Ten days after the Supreme Court’s order, the Central Bank of Nigeria on Monday reversed its earlier decision and confirmed that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes would remain legal tender till the end of the year.
On March 3, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government should allow the redesigned and old Naira banknotes to continue to circulate simultaneously as legal tenders till December 31, 2023.
In line with its currency redesign policy, the CBN had initially announced that following the introduction of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 on December 15, 2022, the old banknotes would cease to be legal tenders by January 31, 2023.
However, two days to the expiration of the deadline, the CBN was compelled to announce on January 29 a 10 days extension of the validity of the banknotes till February 10.
But on February 3, 2023, the governments of Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara States filed an application at the Supreme Court seeking an order to compel the Federal Government to order the CBN to rescind the implementation of the naira redesign policy.
On February 8, 2023, the apex court ordered the CBN to reconsider its decision on the old Naira notes to cease to circulate as legal tender on February 10 pending its ruling on the cases instituted by the three state governments scheduled for February 15.
On February 16, President Muhammadu Buhari in a nationwide broadcast announced that to ease the pressure on Nigerians as a result of the scarcity of the redesigned banknotes, the CBN should release only the old N200 denomination back into circulation as legal tender for 60 days between February 10 and April 10, 2023.
On the scheduled judgment date, the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice John Okoro rescheduled its final ruling on the matter till March 3, during which it ordered that the Federal Government should allow old N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes to remain as legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023.
Despite the order by the apex court on the matter, the CBN kept silent, even as the cash supply squeeze continue to stifle socio-economic activities throughout the country.
Meanwhile, a statement from the Presidency signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, on Monday denied allegations that President Muhammadu Buhari instructed the Attorney General of the Federaton, Abubakar Malami, and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to disobey the Supreme Court order on the matter.
“The Presidency, therefore, wishes to state clearly that President Buhari has not done anything knowingly and deliberately to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice.
“The President is not a micromanager and will not, therefore, stop the Attorney General of the Federation and the CBN Governor from performing the details of their duties in accordance with the law. The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President.,” the statement said.
In its reaction, the CBN announced its decision to reverse its previous directive on the legal status of the old banknotes.
The CBN statement signed by the acting spokesperson, Isa AbdulMumin, read: “In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the Rule of Law Principle that characterized the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and by extension, the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court judgment of March 3, 2023.
“Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023. Consequently, all concerned are directed to conform accordingly,” AbdulMumin said.