In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has overruled the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and ordered that the current naira notes will remain legal tender until December 31, 2023.
The CBN had announced plans to redesign the naira notes and introduce new ones, with a deadline of January 31, 2023, for the phasing out of the old notes. However, the move was met with widespread criticism and legal challenges from various quarters.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was the result of a case filed by some State Governments, challenging the CBN’s decision to phase out the old notes. The plaintiffs argued that the move would cause undue hardship to the public, especially those in rural areas who may not have easy access to the new notes.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court held that the CBN did not follow due process in its decision-making process and failed to adequately consult with stakeholders. The court also cited concerns about the potential impact on the economy and the public.
The court’s decision is seen as a major victory for the plaintiffs and a blow to the CBN’s efforts to introduce a new naira design. The CBN had argued that the redesign was necessary to address issues of counterfeiting, terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.
In a unanimous decision, a seven-member panel of the court led by Justice John Okoro directed that the CBN must continue to receive the old notes from Nigerians. The court held that the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for the redesign of the new notes and withdrawal of the old notes without due consultation is invalid.
The lead judgement was read by Justice Emmanuel Agim, who also criticized the President’s disobedience of the court’s earlier order that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes should continue to circulate alongside the new ones. He described the President’s broadcast of February 16, stating that only N200 notes should remain legal tender, as a threat to democracy, which risked replacing democracy with autocracy.
The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the current naira notes will remain legal tender until December 31, 2023, and the CBN will be required to continue to issue and circulate them. The court’s decision also means that the CBN will need to revisit its plans for a redesign and consult more widely with stakeholders before introducing any new notes.
It remains to be seen how the CBN will respond to the ruling and what its next steps will be in the process of redesigning the naira notes.
The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the CBN will be required to continue issuing and circulating the current naira notes, and will need to consult more widely with stakeholders before introducing any new notes.
The court’s decision has been met with mixed reactions, with some hailing it as a victory for democracy, while others have expressed concern about its impact on the economy. It remains to be seen how the CBN will respond to the ruling and what its next steps will be in the process of redesigning the naira notes.