The Federal Government has said it would obey the ruling of the Supreme Court suspending the February 10 deadline given by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN on the exchange of naira notes.
Recall that the apex court in its ruling on Wednesday, suspended the February 10 deadline on the old naira notes which expires today.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who confirmed this in an in terview on Arise TV yesterday, said the government was hopeful that the ex parte ruling which expires on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, would be upturned.
He said the CBN, which is a necessary party to the issue, was not joined and that consequently, the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to decide on the matter in the first instance.
Malami, however, said that the decision of the government to obey the Supreme Court order on the naira deadline was based on the administration’s respect for the rule of law.
”He said: “An interim order was granted by the Supreme Court and that order was to lapse on Wednesday (February 15) and incidentally, that was the day the court fixed for hearing of the motion. With the position in mind, we have taken steps to file our objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter. Jurisdiction on the ground that when you talk of monetary policy, Central Bank is an indispensable and necessary party in the matter.
“A situation where the Central Bank is not joined in the matter as a party and if the Central Bank as an institution is not joined as a party, the law is clear that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court cannot be invoked. So, we have given consideration to diverse issues, inclusive of the issue of jurisdiction and we will argue it from that perspective. There is no doubt that the ruling of the Supreme Court, regardless of the circumstance, is binding and within the context of the spirit of the rule of law, so the issue of disobedience to the ruling of the Supreme Court is out of it. We agree wholeheartedly that we are bound by it and we will comply by it.”
Political parties and some stakeholders, were yesterday, divided over what President Muhammadu Buhari should do with the Supreme Court’s interim order asking the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, not to end the use of old Naira notes today.
While some want President Buhari to obey the apex court’s order, others kicked against it
Those who agreed with the Supreme Court and urged the President and the CBN not to stop usage of the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes today include the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP; Zamfara State governor, Bello Mattawalle; African Democratic Congress, ADC, presidential candidate, Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu; and Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN among others.
However, the umbrella body of registered political parties and political associations in the country, the Conference Of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, cautioned against extending the deadline for use of the old notes and accused the APC of arm-twisting the CBN to buy votes at the forthcoming general polls.
Ask CBN to end current madness, APC tells Buhari
Urging President Buhari to obey the Wednesday order of the Supreme Court which invalidated the February 10 apex bank deadline for the swap of old currency notes for new ones, the APC asked the President to direct the CBN to end what it described as the “current madness”, it said had inflicted untold pains on the people.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, titled, ‘Cashless Economy and Presidential Cabal’, APC National Vice Chairman, North-West, Salihu Moh. Lukman said Nigerians are today faced with the most uncertain of times, with national elections a few days away and a deliberate cash squeeze enforced by a deliberate policy of the CBN.
Lukman noted that it was partly on account of the frustration by APC that governments of Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara states took the matter directly to the Supreme Court where they on Wednesday, obtained an interim order against the CBN’s February 10 deadline to end the validity of the old Naira notes.
He said: “With this judgment, it means that even after February 10, the old notes would still serve as legal tender. The big question is, will this end the current Naira (old or new) scarcity? It may not. If, however, the speculated objective of any so-called cabal is to frustrate the February 25, 2023 elections by either creating conditions that could mobilize electorates to vote against the APC and its candidates, especially Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, God willing it shall not succeed.
“In all of these, it needs to be clearly stated that throughout the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, nothing tests his credentials as a converted democrat more than the need to demonstrate more listening ears and compassion to the plight of Nigerians.
As a converted democrat, which I believe he is, President Buhari needs to demonstrate that by respecting the Supreme Court judgment and directing the CBN to end the current madness that imposes Naira scarcity in the country and untold hardship on millions of Nigerians.
“For both APC, as a party, and Nigeria, as a nation, one of the lessons that the current reality imposes is the need to develop our political parties and make them capable of regulating the conduct of elected functionaries. This is not only the case with APC, but also the case with all our parties. Why should we have a challenge with grave consequences on the electoral fortunes of political parties, yet none of the parties contesting the 2023 elections has convened any emergency meeting of their National Executive Committee NEC? Yet, we want elections to produce accountable leaders. “Once party organs have ceased to be decision-making platforms, the domineering control of government institutions by so-called cabals will remain strong.
