The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has confirmed the evacuation of banknotes from its vaults to commercial banks across the country as part of a coordinated effort to ease the circulation of banknotes of various denominations.
The CBN has also directed all commercial banks to open for operation on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department of the CBN, Isa AbdulMumin, disclosed this in Abuja, on Friday, stating that a substantial amount of money, in various denominations, had been received by the commercial banks for onward circulation to their respective customers.
According to him, the CBN had directed all banks to load their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) as well as conduct physical operations in the banking halls through the weekends.
“Branches of commercial banks will operate on Saturdays and Sundays to attend to customers’ cash needs,” he noted, adding that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, would personally lead teams to monitor the level of compliance by the banks in various locations across the country.
He, therefore, urged Nigerians to be patient as the current situation would ease soon with the injection of more banknotes into circulation.
The CBN had extended the deadline for the swap of old N200, N500, and N1,000 from January 31 to February 10 following complaints by many Nigerians but the Supreme Court, after a suit filed by some states, held that the Federal Government, the CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue.
However, the President, in a national broadcast on February 16, directed the apex bank to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days — by April 10, 2023. He also said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
There was a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Umar Ganduje (Kano); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; and many stalwarts of the ruling APC openly censured and faulted the President’s directive, arguing that it has no grounds because the case is before the apex court.
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Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome equally faulted the President’s move, saying he cannot overrule the apex court of the land.
The apex court on March 3 ordered that old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes remain valid till December 31, 2023. This was after 16 states of the Federation instituted a suit to challenge the legality or otherwise of the introduction of the policy.
The 16 states led by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara had prayed the apex court to void and set aside the policy on the ground that it inflicted hardships on innocent Nigerians.
The court subsequently ruled that the President’s disobedience of its February 8 order was a sign of dictatorship, adding that Buhari breached the Constitution of the Federation in the way he issued directives for the re-designing of the Naira by the CBN.
After the March 3 judgement by the Supreme Court, the Presidency, CBN and the AGF kept mum, throwing many bank customers and Nigerians into confusion as the ruling of the apex court contradicted the directive of the President on February 16 that old N500 and N1000 notes are banned and old N200 notes remain valid till April 10.
However, the Presidency broke its silence on March 13, saying the President never told the CBN and the AGF not to obey the order of the apex court.