CBN Finally Obey Court Order – Directs Banks To Receive, Dispense Old N500, N1000 Notes

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Monday directed commercial banks in Nigeria to dispense and receive the old N200, N500, N1000 bank notes. The bank said the notes remain legal tender until 31 December, as directed by the Supreme Court. The CBN made this known in a statement by its acting spokesperson, Isa AbdulMumin.

The bank’s directive comes after the Supreme Court ruled that the CBN must extend the use of the old banknotes until 31st December 2023 due to the negative impact of the policy on Nigerian businesses and households.

According to the statement; “In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the Rule of Law Principle that characterized the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and by extension, the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of March 3, 2023. Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023,” the statement concluded.

Last December, the CBN introduced new N200, N500, and N1000 notes, leading to the withdrawal of the old notes from circulation. The policy caused chaos across the country, with protests breaking out in different parts of the country. Nigerians encountered challenges doing business and making cash payments in their daily transactions.

On 8 February, 2023 the Supreme Court gave an order restraining the CBN from enforcing the deadline for the phasing out of the N200, N500, and N1000 notes pending the hearing of a lawsuit brought by three states challenging the new currency redesign policy. The order came as a relief for many bank customers as frustrated Nigerians had besieged ATM points in a bid to access their money. But despite the order, both Mr Buhari and the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, refused to adhere to the court order.

Again, the Supreme Court on 3rd March 2023 ruled that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must extend the use of old banknotes until 31st December 2023 due to the negative impact of the policy. A seven-member panel of the court, led by Justice John Okoro, unanimously ordered the CBN to continue receiving the old notes from Nigerian citizens. The court found that President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the CBN on the withdrawal of old notes and redesign of new banknotes without proper consultation was invalid.

On Monday, hours after the presidency said that President Buhari never directed the CBN to disobey the order of the Supreme Court, the CBN directed banks to comply with the apex court’s order and accept the old notes as legal tender until the end of the year. So therefore all Nigerians are free to use their old N200, N500 and N1000 naira notes for their normal day to day business transaction because it has been approved as a legal tender.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari has denied reports that he instructed the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to disobey ‘court orders’. The president spoke through a statement by his media assistant, Garba Shehu, on Monday. He called on the general public to disregard such reports as the president never gave such directives.

“The Presidency wishes to react to some public concerns that President Muhammadu Buhari did not react to the Supreme Court judgments on the issue of the N500 and N1,000 old currency notes, and states here plainly and clearly that at no time did he instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and the CBN Governor to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties.”

“Since the President was sworn into office in 2015, he has never directed anybody to defy court orders, in the strong belief that we can’t practice democracy without the rule of law and the commitment of his administration to this principle has not changed.”

“Following the ongoing intense debate about the compliance concerning the legality of the old currency notes, the Presidency, therefore, wishes to state clearly that President Buhari has not done anything knowingly and deliberately to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice.”

“The President is not a micromanager and will not, therefore, stop the Attorney General and the CBN Governor from performing the details of their duties in accordance with the law. In any case, it is debatable at this time if there is proof of willful denial by the two of them on the orders of the apex court.”

“The directive of the President, following the meeting of the Council of State is that the Bank must make available for circulation all the money that is needed and nothing has happened to change the position. It is an established fact that the President is an absolute respecter of the judicial process and the authority of the courts. He has done nothing in the last eight years to act in any way to obstruct the administration of justice, cause a lack of confidence in the administration of justice, or otherwise interfere or corrupt the courts and there is no reason whatsoever that he should do so now when he is getting ready to leave office.”

“The negative campaign and personalized attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators is unfair and unjust, as no court order at any level has been issued or directed at him. As for the cashless system the CBN is determined to put in place, it is a known fact that many of the country’s citizens who bear the brunt of the sufferings, surprisingly support the policy as they believe that the action would cut corruption, fight terrorism, build an environment of honesty and reinforce the incorruptible leadership of the President.”

“It is therefore wide off the mark to blame the President for the current controversy over the cash scarcity, despite the Supreme Court judgments. The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President,” the statement concluded.

Austine Ikeru
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