Protests have erupted in various parts of the country. POS operators are now the new ballers in Nigeria, placing transaction charges as high as ₦4k on cash withdrawals. And even the lives of individuals have been cut short due to the inability to find cash for their daily needs.
Protesters burning an ATM fence in Benin, Edo State [Guardian Newspapers]
Here is how the government responded to this crisis so far:
The Federal High Court order
After the back and forth on a deadline for the expiration of ₦200, ₦500 and ₦1,000 notes, the CBN finally gave an extension. This was from January 31 to February 10.
But despite more time, the redesigned notes were still not available for use, as the February 10 deadline drew nearer. This made Nigerians question if the CBN would give a new deadline extension, or stand their ground.
Four days before the deadline, the answer came in the form of a restraining order from the Federal High Court to the CBN. The restraining order banned CBN and the Federal Government from trying to extend the February 10 deadline any further.
But just when Nigerians were getting used to this verdict, another ‘gbas gbos’ struck from the highest court in Nigeria — the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s controversial judgement
On February 3, three frustrated governors from Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, decided to drag the Federal Government before the Supreme Court. Their request? An injunction barring the CBN’s February 10 deadline on old naira notes as legal tender.
We imagine their faces look a lot like this
The Supreme Court gave a temporary order for CBN to halt the expiration of the old naira notes until the final judgement on February 15. This caused a lot of confusion as to whose order should be obeyed — the Federal High Court or Supreme Court.
However, when the day came, they adjourned the judgement instead to February 22. And even the temporary ruling did not ease the burden of naira scarcity in any way.
The Buhari plot twist
But less than 24 hours after the adjournment, President Muhammadu Buhari announced in a nationwide broadcast that the old ₦200 notes should be in circulation beyond February 10, while old N500 and N1000 notes should not be considered as legal tender. This completely disobeys the Supreme Court’s ruling of halting old naira note expiration.
After all, the president is meant to be the boss
But, is this legal? Does the President’s declaration supersede the highest court in the land? Citizen brought back constitutional lawyer, Festus Ogun, to give us context.
“Buhari is exhibiting executive rascality.”
For Festus, Buhari is on the wrong side of the law in regard to his declaration. According to Festus:
“I don’t understand why the President would disobey the highest court in the land. There is a reason why separation of powers exists, and there is nowhere in the constitution where a President’s order supersedes that of the Supreme Court.
He may decide to say that the Supreme Court case is between the Federal Government and the governors, but the Attorney-General of the Federation was called to represent the Federal Government. The Federal Government includes the Presidency, the CBN and all other authorities underneath it. As far as I’m concerned, he too is part of the Supreme Court trial. He has showcased the highest disrespect for the rule of law and exhibited executive rascality.”
But despite the February 16 declaration by Buhari, the naira scarcity continues to get werser with even more protests setting in. Would we hear from the Supreme Court on February 22? Would bringing back the old N200 note improve access to cash in Nigeria?
Only time can tell.