The Supreme Court will Friday deliver its judgement on the propriety of the federal government’s naira redesign policy. The policy has caused banknotes scarcity with the associated hardship it brought to millions of citizens.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced last year the redesign of 200, 500 and 1,000 naira notes, and plans to end the use of the old notes by 31 January 2023.
But acute scarcity of the new notes made the 31 January deadline unfeasible, and prompted the bank, with the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, to extend the legal tender status of the old notes till 10 February.
On 3 February, three state governments – Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara – citing the hardships the continued scarcity of naira notes brought to their people, sued the federal government at the Supreme Court for a reversal of the policy.
Five days later, the court issued an interim order suspending the implementation of the deadline set by the federal government, directed that the old and new notes should continue to circulate pending the resolution of the case.
Unmoved by the court’s order, the CBN insisted that the old notes had stopped being legal tender after the 8 February deadline while the scarcity of the new notes persisted.
In defiance to the Supreme Court’s order, Mr Buhari on 16 February, restored the validity of the old N200 notes, insisted that the N500 and N1000 notes had ceased to be legal tender.
The number of plaintiffs rose to 16 after six new states were added to the three initial plaintiffs during the hearing of the case on 22 February, three days to the national elections held on 25 February.
The biting cash crunch featured as a major issue in the lead-up to the elections, with many fearing that it could derail the process.
The presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, said during his campaigns that the twin problems of cash crunch and the protracted fuel scarcity were targeted at him.
Many had expected that the Supreme Court would make a pronouncement on the disobedience to its order during the 22 February. But the court adjourned its final judgement on the matter till 3 March.
READ ALSO: UPDATED: Supreme Court adjourns judgement on naira redesign suit till after presidential election
Here is the timeline of major developments concerning the naira redesign policy up to Friday when the Supreme Court is expected to give its judgement.
26 October 2022:
The CBN announced the introduction of the redesign of N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes. The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, had said the banknotes were redesigned due to a request from the federal government. He disclosed that the new notes would begin circulation from 15 December 2022, while the old banknotes would remain legal tender and circulate together until 31 January 2023. The old notes were to cease to be legal tender on 31 January. The last time the central bank redesigned the naira was in 2014 when it changed the design of the 100 naira note to commemorate Nigeria’s centenary.
27 October 2022:
The central bank gave reasons for the naira redesign policy. According to Mr Emefiele, the policy would enable the CBN to take control of the naira in circulation, manage inflation, combat counterfeiting, and ransom payment.
28 October 2022:
Barely 48 hours after the currency redesign policy was announced, Nigeria’s finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, kicked against it. Ms Ahmed said the finance ministry was not consulted over the monetary policy. She expressed some reservations about the consequences of the policy on Nigeria’s economy.
21 January 2023:
Following the outcry that trailed the non-availability of the new banknotes and lack of public awareness, especially in rural communities across Nigeria, the CBN launched a cash swap programme in all local government areas of the country. The programme which took effect from 23 January, allowed the old notes to be exchanged for the newly redesigned notes.
24 January 2023:
The National Assembly asked the CBN to extend the deadline for acceptance of the old naira notes. The upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly urged the CBN to extend the deadline on the validity of the old naira notes by six months.
25 January 2023:
APC presidential candidate, Mr Tinubu, said during a campaign stop in Abeokuta Ogun State, that the naira design policy was orchestrated to ensure his defeat in the election.
28 January 2023:
Two days to the expiration of the old banknotes, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), urged the CBN to review the policy. Referencing the CBN Act, the NBA’s president, Yakubu Maikyau, said Nigerians were at liberty to approach the central bank to ‘redeem’ their old banknotes after the initial 31 January deadline.
29 January 2023:
The CBN governor announced a 10-day extension of the deadline for the deposit of old banknotes and the validity of the old notes. Mr Emefiele spoke in Daura, Katsina State, after a meeting with Mr Buhari. The apex bank had urged Nigerians to utilise the opportunity because the deadline was not going to be extended.
31 January 2023:
The CBN governor, while appearing before an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives, said banks must accept the old naira notes even after the expiration of the 10 February deadline.
1 February 2023:
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, asked the federal government not to extend the 10 February deadline for ending the old naira notes.
3 February 2023:
Three northern states – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara- sued the federal government, seeking the Supreme Court’s order halting the implementation of the naira redesign policy.
6 February 2023:
A Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, ordered the CBN to ensure the enforcement of the 10 February deadline for the old currency notes. The four parties in their ex parte request alleged that the CBN’s new monetary policy was being sabotaged by Nigerian banks.
8 February 2023: Nigeria’s Supreme Court ordered the CBN not to end the use of old naira notes on 10 February. The court made the order temporarily, cancelling the CBN’s 10 February deadline to end the validity of the old versions of the banknotes based on an ex parte application filed by three northern states – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara – being controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
8 February 2023:
Nigeria’s 36 state governors under the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the timeframe for the implementation of the currency policy. The governors made their stance known in a statement signed by Sokoto State Governor and chairperson of the NGF, Aminu Tambuwal.
12 February 2023:
The NGF accused the apex bank of conducting a ‘currency confiscation’ programme that has brought immeasurable suffering to Nigerians. In a communique issued at the end of their meeting in Abuja, the governors called “for the halting of CBN’s plan to end the use of the old currency notes.”
16 February 2023:
In flagrant disobedience of the Supreme Court’s interim order, President Buhari insisted that the old notes ceased to be a legal tender. But Mr Buhari acknowledged the pendency of the apex court’s ruling, and the hardship being faced by Nigerians as a result of the cash crunch.
16 February 2023:
Hours later, the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, ‘confronted’ the president over the naira redesign policy. Countermanding Mr Buhari, Mr El-Rufai, in a broadcast, ordered residents of Kaduna State to continue accepting the old naira notes as legal tender.
19 February 2023
Atiku Abubakar made a U-turn admitting that the naira redesign policy was hurting Nigerians. He called on the CBN to allow commercial banks to collect deposits of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes.
22 February 2023:
A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court led by John Okoro slated 3 March for judgement on the naira redesign policy suit.
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