Govt asks Supreme Court to extend old naira notes’ lifespan.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 22, 2023
Updated 2023/11/22 at 4:19 PM

With less than 40 days remaining in the year, the Federal Government is urgently appealing to the Supreme Court for an extension of the circulation period of old naira notes. The government seeks to nullify the court’s earlier order, issued on March 3, which allowed the coexistence of old and new naira notes until December 31.

The rationale behind this request lies in the economic challenges faced by the country, preventing the timely printing of a sufficient volume of new notes. The Federal Government emphasizes that the extension is imperative to avoid a potential crisis, considering the unavailability of the required quantity of new currency to replace the old notes within the stipulated time frame.

The government further elucidates that if the Supreme Court denies the extension, there is a looming risk of plunging the nation into another round of national, economic, and financial turmoil. This concern draws parallels to the challenges witnessed in the first quarter of the year when the implementation of the naira redesign policy, spearheaded by the then Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele, led to notable upheavals.

The central bank has approached the court seeking permission to allow the simultaneous use of both old and new Naira notes until it concludes consultations with key stakeholders and establishes necessary infrastructure. Expressing concerns about potential economic repercussions, the bank highlighted the emerging trend of hoarding both the existing and the new Naira notes in anticipation of the December 31 deadline.

Acknowledging ongoing engagements with the 10 plaintiff states, representing members of the National Council of State and the National Economic Council (NEC), the central bank emphasized its commitment to addressing concerns and ensuring a smooth transition.

The 10 states involved in the legal dispute include Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Katsina, Ogun, Cross River, Lagos, and Sokoto. The respondents in the case are the Attorney-General of the Federation, Edo, and Bayelsa states.

The Supreme Court, in its ruling on March 3 (SC/CV/162/2023), overturned the decision of the former President Muhammadu Buhari administration, extending the legal tender status of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes until December 31. The Buhari Administration had initially set February 10, 2023, as the deadline for discontinuing the circulation of old Naira notes. The legal action taken by the 10 plaintiff states aimed to protect the public’s interests, resulting in the Supreme Court’s judgment to prolong the use of old notes until the end of the year.

The existing order of the Supreme Court, coupled with the challenges in producing new currency notes, has posed a hurdle to the extension of the use of old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes. There is a realization within the government that, without a new directive from the Supreme Court, the continued circulation of these old notes beyond December 31 is legally untenable.

In a recent application presented by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the Federal Government is seeking specific reliefs from the court:

  1. An order from the court to review or modify its consequential order, as stated in the judgment in Suit No. SC/CV/162/2023 delivered on March 3, 2023. This review aims to reconsider the provision that allows the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes to remain legal tender until December 31, 2023.
  2. Another order from the court to amend its consequential order in the March 3 judgment, specifically concerning the legal tender status of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes until December 31, 2023.

These requests underscore the government’s recognition of the legal constraints associated with the existing order and the urgency of obtaining a revised directive from the Supreme Court to address the currency circulation situation.

• A plea has been presented before this Honorable Court seeking a revision or amendment of the consequential order, proposing the following wording: “An order that the previous versions of 200, 500, 1,000 notes/currency shall remain legal tender alongside the new or redesigned versions until the government opts to conclude the circulation of the old versions… subsequent to consultations with essential stakeholders and the establishment of all necessary structures.

• Additionally, the applicant requests any other order or further orders that this Honorable Court deems appropriate under the prevailing circumstances.

Reports indicate that the Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for November 30 to address this matter.

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