekiti State and Kano State have applied to join the suit at the Supreme Court. I will not argue the competence or otherwise of the action filed at the Supreme Court but it is a fact that were it not for the intervention of the Supreme Court, all the previous N200, N500 and N100O notes would have been defunct and stopped being legal tender on the 10th of February, 2023. Probably the last #EndSars would have been a child’s play. Nigerians are really angry.

The Judgment and Orders of the Supreme Court of Nigeria are binding on all persons and institutions in Nigeria. In the of case of Dalhatu V. Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR Pt. 843 page 310 at 323 the Supreme Court stated that “……This Court is the highest and final Court of Appeal in Nigeria. Its decisions bind every court, authority or persons in

Nigeria. By the doctrine of stare decisis, the Courts below are bound to follow the decision of the Supreme Court. The doctrine is a sine qua non for certainty to the practice and application of law. A refusal, therefore, by a Judge of the court below to be bound (and I dare say such a judicial officer) is a misfit in the judiciary.”

In view of the interim order of the Supreme Court, the old naira notes are still legal tender in Nigeria and can still be used for commerce. The rumour that some banks and institutions are rejecting the old notes is wrong and contemptuous of the order of the Supreme Court.



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