“Moving Nigerian democracy forward requires all of us as Nigerians to be more honest beyond some partisan permutations about winning elections. As members of APC, we are working hard to win the 2023 elections, but we also will work even harder to ensure that our next government led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will come with more listening ears to Nigerians and fellow party leaders.”
Noting that only about 39 per cent of Nigerians have bank accounts, Lukman added that more than 300 out of the 774 Local Governments in the country have no bank branches or cash centres.
“Where they exist, the bank branches and cash centres are mostly located in the headquarters. Specifically, in terms of cash centres, the total number of Automated Teller Machines ATMs in the country is less than 20,000.
These records suggest the need to take extra steps to strengthen the banking system in the country to meet up with the new demands that will be occasioned by the new policy. It will clearly require contingency measures to expand the banking system, such that citizens could exchange the old notes in locations that don’t have bank branches or cash centres such as ATMs. Given that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in November 2021 reported that Nigeria’s banks closed 234 branches and 649 ATMs, should have given a strong warning that the principles of ceteris paribus (all conditions remaining the same) would translate to failure for the new policy.
“Unfortunately, all these were overlooked. And for whatever reasons, the CBN and the Federal Government continue to delude themselves that the new policy can succeed with a very weak banking reality. In the circumstances, both the old and the new notes have disappeared across every part of the country. Even people with bank accounts can’t access their money. Somehow, because we are approaching election period, the gullibility of Nigerians is being exploited. There are stories around how the new policy is going to block vote buying. There are also other strong narratives about internal sabotage within APC based on how some powerful forces around President Buhari are opposed to the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC Presidential candidate as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“There are also strong concerns about how the combination of cash squeeze and fuel scarcity being experienced in every part of the country can lead to unrest and possible postponement of the election. Some have even speculated that all these are aimed at creating a situation that would lead to the enthronement of a so-called government of national unity, whatever that means.”
APC using court to arm-twist CBN to buy votes – CNPP
Disagreeing with the ruling party, the CNPP, said that the action of APC governors “seeking to ambush the naira redesign policy of the CBN is a plot to retain the old naira notes for the purpose of vote-buying.”
In a statement issued by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, the CNPP noted that “from all indications, the APC is afraid of losing in the 2023 general elections hence the desperation to kill the CBN monetary policy that could checkmate the use of illicit funds for elections.
It said: “While appreciating the security and anti-graft agencies for their efforts in mitigating the ongoing economic sabotage by desperate politicians through the commercial banks, we urge them to do more to ensure that illicit and proceeds of crime are not deployed by vote-buyers in the forthcoming general elections.
“The APC has made Nigerians to believe that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is their enemy whereas the obvious collaboration between some unpatriotic individuals in the APC and commercial banks actually led to the hoarding of the redesigned naira notes as media reports indicated that banks stashed the new notes in their vaults rather than distributing alloted funds from the CBN through their Automated Teller Machines.
“Clearly, the APC, through its governors in three states — Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara — has again demonstrated that it is not ready for a free, fair and credible elections in 2023 despite being a beneficiary of such credible process in 2015.
“Even when the party is aware that monetary policy is outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the party went ahead to use the apex court to coerce the Federal Government and its monetary agency, into submission with a view to thwarting the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The CNPP is therefore afraid that if the Supreme Court continues to allow itself to be a willing instrument of destabilisation ahead of forthcoming elections, Nigerians will lose the current enthusiasm and faith in the political process.
“This could be a recipe for a crisis which could unnecessarily heat up the polity.
“President Buhari has thus far shown his readiness to ensure free and fair elections and it will be a national calamity for the courts to be willing tools in the hands of politicians to disrupt the ongoing process.”
Any opposition to a Supreme Court decision is not acceptable to us, NNPP
However, the NNPP said that any opposition to the Supreme Court order on the old naira notes swap deadline is not acceptable to it as a party.
