An air of respite came the way of Nigerians following the Supreme Court judgement which extended the validity of the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes to December 31, 2023.
The apex court on Friday faulted the procedure adopted by the Federal Government in introducing and implementing its cashless/naira swap policy, it also raised serious objection to government’s failure to obey its February 8th interim injunction ordering that the old notes should remain legal tender until the conclusion of the suit filed by 16 state governments.
According to The Nation, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the suit as early as 12 noon yesterday, but the banks were still awaiting directive from the Central Bank on the next step to follow.
Up to the close of operations by the banks yesterday, customers were all over the premises of the various financial institutions, struggling to access cash, the paper reports.
Many Point of Sale (POS) operators and automated teller machines (ATMs) had no cash to dispense.
House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE) all hailed the Supreme Court judgment.
In the unanimous judgment, a seven-member panel of the apex court, led by Justice John Okoro, said the procedure adopted by government in effecting its cashless/naira swap policy was wrong.
Justice Emmanuel Agim, in the lead judgment, held that condition precedent was not met before President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Central Bank (CBN) Governor to distribute the new notes and withdraw the old ones.
According to him, the directive by President Buhari to the CBN governor to distribute new notes and withdraw old one was invalid because no reasonable notice was given to Nigerians as required under Section 20 (3) of the CBN Act.
He noted that rather than issuing a formal or public notice, what the CBN governor did was to simply give a press statement, which he equated to the required three-month notice under Section 20(3) the CBN Act.
He said the press statement did not qualify as a reasonable notice envisaged under the CBN Act.
The judge added that Federal Government’s reliance on the said press release as the notice of plan to distribute new naira notes and withdrawal of the old ones showed its disregard for the importance of giving reasonable notice as a valid foundation for the introduction of new naira notes and withdrawal of old ones.
He held that since the requirement that reasonable notice should be given was not met by the Federal Government, the directive given by the President to the CBN governor for the distribution of the new notes and withdrawal of the old ones was invalid.
Justice Agim expressed displeasure at government’s failure to obey the February 8th interim injunction ordering that the old notes should remain legal tender until the conclusion of the case.
He noted that rather than comply with the order, Buhari made a national broadcast varying the order made of the court.
He held that there was no dispute that Buhari disobeyed the court, because in doing so, the President in his February 16 broadcast directed that only the old N200 notes should remain in circulation.
Justice Agim held that the rule of law, on which our democratic governance is founded, does not give the President or any other person the discretion to vary a court order.
In addition, he said the disobedience of court order by the President in a democracy such as that of Nigeria was a sign of the failure the Constitution, a threat to democratic governance and a drift towards autocracy.
The judge held that had the Federal Government complied with due process and consulted widely before introducing such a policy with huge impact on the nation, the current disorderliness and pains being experienced by the citizens would have been avoided.
He said: “It is not in dispute that the President of Nigeriadid seek the advice of the National Council of State, the National Economic Council, the National Security Council, the Federal Executive Council and other stakeholders before directing the CBN governor to issue new naira notes and withdraw the existing ones.
“Before introducing such policy with far reaching effects on the constituent states of the federation, the President ought to consult widely with all stakeholders.”
He noted that even when the president realised belatedly the need to consult, he invited the CBN governor to brief the National Council of State on the policy, but still failed to heed the advice given by the council.
Drawing examples from Europe and other developed societies, Justice Agim said in most cases where new notes are introduced, they co-exist with the old notes for a minimum of one year.
He recalled that a hasty execution of the naira policy in India some years ago created major disruptions in the country’s socio-economic life as is being witnessed in Nigeria today.
Justice Agim faulted the cash withdrawal limit also contained in the policy and held that it was a violation of the right of the owners of such funds to their property, and therefore unlawful.
The court dismissed all the objections raised against the suit by the defendants – the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Attorney General of Bayelsa State and the Attorney General of Edo State.
The court held that as against the defendants’ contention that the suit ought to be filed at the Federal High Court, it was properly filed before the apex court because it bordered on dispute between some states and the Federal Government in regard to the President ‘s exercise of the Executive powers of the federation.
He also held that the plaintiffs had the locus standi (the legal right) to approach the court on the issue because the Federal Government’s economic policy has adversely affected their activities in the states and disrupted the socio-economic life of the people.
The judge also said that the CBN was not a necessary party in the case because it is an agency of the Federal Government, which was sued through the AGF.
Other members of the panel – Justices Amina Augie, Mohammed Lawal Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijani Abubakar, including Justice Okoro – agreed with the lead judgment.
