Home Business Banking & Finance Falana condemns CBN for disobeying Supreme Court order on Naira swap deadline

Falana condemns CBN for disobeying Supreme Court order on Naira swap deadline

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Rights activist Mr Femi Falana has lambasted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for flouting the interim injunction of the Supreme Court suspending the implementation of the 10 February deadline on the use of the old banknotes.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court restrained the Federal Government, the CBN and commercial banks from implementing the currency swap policy, which made N1,000, N500 and N200 notes no longer legal tender from 10 February. The apex court then fixed Wednesday, 15 February for the hearing of the suit brought by the governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara State. Ondo, Kano and Ekiti are among the state governments that have indicated interest in joining the case.

At a meeting with the Diplomatic Corps in Abuja on Tuesday to discuss the monetary and currency redesign policy of the bank, Emefiele said that the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes have ceased to be legal tender since the expiration of the deadline of 10 February given by the CBN. He added that extending the deadline for the old notes, as implied in the Supreme Court order, was unnecessary.

He said: “The situation (Naira notes scarcity) is substantially calming down since the commencement of over-the-counter payments to complement ATM (Automated Teller Machine) disbursements and the use of super-agents.

“There is, therefore, no need to consider any shift from the deadline of February 10”.

Nigerians have been groaning under the pain caused by the deadline as they are unable to get the new notes, while the old notes are being sold to them by Point of Sales (PoS) vendors at exorbitant rates.

During a live appearance on Channels Television’s The 2023 Verdict on Tuesday night, Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the government was not ready to comply with the order.

“In a country where the rule of law operates, once the Supreme Court has determined a matter or given an order, it is expected that all and sundry – everybody – will comply with the order”, Falana said.

He added that a statement credited to the CBN that it would not comply with the order of the apex court because it was not a party to the case could only be tenable in a “Banana Republic”.

“[A] statement was credited to the Central Bank that since it was not a party to the case, it’s not going to comply with the order. I thought that could only happen in a Banana Republic.

“I expected the Central Bank to have issued a statement following the order of the Supreme Court: ‘all actions are stale until 15 February’”, he said.

Falana added that an example should be made of those flouting court orders, stressing that nobody should feel that they were above the law.

“For me, an example has to be made this time around, so that nobody will feel that he’s above the law in our country”, he further said.

Emefiele said that some unscrupulous bankers were trying to sabotage the policy and that such people would be sanctioned, along with PoS operators who over-charged customers for transactions. The CBN said it would clamp down on PoS owners, who, he said, had turned themselves to payment agents, to take advantage of members of the public.

The CBN described such unaccredited payment agents as “fifth columnists whose activities constituted economic sabotage, saying that it would carry out sting operations around the country this week to arrest and prosecute them”.

The Director of the Governor’s Department at the CBN, Mr Joseph Omayuku said on Monday evening that the sharp practices were discovered after reviews of the implementation of the policy.

He alleged that the PoS operators also engage in the selling of Naira notes amidst rejection of online payments by some business operators, including petrol stations and supermarkets.

Omayuku said: “Further reviews have indicated that it does appear as if there are fifth columnists operating in this system, and these fifth columnists, as it appears, are anybody that has PoS access. Several of them have now taken to the unfortunate activity of turning themselves to payment agents.

“So you find out that even next to petrol stations, their agents or PoS operators next to them are there who you will go to, to sell money to you and you take that money to go and buy petrol; and not just petrol stations, in short, everywhere.

“From this week, there will be very sting operations around the country. Because this (selling of naira) is the incentive. The incentive is that they can sell our currency to us, which is not supposed to be. You cannot be selling naira to us”.

He said the CBN also frowned on the exorbitant commissions on transactions that payment agents collect from customers as against the approved charges, describing their activities as fraudulent.

Omayuku further said: “The operational arrangement for payment agents is that they take a commission for transaction and this commission is not more than N100 or N200 for transaction of up to N10,000. But we have heard of cases where people are being charged N1,000 or N2,000. This is certainly fraudulent; this is rogue operation.

“The management of the CBN and the leaders of the country do not subscribe to any logic that will allow people to operate like this. So, the security agencies will be very active this week, going forward”.

He warned those engaged in illegal practices to turn a new leaf and advised members of the public to report perpetrators by contacting the CBN Contact Centre on 07002255226; Telephone Ext: 711025 – 7; contactcbn@cbn.gov.ng and its social media handles.

The CBN official also debunked claims that the existing online platforms were not effective to support large volume of economic activities, stressing that the challenges associated with the online system “are not as bad as to warrant rejection of transfer payments”.

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