The Director General Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Dr. Chinyere Almona (FCA) has commended the Supreme Court on its ruling in respect of the New Naira policy and its attendant unavailability of Naira notes which has impacted on Nigerians negatively in no small measure.
Speaking in a statement to the Media, she urged Nigerians on the need 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.
On Friday, March 3rd, 2023, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the apex court, declared the Federal Government’s naira redesign policy as an affront to the 1999 Constitution that breached the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens. It, therefore, ordered that the old 200-, 500- and 1,000-naira notes remain in circulation as legal tender until the end of the year, bringing much relief to millions affected by a chaotic redesign of the naira notes.
The ruling followed a lawsuit filed in February by 16 state governors after President 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.
The court held that the unlawful use of executive powers by the 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 The Supreme Court ruled that not enough notice was given to the public before the old notes were withdrawn, and not enough of the new notes were released, leading to widespread anger and frustration. Many people could not get cash to pay for food and slept outside banks.
The court also said the correct process had not been followed. ‘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.
The LCCI urges 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.