Governors Nasir El-Rufai, Yahaya Bello and Bello Muhammad as well as Bello Matawalle were in court to witness proceedings.
How govs sought to settle dispute with FG behind closed doors -el-Rufai
El-Rufai told reporters soon after the court session that the judgment was a victory for Nigerians.
The governor, who alleged that the timing and implementation of the naira redesign were aimed at preventing the All Progressives Congress (APC) from winning this year’s elections, said justice has been done at last.
His words: “A full court of seven justices gave a unanimous judgement 7-0 that all our prayers to the court have been accepted. This is a victory for Nigerians.
“But this policy which was designed and targeted at a political party and its candidates has brought hardship on our people. This is why the three of us took the decision to come to the Supreme Court.
“We are APC members, the president of Nigeria is from the APC, but we disagreed with him on this policy and its implementation, and when we tried everything to settle this behind closed doors, we had no option but to come to the Supreme Court.
“We are very grateful to the court for this unanimous decision and the orders it has given to the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure that from today to the 31st of December 2023, the old naira notes of all denominations shall continue to circulate with the new naira notes. That is the major decision of the Supreme Court.
“The other decision of the Supreme Court is that the policy of currency confiscation where you deposit money in the bank and the bank chooses what to give you is unlawful and illegal.
“Nigerians can go to the bank and collect whatever they have deposited and get on with their lives.
“Those that said we went to the court because of elections are wrong. We went to court because our people in our states are suffering and businesses in our states are coming to a halt, lives were being destroyed. That’s why we went to court.
“We left elections in the hands of God and we all know the result.
“Although this policy was designed to ensure that we did not give them the essential edge in the elections, we have won.”
Implementation of cash swap policy has been remarkably haphazard, says Gbajabiamila
House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila was no less upbeat about the judgment.
“It has always been the position of the House of Representatives that despite the noble intentions behind the currency swap policy, the design and implementation of the policy has been fatally flawed and contradictory to the ends of law and public policy,” Gbajabiamila said in a statement moments after the judgment.
He said:”The decision of the Supreme Court suspending the currency swap policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and extending the implementation deadline to 31st December 2023 validates the position of the House in its entirety.
“The remarkably haphazard implementation of the currency swap policy fell way short of international standards. It deviated from the prior practice of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without providing any benefits to the Nigerian people or the economy of Nigeria, both of which have suffered significant harm as a result.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria must respect the apex court’s judgment and act quickly to give it full effect. This is necessary to reverse some of the damage done to our economy and prevent the continued suffering of the Nigerian people.
“I congratulate and sincerely appreciate my brothers, the progressive governors of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, for approaching the Supreme Court to give a final settlement on this matter.
“This was the right thing to do. It showed their collective adherence to the rule of law and their determination to take bold actions that serve the best interests of the Nigerian people.
“While we anticipate action by the Central Bank, there is still a need to examine and understand how this policy intervention turned out in the way it did.
“The House of Representatives will exercise its authority to review the actions and inactions, the failures of law and procedure that set the conditions for this profound failure of public policy. This is necessary to ensure we take the right legislative actions to prevent future reoccurrence.”
Resign now, APC tells Malami, Emefiele
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in the North West called for the immediate resignation of Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and CBN Governor Emefiele for their alleged role in the implementation of the naira redesign.
APC National Vice Chairman (North West), Salihu Moh. Lukman, in a statement expressed delight at the court decision after weeks of hardship suffered by Nigerians following the implementation of the monetary policy.
He accused the two public officers of wrongly advising President Buhari and the Federal Government on the anti-people monetary policy.
Lukman, said: “It is unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari could be misled into such acts of illegality and abuse of executive powers as pronounced by the Supreme Court.
“We, and indeed all Nigerians, are grateful to the Supreme Court Justices led by Justice Akomaye for this landmark judicial intervention.
“Given the injurious nature of the consequences of the cashless policy of the Federal Government as was implemented thus far, and the damage of the Supreme Court ruling to the profile of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami must take personal responsibility for this act of illegality by the Federal Government.
“In advanced democracies, public officers who commit such acts of illegality voluntarily resign from their appointments.
“Therefore, if indeed the cashless policy of the Federal Government was supposedly designed to conform with extant legal provisions of the Nigerian Federation, now that it turned out in the direct opposite, both the CBN Governor, Mr. Emefiele and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Malami should accept the limitations of both their knowledge of the law and commitment to democracy by resigning from their respective offices forthwith.
