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Nigerian states sue over withdrawal of old banknotes before elections

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Tuesday, February 21st, 2023
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Sixteen states in Nigeria on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to force the central bank to extend by six months the use of old banknotes, whose withdrawal from circulation has caused cash shortages and angered citizens ahead of weekend elections.

In a country where most people rely on cash for everything from taxi fares to buying food from markets, the shortages of naira bills has riled citizens, some of whom have attacked banks and burned cash-dispensing machines.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has defended the central bank plan to withdraw old 1,000 ($2.17), 500 and 200 naira bills to make way for new notes, saying it would curb money laundering and kidnappings for ransom, and offer greater transparency in financial transactions.

But the move has caused rifts within his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Several party officials say the plan is turning voters against the party and the lawsuit pits APC-run states against the federal government.

Lawyers representing states led by APC governors told a panel of seven judges at a hearing on Wednesday that most rural Nigerians were stuck with old notes and needed more time beyond the Feb. 10 date when the bills ceased to be legal tender.

Replacement bank notes have been in short supply, which has caused chaotic scenes at banks and adding to Nigerians’ frustrations with high inflation and fuel shortages.

Last week, Buhari ordered the central bank to allow old 200 naira notes to be returned into circulation along with the new notes for another 60 days but that has not ended the cash shortages.

“There is restiveness amongst the people in the various states because of the hardship being suffered by the people and the situation will sooner rather than later degenerate into the breakdown of rule of law,” lawyers said in a statement filed with the country’s highest court.

The government argued that the case was improperly brought before the Supreme Court and should first be heard by a lower court.

The court will not rule on the matter before March 3.

Source: Reuters

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