A Federal High Court sitting in Awka, Anambra State, has ruled as discriminatory the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) across six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where bank customers depositing or withdrawing a certain amount of cash are made to pay financial levies of two per cent and three per cent of the amount.
The judgment followed a suit filed by Anambra State-based legal practitioner, Chijioke Ifediora, against CBN, describing the policy as discriminatory and offending section 42 of the 1999 Constitution in Anambra, Abia, Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Rivers and FCT where CBN enforces it.
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But contesting this, Ifediora said: “There is no constitutional foundation/pillar for such discriminatory policy nor is any statutory enabler for such biased circular.”
However, the counsel for the CBN, Jackson Iragunima, in his submission contended that the policy was not discriminatory and is for the wellbeing of the country.
He also noted that the plaintiff did not have the authority of all the citizens and corporate institutions residing in the said States and FCT to institute the action on their behalf.
But in his ruling, the presiding judge, Justice N.O Dimgba agreed with the plaintiff that the CBN policy was discriminatory and offended section 42 of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
“I have reviewed the policy document as contained in the website of the defendant (CBN) as well as the implementing circulars and I am unable to see any rational and objective justification for the selective imposition of financial penalties against residents of the named six States and the FCT for making cash withdrawals and lodgements/deposits over the stipulated threshold,” the judge said.
He also noted that the policy, rather than promoting a cashless economy, encourages the proliferation of cash, by traders who rather keep their cash than to lodge it and pay financial levies of 2% and 3% of the amount.