The Supreme Court of Nigeria has described the President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast of February 16, 2023 on the redesigned Naira notes as autocracy.
It said that for the President to say in that broadcast that only N200 notes should remain legal tender was a threat to democracy, “which risked replacing democracy with autocracy.”
The apex Court, which ruled today, March 3, reversing the President’s directive and the policy of Cashless economy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), directed that the old N1,000 and N500 notes should continue to exist along with the new notes as legal tenders.
In a unanimous decision, a seven-member panel of the court, led by Justice John Okoro directed that the CBN must continue to receive the old notes from Nigerians.
The court held that the directive of President Buhari for the redesign of the new notes and withdrawal of the old notes without due consultation is invalid.
The lead judgement was read by Justice Emmanuel Agim, who also criticized the President’s disobedience of the court’s earlier order that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes should continue to circulate alongside the new ones.
The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the CBN will be required to continue to issue and circulate the old N1,000 and N500 notes.
The court’s decision also means that the CBN will need to revisit its plans for a redesign and consult more widely with stakeholders before introducing any new notes.
The CBN had announced plans to redesign the naira notes and introduce new ones, with a deadline of January 31, 2023, for the phasing out of the old notes. However, the move was met with widespread criticism and legal challenges from various quarters.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was the result of a case filed by some State Governments challenging the CBN’s decision to phase out the old notes. The plaintiffs argued that the move would cause undue hardship to the public, especially those in rural areas who may not have easy access to the new notes.
The court also cited concerns about the potential impact on the economy and the public.
The court’s decision is seen as a major victory for the plaintiffs and a blow to the CBN’s efforts to introduce a new naira design.
The CBN had argued that the redesigning of the naira notes was necessary to address issues of counterfeiting, terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.
The court’s decision has been met with mixed reactions, with some hailing it as a victory for democracy, while others expressed concern about its impact on the economy.