Three days after, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are yet to respond to the Supreme Court ruling making the old naira notes legal tender until December 31, 2023.
The apex court gave the ruling on Friday, nullifying Federal Government’s decision to stop the old N500 and N1,000 notes from being legal tender, which took effect on February 10.
Nearly a month after the majority of the old notes were mopped out of circulation, the challenge of cash squeeze persists, as new notes have remained elusive.
Following widespread condemnation of the policy and its accompanying pains on Nigerians, President Buhari addressed Nigerians on February 16, directing that the old N200 be returned into circulation to alleviate the hardship faced by citizens.
However, on Friday, a seven-member Supreme Court panel nullified the policy, faulting the government’s handling of the process and declaring its methodology and implementation unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court ruled that though the President had the authority to act as the federation’s executive, he was still required to give the federating units adequate notice before implementing the new monetary policy through CBN.
The court said that before the old naira notes were withdrawn, the states had not received reasonable notice as required by section 20(3) of the CBN Act.
As a result, the Supreme Court ruled in its lead decision, read by Justice Emmanuel Agim, that Buhari’s authorization for the CBN to withdraw the old banknotes was illegal.
As of yesterday evening, the Presidency was yet to react to the ruling, despite issuing three press statements on other matters yesterday. Also, there is yet no word from the CBN in reaction to the ruling.
President Buhari, who is presently attending a United Nations (UN) conference on least developed countries in Qatar, had charged Chadian warlords and leaders of the various political factions in Chad to show restraint and patriotism by immersing themselves in the ongoing transition to democracy in the country.
He also charged the Flying Eagles to win the ongoing CAF U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt as Nigeria prepares to face The Gambia today in the semifinals of the competition. He had earlier also sympathized with the former First Lady, Maryam Abacha, and her entire family on the death of their son, Abdullahi.
Meanwhile, business operators, said they are anxious to hear from President Buhari or the CBN over the validity of the old notes, noting that it was risky to accept the notes until there is a directive from either the Presidency or CBN.
They said their decision was borne out of the controversy that followed a similar Supreme Court pronouncement that was not adhered to.
In a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a taxi driver, Abubakar Umar, said he was hopeful that President Buhari or the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, would speak within the week on whether or not they should go ahead and accept the old notes. He said until such a directive was given, he would insist that customers paid him only with new N500 or N1,000 notes.
A petty trader, identified as Madam Uloma, also told NAN that she won’t accept the old notes, saying “until I hear from the horse’s mouth, I will not collect the old notes.”
Uloma said she would not want to go through the stress she went through when the notes were declared invalid by CBN.
A resident, Fred Oyibo, said he was excited when the pronouncement validating the use of old notes was made by the Supreme Court. He, however, expressed disappointment that he could not use the old notes he had, adding that business operators are still rejecting them in spite of the ruling.
“I have about N3,000 of the old N1,000 notes with me and I felt elated when the court gave the ruling, but to my dismay, the money was rejected when I went out to buy a few items.
“I tried informing them that the ban had been lifted by the Supreme Court and they asked if the CBN had spoken. I further tried to educate them that once the Supreme Court gives a ruling, everyone was bound by it but they insisted on hearing from the Presidency before taking any action.
“At that point, I got discouraged and went back home, and as I speak with you, I still have the money with me,” he said.