The legal fireworks between the three northern States controlled by the All Progressives Congress, APC, (Zamfara, Kaduna and Kogi) and the federal government over the controversies surrounding the Naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, will resume today, Wednesday, at the Supreme Court.
The Apex Court will hear the merit of the main application brought by the applicant (Zamfara, Kaduna and Kogi) and decide whether to vacate the interlocutory injunction it had earlier granted against the CBN.
Recall that the Naira redesign policy of the CBN assumed another dimension when the Supreme Court last week granted an interim order restraining the apex bank not to end the use of old naira notes on February 10.
A seven-member panel of the court, led by Justice John Okoro, gave the order of interim injunction amidst an acute scarcity of the newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 currency notes.
The court temporarily gave the order, canceling the CBN’s February 10 deadline to end the validity of the old versions of the banknotes based on an ex parte application filed by three northern States controlled by the ruling APC.
Saga Gist reported that three State governments, Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara, had sued the federal government at the Supreme Court over the hardship occasioned by the scarcity of the redesigned naira notes.
The States, in their applications, prayed the Supreme Court for an order to restrain the CBN from ending the use of the old currency notes on February 10 as threatened by the bank.
They cited the suffering the scarcity of the new banknotes had brought upon many Nigerians.
They said, “many citizens have to date not seen the newly redesigned naira notes, let alone exchanged their old notes for the new ones,” despite the government’s assurances to make the currency available.
After listening to the applicants’ lawyer, Justice Okoro granted the application as prayed, a decision he said his panel took after “careful consideration”.
He also issued an order of 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, the time frame with which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 denominations of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for an interlocutory injunction”.
Meanwhile, many Nigerians have expressed concern over their failure to access the new naira notes.
Mr Clement Okon, from Dawaki, Bwari Area Council of the FCT, Abuja, lamented that the situation in his location was worse due to the lack of commercial bank branches in the rural areas.
“I went to withdraw money and paid N3,000 charges on N10,000. I wonder what is happening in Nigeria,” he said.
However, a POS operator, Yusuf Abdullahi, said that the reason for the high commission was the process of getting the cash from the banks.
“It is not easy to get the cash out of the bank. We go the extra mile to get the money. So, if anyone is not ready, others are ready,” he said.
Meanwhile, some motorists and traders in the FCT, Abuja, started rejecting the old naira notes on Tuesday.
Also, protesters on Tuesday shut the busy Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway at the Sango-Ota axis over their inability to withdraw money from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
They made bonfires of disused tyres on both sides of the highway, causing traffic gridlock.
The leader of the protesters, Mr Kazeem Sanni, described the situation where bank customers could not access their money as unfortunate.
“The situation is pathetic as this has grounded and paralysed business activities,’’ Sanni lamented.
“We decided to show our grievances as we can no longer bear this hardship,’’ he stressed.
He called on the CBN to urgently print more new notes and ensure banks complied with its directives.
Speaking to newsmen, the President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Olu Omotayo, called on the Supreme Court to be firm in taking a definite decision that will benefit the whole country.
Omotayo, a legal luminary, said the Court should seize the opportunity to condemn the disobedience to its order of stay on the use of old currency in Nigeria which was flagrantly disobeyed by the Central Bank.
”Our expectation tomorrow is that the Supreme Court will rise to the occasion by condemning the disobedience to its order of stay on the use of old currency in Nigeria which the Central Bank flagrantly disobeyed.
”The argument of the Learned Attorney General that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction and therefore the suit should be struck out is misconceived because under Section 19(1) & (2) of the Supreme Court Act, it stated that in cases between States and the Federal government or State against State, the Supreme Court may order any course or matter which is before it to be transferred to a High Court or Magistrates’ Court having ordinary jurisdiction in the place where the cause of action arose and has power to grant the relief sought for hearing and determining, or to be otherwise disposed of by such court.
”The implication is that even if the Supreme Court agrees that it does not have original jurisdiction in this case, it is still empowered to transfer the suit to the appropriate court having jurisdiction. We hope that the Supreme Court will be firm in taking a definite decision that will benefit the whole country.”