From Godwin Tsa, Fred Itua, Ndubuisi Orji, Okwe Obi, Abuja, Sola Ojo, Kaduna

Mixed reactions have trailed the Supreme Court ruling which has temporarily stopped the Federal Government from banning the use of the old naira notes from February 10.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had fixed January 31 as the deadline for the old notes to serve as legal tender but later extended it by 10 days, with February 10 as the new date.

Three governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Yahaya Bello of Kogi and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara  sued the CBN over the deadline.

A seven-member panel led by Justice John Okoro halted the plan in a ruling in an ex parte application.

Counsel to the applicants,  M.I. Mustapha, who moved  the application urged the court to grant the application in the interest of justice and Nigerians.

It was his contention that the policy had led to an “excruciating situation that is almost leading to anarchy in the land.”

Justice Okoro had after listening to the motion ex parte granted the prayer.

Ruling on the motion, Justice Okoro 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, the time frame with which the now older version of the N200, N500 and N1,000 denomination may no longer be legal tender pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for an interlocutory injunction.”

He, however, adjourned to February 15, 2023, for a hearing of the main suit.

Hours after the apex court restrained the government, President Muhammadu Buhari  met with Emefiele. The meeting was the second in 24 hours at the presidential villa.

Neither the CBN nor the presidency spoke after the session, but emerging feelers indicated that visit by Emefiele was not unconnected with court ruling.

•Kaduna hails ruling

 Meanwhile, Kaduna State Government in statement by Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye  thanked the justices for their decision and appealed to the federal authorities to treat the ruling as an opportunity to relieve human suffering.’

It recalled that governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states were compelled to approach the Supreme Court to mitigate the needless stress imposed on ordinary people and their livelihoods by the “ill-timed, incompetent planning and execution of an overnight cashless policy.”

Adekeye argued that CBN advanced no emergency justification  for what he described as “this callous decision to deny people access to their deposited cash. We have engaged extensively with the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“This has included furnishing evidence-based demonstration of the threat to public welfare and economic activities by this myopic policy that would have been condemned as draconian and insensitive were it being pursued by an occupying power.

“It is not to the credit of a sovereign, democratic government that this level of suffering is being callously imposed when there is neither a compelling emergency situation nor clear benefits for citizens and the economy.” 

According to Adekeye, Kaduna State Government hopes that a review of the currency swap policy would now  be undertaken to fashion out a better implementation programme.

•Respect verdict, CNG tells FG, CBN  

The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) warned the Federal Government and CBN to respect the order for the sake of peace. 

Spokesman of CNG, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, in a statement, claimed that policy was clearly aimed at achieving dubious political goals and clearly designed to weaken the northern region especially.

“We, therefore, find it unrealistic and unjustifiable that in the desperation to get even with a certain individual and frustrate his presidential bid, the entire country and its people should be thrown into this level of unforgivable suffering.

“As fallout of the chronic cash scarcity resulting from the rigid implementation of the unpopular currency swap policy, several commercial banks have begun to close shop for fear of unforeseen circumstances.

“Against the failures and abuses by administration officials, hunger is stalking millions of homes, inflation is making life difficult by the day, people are losing jobs, businesses are closing down, young Nigerians are losing hope. For us in the North, policing lives and livelihoods of communities is now a major problem.”

•FG asks S’Court to dismiss govs suit 

The Federal government has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss a suit challenging the 10 February deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to end the old bank notes in place of the newly designed currency notes.

The government through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, argued that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit.

Specifically, the suit was filed by three states – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States, all in the northern part of Nigeria and controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

But the Federal Government has insisted in its notice of preliminary objection, that the case is not a dispute between the federation and the state governments, but merely an issue about CBN’s policy.

It said the suit is, therefore, not qualified to be taken directly to the Supreme Court for adjudication. It argues that the suit ought to have been commenced at the Federal High Court.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, sued as the sole defendant as the representative of the federal government, filed his opposition to the suit as a preliminary objection against it at the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

•CSOs kick, protesters ground CBN hqtrs, AGF’s office

Following the ruling, protesters grounded offices of the CBN and the Attorney-General of the Federation, passed a vote of confidence on the apex bank and urged it not to back down.

