By Adewale Kupoluyi
Amid the controversy trailing the implementation of the naira redesign policy in the country, the parties have been advised to respect the rule of law by adhering to the ruling of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the matter. It would be recalled that the apex court had declared the Federal Government’s naira redesign policy as an affront to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) that breached the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens, which ordered that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes remain in circulation as legal tender until the end of 2023, bringing much relief to millions affected by the chaotic redesign of the naira notes.
In a statement, the Director-General of LCCI, Dr. Chinyere Almona, said that the ruling followed a lawsuit filed by 16 state governors after President Muhammadu Buhari refused to heed their pleas to show more sensitivity to the plight of millions of ordinary Nigerians and allow the old notes to circulate for a more extended period. According to the chamber, “President inflicted unprecedented economic hardship on the citizens by denying them ownership of, and access to their money, noting that some cash-strapped citizens had to engage in barter to survive. Many innocent people were harmed when protests, triggered by the cash scarcity, turned violent. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had claimed the redesign was to rein in excess cash, fight crime and kidnapping, prevent vote-buying, and address inflation and counterfeiting.
“CBN was, however, insensitive to the associated disruptions to payments, banking, commercial, and economic activities, and the untold hardships the policy would visit on millions of ordinary Nigerians whose livelihoods depend on the use of cash, despite strident warnings from the LCCI about these foreseeable downsides to the policy. The CBN announced the currency redesign policy in October, and the new notes were released in mid-December. People were initially given until January 31st to hand in the old notes, but this was extended to February 10th amid the chaotic scenes. The Supreme Court ruled that not enough notice was given to the public before the old notes were withdrawn, and not enough of the new notes were released, leading to widespread anger and frustration.
The chamber added that many people could not get cash to pay for food, and slept outside banks and that the court’s correct process had not been followed, saying “The directive given by President is invalid. Such directive is not just handed down after personal conversation with the governor of CBN. The court held that the President failed to consult the National Council of States, Federal Executive Council (FEC), and the National Economic Council (NEC) before directing the CBN to introduce new Naira notes. The court also admonished President Muhammadu Buhari for not obeying its February 8th order to halt the policy until it decided the case”. To avoid further crisis, untold hardship and disrespect for our courts, the LCCI urged “all concerned to uphold the rule of law by ensuring only lawful options that respect and protect the rights of the populace are considered in pursuing varied objectives of payment policies in the future”, Dr. Almona stated.