The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, shut its door to more states seeking to be joined as interested parties in the suit challenging the decision of the Federal Government to ban the use of the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes as valid legal tenders.
A seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court, in a unanimous decision, asked all the states interested in the matter to await its decision in the suit that was originally filed by three northern states- Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara.
The panel headed by Justice Inyang Okoro took the decision after it rejected a joinder application that was filed by Abia State.
It proceeded to consolidate the different suit that was filed by Rivers State, with all the pending cases challenging the Naira swap policy that FG introduced through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
All the suits the apex court consolidated for hearing on Wednesday, were marked: SC/CV/162/23, SC/CV/162/23, SC/CS/197/23, SC/CV/200/23, SC/CV/210, SC/CV/227, SC/CV/229/23 and SC/CV/222/23.
It will be recalled that the court had earlier joined seven states- Lagos, Cross River, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Sokoto and President Muhammadu Buhari’s homestate, Katsina, as parties to the suit that was filed by the three northern states.
Though only the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, was initially cited as the sole defendant in the matter, the apex court okayed requests by Edo and Bayelsa states to be allowed to join the suit to support FG as co-plaintiffs.
Rivers, Kano, Jigawa and Nasarawa states had maintained that there own case was different, stressing that their grouse was not only with the Naira swap policy, but also with the cash withdrawal limits the CBN allowed for corporate entities and individuals, respectively.
While consolidating all the cases, the Supreme Court noted that the issue in dispute resolves around Section 20(3) of the CBN Act.
It held that there was no need for more states to apply for permission to join the legal fireworks.
“We will no longer join any state in this matter. When we give our decision, whoever that is dissatisfied can file a fresh suit. There is still time”, the apex court held.
It will be recalled that the apex court had on February 8, issued an interim order that restrained FG from implementing its February 10 deadline for the use of the redesigned Naira notes as legal tenders.
However, despite the order of the ex-parte order by apex court, the CBN had since invalidated the old N500 and N1000 banknotes, even as President Buhari, in a nationwide broadcast he made on February 16, okayed the N200 note to remain a legal tender till April 10.
Specifically, the states, in their consolidated suit, are among other things, seeking a declaration that the Demonetization Policy of the Federation being currently carried out by the CBN under the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is not in compliance with the extant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 and actual laws on the subject.
They applied for, “A declaration that the three-month notice given by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the CBN under the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the expiration of which will render the old banknotes inadmissible as legal tender, is in gross violation of the provisions of Section 20(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 which specifies that Reasonable Notice must be given before such a policy”.
As well as, “A declaration that given the express provisions of Section 20(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the CBN, has no powers to issue a timeline for the acceptance and redeeming of banknotes issued by the Bank, except as limited by Section 22(1) of the CBN Act 2007. The Central Bank shall at all times redeem its bank notes”.
Besides, the states urged the apex court to direct the immediate suspension of the demonetisation of the Federal Government of Nigeria through the CBN under the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria until it complied with the relevant provisions of the law.
The plaintiffs told the apex court that since the CBN announced the new naira policy, there has been an acute shortage in the supply of the new naira notes in their respective states.
They decried that residents in their states who complied with CBN’s directive and deposited their old naira notes have increasingly found it difficult to access new naira notes to conduct their daily businesses.
They maintained that the inadequacy of the new naira notes as well as the haphazard manner the monetary policy was being implemented, has wrought serious hardship on residents in their states, stressing that the 10-day extension of the deadline would not be sufficient to address the challenges occasioned by the policy.
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According to a report by Bloomberg, investors are betting on a currency devaluation and sent the main index of the Nigerian Exchange to above 57,437 points, which contrasted with a flat performance for MSCI’s main emerging equity benchmark.
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