Armed with placards with inscription such as: ‘Justice Ariwoola resist plot to use our Supreme Court  to undermine democracy,’ accused the Chief Justice of Nigeria of working for the APC presidential candidates, Bola Tinubu and G5 governors’ interest.

They urged President Buhari to issue an Executive Order for the old notes not to be in circulation.

Meanwhile, a group, the Civil Society Central Body has warned Nigerians not to accept the old naira notes in their own interest.

The group coordinator, Obed Agu, who led the protesters: “We are rejecting it because it is a plot to open the bank vaults to enable vote buyers and holders of illicit wealth to have cash to buy votes. We ask the CJN to hurriedly vacate the ex parte order in the over all interest of the Nigeria election. 

“We have suffered a lot in the hands of supreme court in undermining any effort for credible election. Supreme court voided the card reader which aided and increased official election result rigging. The Supreme court declared a man who came fourth in an election as governor of a state and that helped to destroy Imo State and sanctity of the ballot. We won’t allow the CJN use the apex office to undermine our democracy and President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise of peaceful transition.”

Also, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Civil Society Central Coordinating Council implored the Supreme Court  to vacate the order, noting that anything that affects the February 10 deadline for the phase out of the old Naira notes will be inimical to the credibility  of the 2023 general election.

•Ruling saves Nigeria from economic shutdown –Tinubu

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC presidential candidate, says the Supreme Court ruling on the implication of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) re-designed naira notes and cashless policy has saved Nigeria from political and economic shutdown.

Tinubu in a statement issued by Mr. Bayo Onanuga, director, Media and Publicity, APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) said the policy had subjected the masses to pains.

He hailed the 36 state governors, especially the progressive APC governors, for standing on the side of Nigerians over the policy.

According to him Nigerians were bearing the brunt of the policy because it was poorly implemented.

Tinubu said the governors, especially APC governors who instituted the suit against the CBN and Federal Government at the Supreme Court, acted well on behalf of hapless Nigerians.

“The governors have saved the country from a needless political and economic crises and miseries. This have clearly become the unintended consequences of the monetary policy of the apex bank,” the statement quoted Tinubu as saying.

He noted that the Supreme Court ruling coincided with the advisory of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urging for the extension of the deadline for the swap of the old naira notes.

This, he said, was going by the problems being experienced across the country in getting the new naira notes.

Tinubu applauded the courage of the governors, saying they acted to save the country from avoidable dangerous political crises and social unrest which the policy had brought on Nigerians.

•Ignore criticisms, maintain old notes deadline, UNNYF tells Emefiele 

The Unified Northern Nigeria Youth Forum (UNNYF) called on Emefiele to ignore criticisms against him including the Supreme Court ruling.

It also carpeted Governors Yahaya Bello, Nasir El-Rufai, and Bello Matawalle of Kogi, Kaduna, and Zamfara State respectively on their moral grounds to challenge the CBN policy when they failed to govern their states successfully in terms of security and social protection.

Publicity Secretary of the group, Ali Muhammad in a statement said: “We are calling on the CBN to ignore all criticisms, see it as a mere distraction and not extend its deadline in other not to allow some mischievous set of individuals who are out to pursue their selfish and hidden agenda”.

It noted that the policies have already reduced drastically the level of kidnapping and ransom payment, strengthened the naira, reduced the cost of certain commodities in the market and was a potential checker for vote buying during the general election.

•Bank workers threaten to shut down over attacks

The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) has threatened to withdraw the services of its members nationwide, following attacks on some commercial bank premises.

It also said that it would not stop the withdrawal until the attacks on its workers were addressed and security ensured.

NUBIFIE’s General Secretary, Mr Mohammed Sheikh, in a statement expressed dismay over recent attacks on bank workers without proper protection by security agencies.

Sheikh, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and various stakeholders to strive and end the hardship brought as a result of the change of cash withdrawal policy.