From the Pepper hawkers down to the bankers in their well air-conditioned offices, anyone at all resident in Nigeria, would have at least a sorry tale or two to tell about the harsh blows caused by the re-design of Nigeria’s Naira notes.
In an attempt to water down the frictions faced by Nigeria’s citizens and business outlets, the Attorneys General of about 7 states within the Federation of Nigeria decided to join forces at the Apex Court with an aim to upturn the policy of the CBN, which stops the use of the old 200, 500 and 1000 Naira notes from the 10th of February, 2023.
Despite the fact that Apex Court granted a temporary order, as prayed by the various Attorneys General, to allow the continued use of the old naira notes and, consequentially, mitigate the harsh effects of the scarcity of the new notes, the entire Executive Arm did not renege on their decision to stop the circulation of the od naira notes. This was further evidenced by the President’s public statement, (or Decree) on Thursday the 16th of February, 2023, declaring that only the old 200 naira note, remains a legal tender until the 10th day of April, 2023, while the old 500 and 1000 Naira notes shall cease to be recognised as Nigeria’s bill of exchange.
This singular action raised a number of arguments-
A sect are of the opinion that issues pertaining to currency, bills of exchange and the Nigerian legal tender, by virtue of the Exclusive Legislative list, as provided for in the Constitution of Nigeria, are strictly within the confines of the Executive Arm of Government, headed by the President himself.
Another sect are of the opinion that the Supreme Court was very well within her jurisdiction to hear and make an interim (temporary) ruling on the Application submitted by the Attorneys General, reason being that the Apex Court, is not just one with an Appellate jurisdiction, but also, possesses Original Jurisdiction to hear and make rulings on the first instance in matters between the Federal Government and the State Government.
Another sect, are of the opinion that Nigeria through her system of Government, embraces the principle of- Separation of Powers / Checks and Balances- which simply ensures that no single arm of government has absolute power, concentrated within itself.
The courts (Judiciary) for instance, are constantly being called upon by aggrieved parties (as was the move made by a number of states within the Federation, well represented by their Attorneys General) to constantly review, probe and make fresh laws on the validity of instruments, laws, Acts, decisions and transactions; more so, when such policies are likely to cause public unrest and uproar.
The policy coined by the Executive arm of government to discontinue the use of the old naira note, in addition to grown men and women stripping stark naked in banking halls, pouring out their frustrations, has also caused riots, arsons, exploitations by POS (Point of Sale) operating agents, destruction of automated cash dispensing machines across the federation and a very tight stifle in commercial activities, to say the least.
There is no better time to quote the well known proverb-
When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.
It is common knowledge that when a law or as this case, a policy seems to be harming the people it is mandated to protect, such a policy should be reviewed and it seems safe to say that the Apex court made a lawful attempt to protect the interest of the people, by allowing the further use of the old Naira notes, temporarily.