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NAIRA RE-DESIGN, THE JOURNEY SO FAR

by Yvonne ONUAH

It is no longer news that the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN in exercise of her statutory function muted the idea of re-designing some categories of the nation’s currency particularly the 200,500 and 1000 notes respectively.

Deeming it appropriate with good intent the apex bank came out with her plans having a time frame set in view.
With the machinery set in motion, the financial sector top regulatory authority began to work assiduously to deliver on the set target date. However, as it is with every human activity this seeming or supposed noble objective has ran into troubled weather or waters whichever way one understands it; no thanks to the system-imposed peculiarities of our dear country.
Time and space will not permit more detailed discussion on the controversy this well-intentioned move has generated.
Political parties and politicians as picked up their battle-axe and opened their weaponry to fight what they perceive to be an intrigue and game plan to scuttle their ambition.

The ruling All Progressive Congress APC has been at the forefront of this battle. Penultimate week, their presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu during his rally in Abeokuta Ogun State, South West Nigeria busted out betraying an inherent fear (whether real or imaginary) that his presidential ambition was the target of the move to re-design the naira and in particular the date set when the currency swap will end. That speculative and highly unsubstantiated allegation has in turn drawn wide views, comments and opinions both for and against; thereby deepening the controversy. That “Abeokuta Declarations” by Tinubu has also raised more questions than answers.

As if that was not enough, last week four political parties described by the ever controversial governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje as “… unknown political parties…” went and obtained an order from the Federal High Court stopping the Central Bank from extending the February 10th deadline earlier set by the apex bank when the old currency notes will cease to be legal tender.

A new twist was added during the out going week when three state governments of Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara invoking the original jurisdiction as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of FRN (as amended) approached the Supreme Court sought and obtained an interim order restraining the federal government through the Central Bank from ending or stopping the currency swap with Friday 10th of February 2023 as the last day.

Effectively, the Supreme Court ruling has equally received various interpretations and comments. Some people believes that the order is a vindication and a victory for those opposed to the policy, especially from ruling party APC. Others sees the order as a ploy and a leeway for some desperate politicians who wants to use their heavily/enormous amassed cash to buy their way through during the forthcoming general elections. However, all these view points remains purely speculative.
The question now is/are what are the implication(s) of these cacophony of events with special regards to the Supreme Court ruling?.
Some school of thought has said that since the Central Bank was not made a party to the suit that the order has no binding effect on the apex bank. Others are of the opinion that the reverse is the correct position because the Central Bank is the voice, eyes, hands and legs of the federal government in handling financial matters; more so as the issue of currency falls under the exclusive legislative list.

Some as well pointed out that had the Central Bank been made a party to the suit the Supreme Court would have had no jurisdiction over the matter, the apex bank being a governmental agency.
However, few things are clear here: the supreme court ruling is just an interim order. The apex court in her wisdom said the status quo, that is the current state of affairs should be maintained pending when the substantive suit will be heard on February 15th 2023.Such interim order (s) do have validity period usually seven days. Amazingly the date of the expiration of the order is the same day fixed for further hearing.
The federal government through the Attorney General of the Federation AGF Abubakar Malami made a statement on Thursday to the effect that the government will abide by the order. The federal government has however filed an objection to the suit.

The position as it stands is that the currency swap will not end on Friday 10th of February as earlier scheduled.
Also, for the benefit of non-legal minds or better still an ordinary man or citizens, the supreme court has not given a finality to the matter. The matter is well and alive, still on going.
While the pain and trauma continues, the citizenry and indeed the world will keep watching and waiting to see how the whole thing pans out.
Finally, the real victim of the on going imbroglio are the citizens whose fate continues to hang loosely on the balance.

Written by Anayo .R. Ede

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