The Supreme Court gave the order in a suit filed by three APC-controlled states – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara.
The Supreme Court Wednesday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to end the use of old naira notes on 10 February.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a seven-member panel of the court, led by John Okoro, gave the order of interim injunction amid acute scarcity of newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 currency notes.
The court gave the order temporarily, cancelling the CBN’s 10 February deadline to end the validity of the old versions of the banknotes based on an ex parte application filed by three northern states being controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The three applicant states are – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara.
The governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, has been one of the most vocal critics of the naira redesign policy.
The presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, had also publicly criticised the policy during a campaign stop. Their stance contradicts that of President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of their party, who had repeatedly defended the policy.
The applicants, on 3 February, filed their application at the Supreme Court praying for an order to restrain the CBN from ending the use of the old currency notes on 10 February as threatened by the bank.
They cited the sufferings the scarcity of the new bank notes had brought upon many Nigerians.
The application, being ex parte, was not served on the Attorney General of the Federation who is sued in the case as the representative of the federal government.
Only the applicants’ lawyer, Abdulrakeem Mustapha, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was heard by the court.
Mr Okoro, after listening to the applicants’ lawyer Wednesday morning, granted the application “as prayed, a decision he said his panel took after “a careful consideration”.
He issued 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 10 February, the time frame with which the now older version of the 200, 500 and 1,000 denominations of the naira may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction”.
The court, after issuing the order, adjourned until 15 February for hearing of the main suit.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last October announced that it was redesigning the N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes.
Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, announced 31 January as the deadline for the expiration of the old banknotes.
But due to the public outcry trailing the currency scarcity, Mr Emefiele extended the deadline till 10 February. He added that money deposit banks would continue to receive the old banknotes even after the deadline.
Despite the deadline extension, however, the scarcity of new notes has persisted.
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On 3 February , the governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, through their lawyers, filed their application against the naira redesign policy on 3 February, citing the avoidable sufferings majority of Nigerians were going through as a result of the acute scarcity of the newly resigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes.
They said “many citizens have to date not seen the newly redesigned naira notes let alone exchanged their old notes for the new notes,” despite assurances by the government to make the currency available.
Earlier on Wednesday, the applicants’ lawyer said that the policy of the government had led to an “excruciating situation that is almost leading to anarchy in the land “.
While he referred to a Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) statistics which put the number of people who don’t have bank accounts at over 60 per cent, Mr Mustapha lamented that the few Nigerians with bank accounts can’t even access their monies from the bank as a result of the policy.
The senior lawyer further argued that unless the Supreme Court intervenes the situation will lead to anarchy because most banks are already closing operations.
His submissions echoed his clients’ claims in their suit that “many citizens have to date not seen the newly redesigned naira notes let alone exchanged their old notes for the new notes,” despite assurances by the government to make the currency available.
They contended that the “inadequacy of the notice (of naira redesign) coupled with the haphazard, back-handed manner the exercise is being carried out and the attendant hardship… has been well acknowledged even by the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The plaintiffs argued that “there is no justifiable basis for the ongoing difficulties and suffering being meted out on the …good people of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States by the Federal Government.”
In buttressing the extent of the hardship being suffered by Nigerians, the plaintiffs lamented, “economic activities are furiously grinding to a halt.”