Twenty-four hours to the deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for the swap of the old naira notes, there is a high level of anxiety across the country.
The Supreme Court had on Wednesday temporarily halted the move by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to ban the use of the old naira notes from February 10, 2023.
A 7-member panel led by Justice John Okoro halted the move while ruling in an ex-parte application brought by three northern States of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara.
The three States had specifically applied for 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, 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 interlocutory injunction”.
Moving the application on Wednesday, counsel to the applicants, Mr A. I. Mustapha, SAN, had urged the apex court to grant the application in the interest of justice and the well-being of Nigerians.
He stated that the policy of the government has led to an “excruciating situation that is almost leading to anarchy in the land.”
The ruling has since generated mixed reactions from across the country.
While some citizens, including the camp of the APC Presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu are hailing the ruling, others have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to override it with an executive order.
Few hours after the ruling, the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele met with President Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has already filed processes challenging the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to suspend the scheduled deadline.
Malami, in a preliminary objection he filed on behalf of the Federal Government, applied for an order striking out the suit that three Northern States filed to halt the full implementation of the new monetary policy that was introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
He is the sole defendant in the suit marked: SC/CV/162/2023, where he applied for its outright dismissal on the basis that the three States lacked the locus-standi.
Listing his grounds for challenging the power of the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter, Malami accused the three States of opposing FG’s power, through its agency, the CBN, to withdraw old banknotes and introduce new ones.
Nigerians are anxiously awaiting the next step of the CBN, especially with the deadline ending on Friday, February 10, just as President Buhari had earlier asked for one week to take a major decision on the matter one way or the other.
Speaking to media on Wednesday, the Head of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Digital Media, Barrister Tony Ehilebo claimed of a certain intelligence that the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, is planning to swap N21 billion it had set out for vote-buying.
He, however, said that the efforts of Governor Nasir El-Rufia of Kaduna State and his cohorts to stop the CBN policy will fail because the States lacked such powers.
He alleged that, “The intelligence reaching us is that the APC, especially in States that they control are using the instrumentality of the State government and trying to swap N21 billion.
“We don’t know if this has gone through or if it has happened but we have raised all the necessary alarms.
“These are the questions we should be asking. We expect that the NFIU which has direct access to any suspicious cash transaction should be on top of its job.
“I’m one of the advocates, one of the drafters of the creation of the National Financial Intelligence Unit Bill and I expect it to live up to expectation, which is why I don’t have any problem with the CBN policy.
“It may not even favour the PDP as far as I’m concerned but it is in the best interest of Nigeria. We’ll really like whoever Nigerians want, which I believe is the PDP at this point in time.”
Speaking further on the recent Supreme Court injunction, he added, “It is a normal procedure of the court. When you run to the court with the cry that lives are being affected, it is the Court’s duty to first intervene and then bring all parties to the table and provide opportunity for response.
“That is why injunctions only have a lifespan of seven days at most. However, I suspect that this will be reversed. If you notice, it was given on 7th and it expires on 15th and that is when the hearing proper is.
“If I were the CBN, on the 15th I’ll carry on with that policy. Of course, the CBN is legitimately carrying out its function and I don’t think the States have any say whatsoever to impede on functions that are constitutionally guaranteed by the banks and other financial institutions’ acts.
“The CBN is guaranteed to be independent of the judiciary and free from the encumbrance of people like El-rufai and his cohorts.”
But reacting to the allegations of planning to buy votes and rig the forthcoming election, Comrade Okpokwu Ogenyi, Convener, Concerned APC Members and member APC Presidential Campaign Council and Civil Society Directorate, wondered why the APC whose government introduced the BVAS and signed the Electoral Act 2022 into law, should be the one being accused of planning to rig elections.
Speaking, he said, “Yes. Some members of my party are in court to challenge the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria and some of the reasons they gave were very clear.
“El-Rufia made it clear that in the entire Borno State, it is only two local governments that banks are operating.
“The same in Yobe State. He said that he was campaigning against the effect of the policy on the people. He even said the policy has nothing to do with the CBN but Mr. President who changed currency even in his first tenure as military head of state.
“That the timing is wrong. In my personal opinion, I want to tell you that Governor El-Rufia is in court to seek redress in his capacity as governor of Kaduna State. He is speaking for the people of Kaduna State not for the entire All Progressives Congress.
“On the allegations of swapping over N21b for vote, let me say that just yesterday, the party launched the Renewed Hope Ambassadors of Nigeria to mobilise 20-man canvassers in each of the polling units.
“A party that is resorting to vote-buying will not initiate such a volume of projects. I want you to also know that my party is not ready to buy votes. The BVAS was introduced by my party.
“The Electoral Act 2022 was signed by my party. So the party is putting up measures to checkmate some of the excesses during elections, such as rigging, vote-buying and all of that.”