The Supreme Court of Nigeria has ruled that old banknotes remain legal tender until the end of the year.
The judges said not enough notice had been given to the public before the old notes were withdrawn.
Not enough of the new notes were released, leading to widespread anger and frustration.
Many people could not get cash to pay for food and slept outside the benches.
The policy was announced last October and people were initially given until the end of January to return all their old notes, though this had previously been extended amid the chaotic scenes.
Justice Emmanuel Agim read out the ruling and said due process had not been followed.
“The directive given by the president is invalid. Such directive is not only given after a personal meeting with the governor of CBN [Central Bank of Nigeria],” he said.
The court also denounced President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to comply with an earlier preliminary injunction to halt the policy until the case was decided. It said there was nothing to show that President Buhari’s directive for the release of old 200 naira notes was being implemented until April 10.
“Disobeying the court’s order shows the democracy of the country [is] a mere pretense and now replaced by autocracy,” it said in a damning verdict.
Sixteen Nigerian states had challenged the redesign of the 200, 500 and 1,000 naira notes, saying the deadline was too tight.
The central bank said the redesign would help curb inflation, control the amount of money in circulation and make ransom payments more difficult in Nigeria’s massive kidnapping industry. Many suspected that the policy also targeted politicians involved in vote-buying during elections.
A highly contested presidential election last Saturday was won by the ruling party. Some instances of vote buying were reported, but fewer than in previous polls.