From Godwin Tsa and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja,
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has barred President Muhammadu Buhari, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele from suspending, stopping or extending the currency redesign terminal date of February 10 or any directive contrary to the terminal date.
Also affected by the order of the court are 27 commercial banks listed as defendants in the suit filed by four political parties.
Justice Eleojo Enenche after listening to Obed Agu, counsel to the claimant’s/applicants, Action Alliance (AA), Action Peoples Party (APP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and National Rescue Movement (MRM), issued the interim order with a lifespan of seven days.
The judge also granted an order directing CEO’s of banks and their alter egos to show cause why they should not be arrested and prosecuted for the economic and financial sabotage of the country by their illegal hoarding, withholding, not paying or disbursing the new N200, N500 and N1000 bank notes despite supply of such notes by the Central Bank.
The order is coming on the heels of a suit filed at the Supreme Court by Governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking the stoppage of the implementation of the monitisation policy.
Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) are carrying out the case on behalf of their other 21 APC governors.
The political parties in their originating processes marked FCT HC/CV/2234/2023, filed on February 6, 2023, sought the injunctive orders on the heels of perceived moves by the Federal Government to extend the terminal date of February 10, for the use of the old notes.
The development has pre-empted further moves by some state governors alleged to be behind the moves to stop the policy, including Governors of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Rivers, Imo, Benue and Kano.
It equally ties the hands of bank CEO’s and their staff who have been alleged to be hoarding the new bank notes and trading them, thereby causing untold hardship to ordinary citizens.
The issue of naira redesign has generated tension in the country owing to the scarcity of new notes. Governors of the ruling party had met with the President last week and pleaded with him to allow old notes and new ones co-exist. The president told them to give him seven days to look into issues arising from the naira redesign.
However, after the meeting, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, insisted that the apex bank was not considering shifting the February 10 deadline for the old notes to cease being legal tender.
As an interim relief pending the determination of their originating summons filed before the court, the governors in their motion ex parte are seeking an injunctive order restraining the defendants from full implementation of the policy.
In an originating summons marked SC/CV/162/2023 and dated February 3, 2023, the APC governors are seeking a declaration that the demonetization policy of the federation currently carried out by the CBN under the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari was not in compliance with the extant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 and actual laws on the subject.
They are also asking the court to make a declaration that the three-month notice given by the FGN and CBN under the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the expiration of which will render the old bank notes inadmissible as legal tender, is in gross violation of the provisions of Section 20(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 which specifies that reasonable notice must be given before such a policy, and that the limit cannot be outside that provided under Section Section 22(1) of the CBN Act 2007.
Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaduna State, Aisha Dikko, in an affidavit, averred that although the naira redesign policy was introduced to encourage the cashless policy of the Federal Government, it is not all transactions that can be conveniently carried out through electronic means.
Dikko also pointed out that the Federal Government embarked on the policy within a narrow and unworkable time frame, and that this had adversely affected Nigerian citizens within Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states as well as their governments, especially as the redesigned naira notes are not available for use by the people and state governments.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the matter.
• Customers lockdown banking halls in Abuja
As Nigerians across the country try to cope with the ongoing currency crunch owing to inability of banks to dispense the new Naira, angry depositors in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory have lied siege on banking halls bringing to halt all activities.
A visit to various banking halls in the FCT noted incidents at GTB branch in Utako Area of FCT where customers locked down the branch for several hours as protesters locked up the bank with staff and customers inside the banking hall.
An aggrieved customer told Daily Sun that she was at the bank since 8am and suddenly the Automated Teller Machine ATM stopped dispensing cash.
“We’re being treated like animals by this bank. No one will leave here today. We will all sleep here today. We cannot be treated with levity by GTB we are not animals. We’ve decided to locked down this bank,” she said.
A senior police officer believed to the Divisional Police Officer DPO for Utako Police Command came personally to scene of the incident to engage with aggrieved customers.
A security officer in the bank who spoke on the incident said: “The ATM paid a few people earlier in the day and then stopped. We explained the situation to our customers, but they have refused to bulge. We are helpless because the bank management confirmed that there are no money in the vaults.”
Customers who were there to carry out other transactions other than cash withdrawals with the bank were directed to do so online. Efforts by our correspondent to speak to the manager was unsuccessful.
A manager from another bank who pleaded not to be quoted said: “Customers are upset, but we can only ask for patience while we work to meet deadlines. With the way tempers are flaring, I fervently hope that none of us will be physically assaulted. We will make every effort to meet everyone’s needs.”
The same pandemonium spread across other banks visited by DailySun with customers protesting the inability of the bank’s ATM across FCT to dispense cash. At Polaris Bank branch located at Grand Square Central Business District, some of the customers lamented how they have been on queue for hours but could not access money.
An official of the bank, who ensured that everyone stayed on the queue, confirmed that the ATM was dispensing funds to customers. He said they tried to make money available as the receive them from Central Bank of Nigeria.
•Obaseki meets CBN officials, other banking stakeholders
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, yesterday, met with officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and senior executives of banks in the state to proffer lasting solution to the cash crunch in the state and country.
The governor, while addressing journalists after the meeting at Government House, Benin City, said he was in support of the Federal Government’s cashless policy, but urged for mechanisms to make the process seamless.
“Today, I invited senior management of banks in the state and Central Bank of Nigeria to meet with the government as we are concerned about the plight and sufferings of Edo people on the inability to get cash from the banking system in the state. After much deliberation, we have come to the following resolution that the policy of moving Nigeria’s economy to a cashless one should be encouraged as it’s the best thing for our banking system…”
The Edo State government doesn’t have any problem with the Federal Government’s policy to move the nation’s economy to a cashless one. I, however, urge the Federal Government to do this painlessly and seamlessly as possible and improve on communication to reduce the fear of the people,” Obaseki said.
Director of Risk Management, CBN, Abuja, Dr. Blaise Ijebor, said a monitoring team, comprising the EFCC and ICPC is going around the state to identify those conniving to create artificial scarcity of the naira, adding, “We will identify these groups and deal with such to stabilise the situation. I urge Edo people to be calm as this problem will soon be resolved.”
Similarly,Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, paid an unscheduled visit to the Abeokuta branch of the CBN to seek relief on the amounts that citizens can withdraw in exchange for deposits made in commercial banks.
He also offered to lend members of his cabinet to monitor cash distribution to banks to ensure that no commercial bank or their agents hoard the new naira notes in the state.
The governor stated these when he visited the management of the apex bank led by the Branch Controller, Wahab Oseni, in Abeokuta.
Abiodun who later met with Bankers Forum, made up of managers of commercial banks in the state, also extracted a commitment from both the CBN and commercial banks to make cash available to bank customers from today.
According to the governor, it is disappointing to see long queues of residents at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), waiting to cash money from the system with so much stress and some not getting enough to meet their immediate needs.