Nigerians eager to hear the last words from Supreme Court on the bitter exchange involving the Federal Governments and 12 states, on the new monetary policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), would have to wait till March 3, to do so, as the apex bank, Wednesday adjourned the case seeking to stop Abuja from going ahead with the move.
The apex court, which had joined seven other states to bring the plaintiffs to 10, while two others joined the federal side had consolidated the suits instituted, with the seven justices rejecting the bid by the Abia State, to also be joined, on the same day it heard the submission of Emmanuel Ukala, Attorney General of Rivers State, canvassing the views of the state that the policy be dropped.
At the last hearing on February 15, seven states joined the three initial states as co-plaintiffs, while Edo and Bayelsa states joined the Federal Government as co-defendants. The court, however, refused to join Abia State in the suit on the ground that it came late with its originating summons.
After Ukala moved the motion on notice, which premised the consolidation request on the need for the suit to be heard without any hindrance since the matter bothered on same issue, Justice John Okoro, heading the seven-man panel of the court, granted the request and ordered consolidation of the 10 suits.
The matter now has the Attorneys General (AGs) of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Katsina, Ogun, Cross River, Sokoto, and Lagos states, as plaintiffs, while on the opposing side are their counterparts of Edo and Bayelsa, who have since joined Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Commencing arguments, counsel for the Federal Government, Kanu Agabi, said the Supreme Court held that all reliefs were rooted in section 20 of the CBN Act, therefore, the apex court had no jurisdiction to hear the suit, adding that the action could not commence with an Originating Summons.
He wondered why the plaintiffs did not bring the CBN governor to court as a respondent, after making reference to him 32 times in their Originating Summons, wondering why the apex bank, for which the reliefs were sought against were not deemed fit to be brought into the matter.
Stressing that Nigerians had already begun rejecting the old notes way before the President’s directive, he insisted that the President was not in violation of the Supreme Court order as under the constitution, the he was empowered to veto any legislation.
Counsels for Edo and Bayelsa States, as well as that of the AGF, also agreed that the suit be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, while that of Rivers urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought therein.
In his own submission, the Attorney General of Kano State, who is a co-plaintiff, argued that President Muhammadu Buhari sidelined members of the National Economic Council and only relied on the advice of the CBN governor in the implementation of the monetisation policy, adding that the President decided to exercise his powers without consulting with the state governments as required by the law.
Advancing the position of a security report indicating that there would be breach of law and order if nothing was done to address the issue of cash scarcity, he stated that the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje who is a member of the council told him that the issue was never discussed at the NEC meeting, but that the President relied only on one member of the council, and the CBN governor ignored the finance minister and the vice president who is the chairman of the council, pointing out that the President can direct that the old 200 naira notes be brought back as a legal tender, then he is under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
His counterpart from Jigawa, who stated that Section 148 of the constitution, compelled the President to seek the advice of the Jigawa State governor as a federating unit, informed the court that this was not done, which was in breach of the relevant laws.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had extended the deadline for the swap of old N200, N500, and N1,000 from January 31 to February 10 following complaints by many Nigerians but the Supreme Court, after a suit filed by the states, held that the Federal Government, the CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue on February 22.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a national broadcast last Thursday, directed the apex bank to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days — by April 10, 2023. He also said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
There has been a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Umar Ganduje (Kano); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; and many stalwarts of the ruling APC have openly censured and faulted the President’s directive, arguing that it has not grounds because the case is before the apex court.
Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome have equally faulted the President’s move, saying he cannot overrule the apex court of the land.
Also, three State Governors- Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi have filed another suit against Malami, and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele over contempt of court and their alleged failure to comply with the Supreme Court order on the old naira notes
* Source: whirlwindnews.com.ng
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