Barely to the end of the extension given for the termination of the use of the old naira note in Nigeria, the Supreme Court has ruled that both the old and the redesigned Naira banknotes should remain valid legal tenders in the country beyond December 31.
The apex court in a ruling by a seven-man panel led by Justice Inyang Okoro, on Wednesday, said the banknotes should remain in circulation pending when the Federal Government, after due consultation with relevant stakeholders, takes a decision on the matter.
It made the order after hearing an application moved on behalf of the federal government by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.
Recall that the court on March 3 this year, nullified the ban on the use of the old N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes as valid legal tenders by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. The court held that the old Naira notes should be used alongside the redesigned currencies until the end of the year.
In the lead judgement delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court slammed the FG for unilaterally introducing the demonetization policy through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, without consulting the Council of States, the Federal Executive Council, the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, Civil Society Organizations and other relevant stakeholders.
It held that the FG failed to give valid notice to all the federating units before it decided to withdraw the old banknotes from circulation and introduce new ones.
The Supreme Court maintained that evidence before it established that a purported notice on the monetary policy was through “mere press remarks” by the then Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele.
It held that such remarks did not qualify as reasonable notice to the states as envisaged under section 20(3) of the CBN Act.
Following the end of the last administration, the President Bola Tinubu-led government re-applied to the Supreme Court for an indefinite extension of its December 31 deadline.
Meanwhile, in a swift response to the Supreme Court judgment, the CBN in a statement by the Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mrs Sidi Ali, Hakama, “directed all its branches to continue to issue and accept all denominations of Nigerian banknotes, old and re-designed, to and from deposit money banks (DMBs).”
“Following the order of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, granting the prayer of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation to extend the use of old Naira banknotes ad intinitum, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed all its branches to continue to issue and accept all denominations of Nigerian banknotes, old and re-designed, to and from deposit money banks (DMBs).
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court ordered that the old versions of A200, A500, and AN1,000 banknotes shall continue to be legal tender, alongside the re-designed versions. Accordingly, in line with Section 20(5) of the CBN Act 2007, all banknotes issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), will continue to remain legal tender, indefinitely.
“Members of the public are enjoined to continue to accept all Naira banknotes (old or re-designed) for their day-to-day transactions and handle these banknotes with the utmost care, to safeguard and protect the lifecycle of the banknotes.
Furthermore, the general public is encouraged to embrace alternative modes of payment, e-channels, in order to reduce pressure on the use of physical cash,” said the statement.