Publication

Naira Redesign: Validity Of The Supreme Court Restrains To CBN From Implementing Deadline For Old Naira Notes

Introduction

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had moved the deadline earlier set for the expiration of the legal tender status of the old naira notes from January 31 to February 10, 2022 after the (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele met with the president. The Supreme Court then suspended the February 10 deadline for the swap of the old naira notes with the new naira notes given by the Central Bank of Nigeria after the case filed by some APC governors at the Supreme Court.

It’s noteworthy that The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of A.G OF KADUNA STATE & 2Ors v. A.G OF THE FEDERATION in suit No: SC/CV/162/2023 temporarily halted the move by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the (CBN) because it’s an ‘’ interim Injunction’’ and not a complete stop to the naira redesign policy, pending the hearing and determination of the case.

Justice Okoro of the Supreme Court held that:

‘’ 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 1000, denominations of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for an Interlocutory Injunction’’

 The fact that the (CBN) was not a party to the suit doesn’t mean it won’t comply with the court order even though the Supreme Court is not the proper place for the adjudication of the matter.  The proper place is the Federal High Court for the judicial review of the lawfulness of the decision of the (CBN). The case is not a dispute between the Federation and the State Government but merely an issue about the Central Bank’s policy.

The Supreme Court held in 2017 in A. G. OF LAGOS STATE V. A.G. OF THE FEDERATION that for a dispute to arise and for the Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction under section 232, subsection 1, of the 1999 Constitution, it must be a dispute between the states and the Federation.

Although, there are issues that will arise when the legal tussle start, its proper to say that the law is what the Supreme Court says its, The final court of the land and what they have done is to order the parties to stay pending the hearing of the matter because If the Res (subject matter) are not preserved there will be nothing to decide by the time the Supreme Court meets.   See KOTOYE V. CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA (1989) NWLR (pt.98) 419

The language of  section 232 of the constitution that confers jurisdiction on the Supreme Court between States and the Federation need to be examined to ascertain whether the Supreme Court legally assume jurisdiction in this matter. It states that:

’The Supreme Court shall to the exclusion of any other court have original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Federation and the States or between the states if and in so far as that disputes involves any question (whether law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.’

First, it must be a dispute between States or States and the Federation, not with an agency of the federal government. for example, the Supreme Court in A.G. RIVERS STATE & A.G. AKWA IBOM V. A.G. OF the FEDERATION NWLR (pt. 597) 1023. The Supreme Court rightly triggered its original jurisdiction because it involves disputes about right and entitlements between two States.

If you consider the facts of the case, there is no abridgment of the rights and entitlement of the three States that approach the Supreme Court in any manner by the Federation. There is no action of the Federation that is being alleged to have caused special harm or deprivation in those States. The issue borders on the exercise of regulating power over currency, an issue within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court by virtue of Section 251 (1) (a) (p) (q) (r) of the Constitution. As long as the matter is on currency policy by the Federal Government, the proper venue for adjudication is the Federal High Court and not the Supreme Court.

The process by which the three northern States brought the matter to the Supreme Court is a questionable one, to evade the proper jurisdiction. By not suing the (CBN) and the Commercial Banks since they are the real focus of the suit, the plaintiffs go to the Supreme Court under the Umbrella of the A.G Federation and the Defendant. In the circumstances, the Supreme Court can reject to hear the case and ask the plaintiffs to add the (CBN) and proceed to the Federal High Court to seek both interlocutory and final orders. This would have been the best judicial direction that would have given the (CBN) Avenue to contest the case on the merit. The view that the Attorney General of the Federation is the chief law officer of the Federation does not mean that he has to defend the suit at the instance of statutory agencies that exercise their mandate based on the law; the agencies should be sued in their respective names.

The Supreme Court has the powers to make multiple directions to either the regulatory agency (CBN) or the lower court to manage the issue., It’s part of the responsibility of the Supreme Court as a policy court to make such directions where the agency or institution that has statutory responsibility needs to be more objective or transparent in executing its responsibilities.

In conclusion, The rule of law provides that there has to be obedience to the judgment and orders of the Supreme Court and it was within the powers of the Supreme Court to grant an interim injunction until Wednesday February 15, 2023, when it would hear all the interested parties on the substantive issues, including whether It has jurisdiction, it’s the Supreme Court that will decide if it has jurisdiction or not. It’s not certain yet what will happen after hearing of the case. The apex court has not decided on the matter, the court gave the order so as to prevent the subject matter of the suit from being truncated. Nigerians can have a sigh of relief that the February 10, 2022 deadline has now been suspended and that they have some more time to deposit their old naira notes or swap with the redesign ones, the outcome of the hearing of the case will determine for how long the relief will last.