Banknotes swap tears Nigerian government apart amidst riots
The continuing row over the replacement of old currencies in Nigeria has reached its peak as governors from the ruling party moved against President Muhammadu Buhari just as more deaths were recorded in spiralling riots across the country.
The Supreme Court of Nigeria on February 8, 2023, barred the Nigerian government and its agencies from enforcing the February 10 deadline for the use of old 200-, 500- and 1,000-Naira notes and reiterated its position on February 15, 2023.
Instead, President Buhari allowed only the recirculation of old 200 Naira notes until April 10, 2023, when it will no longer be legal tender of Nigeria. His actionsfurther infuriated restive citizens and governors who saw the implementation of the policy as forceful and inhumane.
The inaccessibility of banknotes resulted in another rounds of protests in many states of Nigeria including Oyo, Ekiti, Delta, Abuja, and Edo where five protesters who stormed the Central Bank office in Benin City were killed.Apart from the protests, the hard stand and disregard for court order has since led to a standoff between President Buhari and CBN on one hand, and Nigerian state governors on the other.
Headed to Supreme Court
The governors headed to Supreme Court of Nigeria to challenge the government and CBN.
At a resumed hearing of the case on February 15, 2023, the court ruled again that both the old and new currencies should be legal tender until the determination of the suit instituted by state governors of Nigeria. The hearing was adjourned until February 22, 2023.
Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, condemned President Buhari’s decision and described it as a flagrant disregard of the Supreme Court order.
“This morning, President Buhari announced that he has authorised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN to reintroduce the old 200 Naira notes into circulation, pending when the Bank can make the new currency sufficiently available. This is a step in the right direction, and I hope it helps curb Nigerians’ suffering,”Gbajabiamila said on February 16, 2023.
Civil society organisations in Nigeria accused the Buhari-led government of setting a bad precedent concerning the Naira crisis and its inability to obey the court order.
According to the CSOs, even during military regime, the junta obeyed Supreme Court orders, butthey wondered why the Buhari Administration was disobeying the rule of law and the principle of power separation.
The CSOs, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG, Transparency International (TI, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC and Centre for Democracy Development (CDD, spoke on the issue on Friday.
The leader of TMG, TI, and CISLAC, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the Buhari administration was making a terrible mistake.
“The suffering of Nigeria on this policy is unprecedented. Many Nigerians are not receiving hospital treatments because there is no cash. Businesses are dying.” Rafsanjani said as he described the Naira policy as anti-people.
Meanwhile, the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, assured Nigerians that the old 200 Naira notes taken out of circulation would be re-circulated, adding that 800 billion Naira would be in circulation by the end of February.
The CBN governor explained that the cashless policy was a global policy. “Nigeria must go cashless. It is a global policy, checking insecurity and fighting corruption,” he said.
President Buhari on February 16, 2023, expressed sympathy over the difficulties experienced in the implementation of new monetary policies. He also assured Nigerians that strengthening the economy, enhancing security, blocking leakages associated with illicit financial flows and smooth election transition were top priorities of the administration.