By Abba Hamisu Sani
Africa-Press – Nigeria. Sign of relief is the scenario in all parts of Nigeria as the Central Bank of Nigeria seems to abide by the Supreme Court injection that directed the apex bank to allow Commercial banks to receive and transact with both old and new currency simultaneously .
It could be recalled that three State Governors that include the outspoken El Rufai of Kaduna , Bello Mawalle of Zamfara and Yahaya Bello of Kogi States took Central Bank of Nigeria ,Federal Government and all Commercial Banks to the supreme Court on the issue of currency swap deadline .
This is the first time Nigerian Governors under APC are taking the Federal Government to court over an issue that affects the National economy.
Some spectators are attributing the situation to the current Political unfolding in the country.
Most of them are of the opinion that Buhari’s Government is trying to sabotage the chances of his party’s Presidential candidate Ahmed Bola Tinubu from winning the upcoming election.
El-Rufai one the three Governors that sues CBN over the naira swap deadline has accused some unnamed close associates of President Buhari that are with him at Presidential Villa of trying to create failure for their candidate to win the Presidential election.
Supreme Court Verdict on the Naira Swap deadline
Majority of Nigerians, particularly politicians, hailed the apex court for the ruling, describing it as a big relief for suffering Nigerians due to the currency scarcity .
The apex court made the order following the suit filed by three state governments challenging the Naira swap policy.
Initially the governments of Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi States had approached the Supreme Court seeking an order to stop the policy.
A seven member panel, led by Justice John Okoro, halted the move of the federal government in a ruling in an ex parte application brought by the three northern states.
The three states had specifically applied for an order of Interim Injunction restraining “the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or the commercial banks from suspending or determining or ending on February 10, 2023, the time frame within which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 Naira denomination of the currency may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
When Moving the application before the Court counsel to the applicants, Mr A. I. Mustapha, Senior Advocate of Nigeria , had urged the apex court to grant the application in the interest of justice and the well-being of Nigeria.
He stated that the policy of the government has led to an “excruciating situation that is almost leading to anarchy in the land “.
While he referred to a CBN statistics which put the number of people who don’t have bank accounts at over 60 percent, Mustapha lamented that the few Nigerians with bank accounts can’t even access their money from the bank as a result of the policy.
The senior lawyer further argued that unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the situation will lead to anarchy because most banks are already closing operations.
Delivering ruling in the motion, Justice Okoro, held that after a careful consideration of the motion exparte this application is granted as prayed, “An order of Interim Injunction restraining the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 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 N200, N500 and N1,000 denomination of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction”. The Judge said.
He accordingly adjourned the case to February 15, 2023 for hearing of the main suit. Commenting on the Judgement Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who is also a lawyer lauded the Supreme Court judgment which suspended the plan by the CBN to ban on old naira notes from February 10, 2023.
Wike gave the commendation recently while speaking during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign rally at Abua, headquarters of Abua/Odual local government area of the state.
The governor said: “Let me on behalf of the government and people of Rivers State commend the Supreme Court of Nigeria for what they have done to save the masses from suffering and to save our democracy.
“The Supreme Court has stopped the Central Bank of Nigeria from embarking on something the majority of Nigerians know is anti-people.
“Like I have said before, our democracy can only survive with the support of INEC, security agencies, and the judiciary. With what happened the Supreme Court has shown that the hope of the common man lies in the judiciary.
“Let me commend Kaduna State, Zamfara State, and Kogi State that took it upon themselves to challenge the Federal Government at the Supreme Court. Rivers State will join them in that suit to challenge what the CBN is doing against the masses.” Wike Emphasized.
The Civil Societies oppose the ruling
Meanwhile, the apex body of all civil society groups in Nigeria, the Civil Society Central Coordinating Council has rejected the exparte order made by the Supreme Court.
The group therefore called on President Buhari to immediately consider issuing Executive Orders to bring to effect this policy’s terminal date as the Supreme Court order did not restrain the exercise of the constitutional powers of the President.
The Council further said their rejection of the order was because it was an attack on credible elections and called on the Supreme Court not to yield its platform for such election riggers to have access to illicit cash to compromise the election.
The convener of the CSOs, Barrister Obed Okwukwe, in a press briefing in Abuja, called on the Supreme Court to immediately vacate the order as it was capable of derailing the credibility of the 2023 general election and ultimately truncating our most cherished democracy.
“The Supreme Court must redeem its image immediately and show Nigerians that it is not deliberately against free, fair and credible elections bearing in mind some very controversial orders and judgments of the court in the recent past,” he said.
What should Nigerians do to ensure the speedy implementation of the Swap
Ibrahim Garba Maryam is a financial analyst and Civil Society activist He said Nigerians have been trying their best by trooping to the banks in an effort to swap the old currency with new one.
Garba Maryam accused banks of hoarding the new notes which he said created so much suffering to the majority of Bank account owners who are mostly small scale business operators.
The financial expert urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to announce the amount of new currency it provides to individual Banks so that the public will know.
He added that CBN should concentrate on supervising and regulating the activities of commercial Banks rather than engaging in providing loans .
“Citizens have done their best ,they spent days in Banks and at the end of the day what they get is just two thousand or four thousand Naira (5 to ,10 Dollars or less).The activist stated.