Reacting to the APC call on President Buhari to obey the Supreme Court, National Publicity Secretary of the NNPP, Major Agbo said: “The position of our party is still the same. It is not a bad policy but it’s ill-timed, there are not enough measures in place and the level of enlightenment is very low.
“However any opposition to a Supreme Court decision is not acceptable to us because the incoming NNPP is already considering reopening the window for people to be able to swap their naira notes.”
Naira redesign policy ill-timed, poorly implemented – Kachikwu
The Presidential Candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu, wants the apex court order obeyed.
He said: “Beyond obeying the court order, the naira redesign has been shrouded in so much controversy because it is clearly ill-conceived, ill-timed and poorly implemented. As long as we have a tainted and politicised CBN Governor making policies rumoured to be targeted at certain politicians, then expect nothing good from this process.
Anarchy looms in Nigeria as well as a collapse of the banking system. Nigerians are losing faith in the banks, so one can expect a run on the banks in no time which will bring a weak Nigerian economy to its knees. A divided APC now seeks to destroy Nigeria. We cannot continue to watch Nigerians suffer and destroy banking halls. If they believe certain politicians have stashed billions in their homes then the president should get the law enforcement agencies to act within the confines of the law and recover such monies.”
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Why CBN must obey S/Court’s ex-parte order – Falana
On his part, Mr. Femi Falana, Interim Chairman, Alliance for Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond, ASCAB, said: “We have just read a report that the authorities of the Central Bank of Nigeria have decided not to comply with the ex-parte order issued by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in respect of the avoidable currency swap crisis. The reason adduced for the contemptuous disregard for the rule of law is that the Central Bank of Nigeria is not a party to the case of Attorney-General of Kaduna State & 2 Ors. v. Attorney-General of the Federation (Suit No: SC/CV/162/2023) pending at the Supreme Court.
“It is pertinent to remind the Management of the Central Bank of the case of Nkwo Augustine Eddiego v. Board of Central Bank of Nigeria (Suit No: HCIK/38/2022), where the Delta State High Court granted an ex-parte order which restrained the defendants from preventing the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from seeking political office pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice in the case. Even though Mr. Emefiele was not a party to the suit he took advantage of the ex- parte order to join the APC to contest the presidential primary of the APC before he was stopped by President Buhari.
“Similarly, in the case of Incorporated Trustees of the Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership v. Attorney-General of the Federation & Ors. (Suit No: FCT/HC/GAR/CV/41/2022) the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory granted an injunction restraining the State Security Services from arresting, investigating and prosecuting Mr. Emefiele for terrorism financing. Although he was not a party to the suit, Mr. Emefiele has not been arrested by the State Security Services on the basis of the court order.
“Therefore, it is the height of arrogance of power for Mr. Emefiele to treat the ex parte orderof the Supreme Court with provocative contempt. In view of the looming anarchy in the country we are compelled to draw the attention of the Central Bank Management of the rule of law to the case of Attorney-General of Lagos State v. Attorney-General of the Federation (2005) 2 WRN 1 at 109 where Tobi JSC of blessed memory cautioned all authorities and persons in Nigeria thus:
“In a society where the rule of law prevails, self-help is not available to the executive or any arm of government. In view of the fact that such a conduct could breed anarchy and totalitarianism, and since anarchy and totalitarianism are antitheses to democracy, courts operating the rule of law, the life-blood of democracy, are under a constitutional duty to stand against such action. The courts are available to accommodate all sorts of grievances that are justiciable in law and Section 6 of the Constitution gives the courts power to adjudicate on matters between two or more competing parties. In our democracy all the governments of this country as well as organizations and individuals must kowtow to the due process of the law and this they can vindicate by resorting to the courts for redress in the event of any grievance.“
“It is public knowledge that the Federal Government has filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear and determine the case of the Attorney-General of Kaduna State & 2 Ors v Attorney-General of the Federation (supra).
In the interim, the Federal Government of Nigeria and its agencies including the Central Bank of Nigeria are bound by the valid and subsisting ex parte order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria until it is set aside by the same court.