On the heels of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaring the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, president-elect, the Supreme Court has handed down a final ruling on the Central Bank’s naira swap policy.
The policy, which was backed by president Muhammadu Buhari, split the APC and gave rise to allegations that people within the APC government were trying to sabotage the APC presidential campaign. This was because the botched implementation of the policy gave rise to a cash scarcity that made it impossible for people to access their own money for daily expenses. Many cases of people sleeping outside the banks were reported, and bank apps began to record high rates of transaction failure.
Protests and riots broke out across the country. Bank workers were beaten up and several banks were burnt by angry customers who couldn’t get their money.
In its ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court noted that the policy was implemented without wide consultation and that the president’s directive was invalid because the right procedures were not followed. The apex court mandated that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain legal tender until 31 December 2023.
The matter had been taken to the Supreme Court by dissident APC governors led by the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai, who also assured Kaduna residents that the policy will be reversed after the APC wins the presidential elections.
El-Rufai stated that the governors leading the court case were the closest to the president and that they are certain that this time, the federal government would abide by the Supreme Court ruling.
In early February, the court had ruled that all notes remain valid while it reaches a final decision, but the federal government disregarded this ruling and only extended the validity deadline of the N200 notes till 10 April. It is not certain if the federal government will obey the courts now but reports are already emerging of commercial banks disbursing old notes to their customers.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is a welcome development. The fact that vote-buying did not disappear during the 25 February elections confirms our argument that the federal government’s claim of using it to curb this nefarious electoral activity made no sense. As we pointed out earlier,it was poor working-class people who bore the brunt of the ill-advised policy. The capitalist politicians own banks and the owners of banks.
What workers need much more than a naira swap is a huge increase in the naira in our pockets, as our current take home pay does not take us home.We urge the NLC to seize the moment and fight for a new minimum wage that will be a living wage, well before 31 December.
by Kayode Somtochukwu ANI