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Court upholds constitutionality of CBN’s cashless policy

By Ngozi Egenuka
05 April 2022   |   2:45 am
A Federal High Court, Lagos, has upheld the constitutionality of the Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN) cashless policy, striking out suit challenging it.

A Federal High Court, Lagos, has upheld the constitutionality of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cashless policy, striking out suit challenging it.

The judgment was delivered on March 31, 2022, in favour of CBN in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1730/2019 between Victor Onyegbado v. Central Bank of Nigeria.

The plaintiff, Onyegbado, sued the CBN through an originating summons, seeking a declaration that the Cashless Policy Directive issued by the CBN in its letter dated, September 17, 2019, and referenced PSN/DIR/CON/CWO/02/014, was unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect to the extent that it subjected him to disability and/or restrictions to which other citizens of Nigeria are not subjected to.

The plaintiff through his counsel, Emeka Akabogu further sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the CBN from carrying into effect and/ or continuing to enforce the Cashless Policy Directive.

The CBN through its counsel, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) in response to the suit, filed a counter-affidavit and written arguments in opposition to the plaintiff’s originating summons, arguing that the CBN had statutory powers to formulate policies in furtherance of its functions, in the interest of the nation and in accordance with public policy.

Ajogwu also argued that the Cashless Policy aims at reducing the amount of physical cash (coins and notes) circulating in the economy, and encourages more electronic-based transactions (payments for goods, services, and transfers).

He underscored the fact that the Cashless Policy, which accords with public policy, the fight against corruption and insecurity is aimed at strengthening the economy, with the purpose of driving the development and modernisation of the payment system in line with Nigeria’s vision 2020 goal of being amongst the top 20 economies by the year 2020, and hence not discriminatory against the plaintiff or any Nigerian.

He also argued that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to file the suit due to his failure to show how his personal interest had been affected over and above others as the Cashless Policy Directive issued by the CBN by its letter dated September 17, 2019, applied to everyone and was not peculiar to or discriminatory against the plaintiff.

Delivering Judgment on March 31, 2022, Justice A. Aluko agreed with the submissions of counsel for the CBN and held that the plaintiff failed to show how the implementation of the policy affects him more than hundreds of millions of Nigerians and hence lacked the requisite locus standi and a cause of action.

Furthermore, the court held that the plaintiff’s claims were speculative, frivolous, and lacking in merit and that in the formulation of the policy, the CBN acted in good faith and the same had not been impugned by the plaintiff.

The court noted that the plaintiff’s suit smacks of meddlesomeness and frivolity, and accordingly struck out the suit in its entirety.

This decision gives further validity to the cashless policy of the CBN, which has been in force for about four years now.