“Rule of law is fundamental to democracy and individuals who flagrantly violate the laws or promote acts that breach the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must not be tolerated.
“We call on Nigerians to take note of the fact that the crusade against the Federal Government cashless policy was led by APC, not minding the attempt to sensationally politicise it to the benefit of opposition political parties and their candidates in this election season.
“It is gratifying that Nigerians resisted the antics of subversive politicians who wanted to use such crude methods, including inflicting untold hardship and pains on Nigerians to provoke citizens into voting against the APC during the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
“We commend and salute Nigerians for their faith in our party, APC and determination to support our party and our candidates during the 2023 elections.
“We are indeed confident that Nigerians across all the 36 states of the Federation will reaffirm this confidence during the Governorship and States’ Houses of Assembly election on Saturday, March 11, 2023.”
Buhari must immediately obey S/Court, says SAN
Senior Advocate of Nigeria Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said Buhari must ‘immediately’ ensure compliance with the judgment.
Adegboruwa noted that there is no room for further appeal against the apex court judgment.
According to the human rights activist, the judgment “delivered on the arbitrary and capricious redesigning of Naira notes is a courageous confirmation of the sanctity of the rule of law and due process, in a democracy.
“It is a soothing relief from the hardship that Nigerians have been subjected to over the past few weeks on account of this rather thoughtless policy.
“The court should always be the platform for the resolution of all disputes by all aggrieved persons.
“I salute the sagacity and courage of the justices of the Supreme Court for rising up to rescue Nigerians from the pangs of death, frustration and looming economic recession.
“As there is no room for further appeal against the judgment of the Supreme Court, I urge the President to immediately direct the Central Bank of Nigeria to comply fully with the judgment of the Supreme Court, as stated under section 287(1) of the Constitution and allow ALL the N200, N500 and N1000 old Naira notes to be circulating along with the Naira new notes till December 23, 2023.
“Across all our land today, there will be joy in many homes, businesses will bounce back and Nigerians will find cause to celebrate their freedom from all forms of dictatorship and arbitrariness.”
Arrest, jail anyone disobeying S/Court judgment – SAN
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria Wahab Shittu said anyone preventing the implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgment should be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for contempt.
The Law teacher said following the judgment, all authorities in the country including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are automatically bound to comply without waiting for further directives from anyone.
He said: “The Supreme Court is the uncommanded commander. Once it sneezes, the country catches cold. Once it makes a pronouncement, it takes immediate effect.
“The order of the Supreme Court does not require any other authority including CBN directive for Immediate compliance.
“Anyone standing in the way of the implementation of the Supreme Court’s order should be immediately arrested, cited for contempt and taken to prison.”
CBN mum on judgment
There was no immediate official reaction to the ruling from the CBN, at least up till press time.
But an official who does not want to be named said “the CBN is a law abiding organization that operates as an extension of the Executive arm of government.”
What that means is that the CBN has shifted the responsibility of speaking on the issue of Naira redesign to the federal government.
Asked if the Supreme Court order would not truncate the CBN’s cashless policy, the official said: “That is unlikely to happen since the policy has been in operation since 2012”.
Reacting to the Supreme Court order, Professor Uche Uwaleke of Nasarawa State University advised the CBN “to comply with the ruling since it has come from the final court in the land”.
“Doing so will help revive economic activities and reduce the current difficulties being experienced by Nigerians on account of the policy,” he said.
However, Prof Uwaleke noted that “the CBN has recorded some achievements in terms of the objectives it set out to achieve. The achievements include: reduction in huge cash circulating outside the commercial banks; the surge in electronic transactions and increase in financial inclusion”.
The time frame till Dec 31, 2023 he said “provides an opportunity for the CBN to re-assess the policy and improve on its implementation without causing distortions to the economy.”
CBN’s naira redesign policy turned to currency confiscation – Peterside
Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc and Anap Foundation, Atedo Peterside, has accused the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of turning the naira redesign policy into currency confiscation.
His reaction came hours after the Supreme Court ruled that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes remain legal tender until the end of the year.
In a tweet yesterday, Peterside said the apex bank did not give enough notice to Nigerians before the old notes were withdrawn.
He said: “I agree that CBN did not give adequate notice & so currency redesign became ‘confiscation’,” he tweeted.
“CBN’s autonomy is on Monetary Policy which does not & cannot stretch into the “confiscation of an entire asset class” (old notes) which is still held by the States and Private Citizens.”
– The Nation
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