Supreme Court says Old Naira Notes of N200, N500, N1000 Remain Legal Tender till December 31

The Supreme Court has ordered the usage of the old naira notes alongside the new ones. The N200, N500 and N1000 remain legal tender till December 31, 2023.

The court also invalidated the directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria and federal government, faulting them for disobeying its interim orders on usage of old notes.

The apex court had earlier granted an exparte motion filed by the governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states seeking “an 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 200, 500 and 1,000 denomination of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for an interlocutory injunction”.

But the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN, through his counsel, Kanu Agabi SAN, had filed a preliminary objection against the suit, urging the apex court to dismiss the application because the court of first instance is the Federal High Court.

The AGF also contended that the appropriate agency to be sued is the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The plaintiffs later told the court in their processes that the representative of the federal government should be charged for contempt because they allegedly did not comply with the interim directive that the old currencies should continue to be legal tender.

Katsina, Lagos, Cross River, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Sokoto states were joined as co-plaintiffs in the case while Bayelsa and Edo states later joined the AGF as respondents.

For Rivers and Kano states, they filed separate suits before the apex court saying they are challenging the withdrawal limits imposed by the CBN.

But at the resumed date of hearing on February 23, the first and second plaintiff’s (Kaduna and Kogi states) counsel, Abdulakim Mustapha SAN, urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection of the respondents.

The initial plaintiffs thereby urged the apex court to hold that in the interest of justice, the president or the CBN cannot usurp the powers of the state governments, by unilaterally stopping the usage of old naira notes without consulting with the National Economic Council and Federal Executive Council.

On Friday, the seven man panel of the court led by Justice John Okoro (in a verdict prepared by Justice E. Agim), said the CBN and FG cannot make such policy without consulting with states.

The court held that although the CBN further reviewed cash withdrawal limit for N500,000 and N5 million for individuals and businesses; by 15th February, 2023, the new naira notes were not sufficiently available to Nigerians.

The panel held the CBN did not state the amount of new naira notes it disbursed, adding it is not in dispute that bank institutions did not have new notes to pay customers based on CBN’s cash withdrawal limit of N500,000.

“The policy of the federal government punished Nigerians and grounded economic activities nationwide,” the court held.

It observed that customers stood for hours in bank but could not get the money they needed.

On jurisdiction, the apex court held the naira swap case falls within its purview and judicial powers.

“The directive of the president is in exercise of the executive powers of the federation vested on him and the federal government and its agencies represent all the constituent state of the federation.

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