As first disclosed by former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor and sitting Governor of Anambra State, Prof Charles Soludo , the CBN has directed commercial banks to begin to receive and give old Naira notes to customers.
The directive comes as the Presidency rose in stout defence of President Muhammadu Buhari that he did not ask the Attorney-General of the Federation or the CBN to defy the week-old Supreme Court order that ordered that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain legal tender until the end of the year.
A statement confirming the new development was issued by acting spokesman of the CBN, Mr. Isa AbdulMumin, who said the decision followed a meeting of the apex bank with the Bankers’ Committee.
According to the statement, commercial banks operating in the country have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of March 3,2023.
Said the acting director of corporate affairs in the statement: “In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the Rule of Law Principle that characterized the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and by extension, the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of March 3,2023.
“Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023.
“Consequently, all concerned are directed to conform accordingly”.
The compliance is coming more than a week after the Supreme Court order and a few hours before state governments, who initiated the suit that led to the apex court decision, threatened to drag CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to court for contempt.
In its statement, the Presidency, through one of President Buhari’s spokesmen, Mr. Garba Shehu, said: “The Presidency wishes to react to some public concerns that President Muhammadu Buhari did not react to the Supreme Court judgement on the issue of the N500 and N1,000 old currency notes, and states here plainly and clearly that at no time did he instruct the Attorney General and the CBN Governor to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties.
“Since the President was sworn into office in 2015, he has never directed anybody to defy court orders, in the strong belief that we can’t practise democracy without the rule of law and the commitment of his administration to this principle has not changed.
“Following the ongoing intense debate about the compliance concerning the legality of the old currency notes, the Presidency therefore wishes to state clearly that President Buhari has not done anything knowingly and deliberately to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice.
“The President is not a micromanager and will not, therefore, stop the Attorney General and the CBN Governor from performing the details of their duties in accordance with the law. In any case. it is debatable at this time if there is proof of willful denial by the two of them on the orders of the apex court.
“The directive of the President, following the meeting of the Council of State. is that the Bank must make available for circulation all the money that is needed and nothing has happened to change the position.
“It is an established fact that the President is an absolute respecter of judicial process and the authority of the courts. He has done nothing in the last eight or so years to act in any way to obstruct the administration of justice, cause lack of confidence in the administration of justice, or otherwise interfere or corrupt the courts and there is no reason whatsoever that he should do so now when he is getting ready to leave office.
“The negative campaign and personalised attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators is unfair and unjust, as no court order at any level has been issued or directed at him.
“As for the cashless system the CBN is determined to put in place, it is a known fact that many of the country’s citizens who bear the brunt of the sufferings, surprisingly support the policy as they believe that the action would cut corruption, fight terrorism, build an environment of honesty and reinforce the incorruptible leadership of the President.
“It is therefore wide off the mark to blame the President for the current controversy over the cash scarcity, despite the Supreme Court judgement. The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President.
“President Buhari has also rejected the impression that he lacks compassion, saying that “no government in our recent history has introduced policies to help economically marginalised and vulnerable groups like the present administration.””