After over a week of silence, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has finally given a directive for the old N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes to remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023. The directive was given at a Bankers’ Committee meeting held on Sunday, according to a statement by the acting Director, CBN Corporate Communications, Isa AbdulMumin, on Monday.
This comes after the Presidency stated on Monday evening that the CBN had no reason not to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court on the naira redesign policy. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was reported not to have instructed the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to disobey “any court orders involving the government and other parties.”
The Supreme Court had ordered that the old naira notes be allowed to circulate side by side the new notes until December 31, 2023. However, the CBN and the Attorney-General of the Federation had been silent over the verdict, which emboldened Nigerians and businesses to reject the old notes as legal tender.
The apex bank’s statement, titled “Old N200, N500, and N1,000 Banknotes Remain Legal Tender – CBN,” explained that the directive was in compliance with Buhari’s administration obedience to court orders. The statement also directed all concerned to conform accordingly.
Meanwhile, state governments, which had sued the Federal Government on the naira redesign policy, had given the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, till Tuesday to comply with the order of the Supreme Court on the currency.
The state governments threatened to file contempt charges against the two top officials on Tuesday should they fail to obey the apex court which ordered that the old N1,000, N500, and N200 should be in circulation alongside the new notes till December 31, 2023.
In its judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the Supreme Court held that Buhari breached the constitution in the manner he issued directives for the redesigning of the naira. The court also criticized Buhari for disobeying its earlier order on the new notes, saying that his broadcast of February 16, 2023, that only the N200 note should remain legal tender made the country’s democracy look like a mere pretension.
This compliance by the CBN is a welcome development and a win for the rule of law in Nigeria. The CBN’s obedience to court orders sends a strong message that no one, not even the President, is above the law. It is expected that this compliance will bring an end to the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the use of the old naira notes as legal tender.
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