On March 3, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) naira redesign policy. It noted how the president flouted its February 8 order asking the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to end the recognition of old naira notes as legal tender and described it as a hallmark of a dictatorship.
Here are the words of Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the lead judgement:
“The rule of law upon which our democratic governance is founded becomes illusory if the President of the country or any authority or person refuses to obey the orders of courts. The disobedience of orders of courts by the President in a constitutional democracy as ours is a sign of the constitution’s failure and that democratic governance has become a mere pretension and is now replaced by autocracy or dictatorship.”
[CBN governor Godwin Emefiele / Channels]
The Supreme Court ordered that the old ₦200, ₦500 and ₦1,000 notes should remain in circulation until December 31, 2023. This was a week ago. While some banks have started issuing the old notes, it’s unclear whether compliance is universal because cash is still scarce.
A CBN spokesperson recently said the old notes are now legal tender. Still, the CBN hasn’t issued an official statement, and the federal government has maintained an unusual silence.
Citizen spoke to some Nigerians to hear their thoughts on this issue. Here’s what they had to say.
“I see the step taken by the CBN to reduce the naira in circulation to conform people to digital money as a welcome development. This is because many transactions and businesses have been bypassing taxes for years. This will help to audit most of their records properly.
“Also, I see it as a means to reduce corruption and undocumented payment. As a citizen and civil servant, it has helped me curb avoidable and unnecessary expenses. It has saved me from billing — the usual ‘drop something’ when you go to offices and other departments.
“I mainly use naira notes for transportation purposes (when I am not driving). It also helped me to review my expenses, especially when I go on market errands.
“Regarding the charges, I use non-traditional bank apps and cards to pay, so instead of paying charges, I earn interest for using their cards to make purchases.
“The CBN governor hasn’t said a thing about it because he is trying to salvage the policy, maybe looking for means and ways to make it work. The Supreme Court has given an order. Based on the verdict, I think the Supreme Court told the FG to return the old notes than telling the CBN. The president’s silence is obviously because he still supports the policy. As far as I’m concerned, I’m 70% ok with the naira scarcity.”
“Malls are packed because it seems it’s the way people can buy things via e-channels. You’ll find 30-minute queues at Spar and Shoprite. Cards are failing, so you have to transfer and wait. It’s been very time-consuming, which is ironic.
“Regarding the Supreme Court ruling, I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think the ruling is useful per se. If it’s legal tender, people should accept it. No one will have confidence in the notes if the CBN says nothing.
“Also, the ruling makes it look like the court is in charge of the money supply — which is wrong. As you can see, the CBN can still frustrate the whole ruling by not circulating old notes, not printing more notes etc.
“It’s a cashless policy — that was clear from the start, and it’s another attempt to get Nigerians to dump cash. It wasn’t Buhari’s place to intervene in the matter in the first place but the CBN’s. Perhaps, the faulty implementation made him speak, but it didn’t concern him. If all went well, no one would need his input.
“You don’t call Buhari when banks hold your money, and you rarely call the CBN except you need a firmer hand to put your bank in check. So Buhari doesn’t have to say anything, and the CBN ideally still has control of the legal tender, so what do we do with the ruling? At best, banks accept the notes again, which can solve the problem. I can accept the notes if I know banks would accept them from me.”
“The ruling has changed my purchasing experience. I now use Justrite Store more than I ever had. I only use cash for transport. The CBN won’t say anything till after the elections. They don’t need to since you can only spend the money if they release it. The policy has destroyed volumes of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). We are bleeding volumes massively.
“On Buhari, he can’t openly disobey the Supreme Court order, so I expect him to be mute.”
“For me, pardon my language; it’s pure BS. To even collect old notes from the banks is hard. To enter the bank, problem. I have failed POS transactions that they haven’t refunded. When I try to purchase stuff, sellers ask me to put ₦50 or ₦100 as an extra charge. What if what I want to buy is ₦400, and there’s ₦420 in my account? How do I wing it? I have to reduce whatever I want to purchase. It makes no sense.”
“The primary way this policy has affected me is to reduce my purchasing power. If I want to buy things like Suya or table water which the informal sector of the economy thrives on, I have to think twice because I don’t have an abundance of cash and transfers aren’t reliable. Who wants to wait for a Suya seller to confirm whether a ₦500 transaction has gone through?
“Everyone knows Godwin Emefiele is a yes man. At this point, the CBN doesn’t even have an opinion and is waiting on Buhari. Buhari himself appears confused. I think that’s why the CBN hasn’t said anything yet.
“Do I expect Buhari to speak on this issue? Yes, but not anytime soon because he has a lot on his plate with the controversies surrounding the conduct of the elections. He’s dealing with the transition as he’s tired of the office. The CBN is supposed to say something about it. When? I don’t know, maybe next week. That guy operates on vibes.”