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Buhari absolves self as CBN finally obeys Supreme Court order

By Seye Olumide (Ibadan), Collins Olayinka, Terhemba Daka, Ameh Ochojila (Abuja), Ibrahim Obansa (Lokoja) and Monday Osayande (Asaba)
14 March 2023   |   4:35 am
Ten days after Supreme Court ruling directing continued use of old N500 and N1,000 notes till December 31, 2023, the Presidency, yesterday, clarified that President Muhammadu Buhari did not direct the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami ...

CBN governor Godwin Emefiele and Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari… PHOTO: Twitter/NigeriaGOV

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• Middle Belt Forum, Kogi urge action on S’Court ruling

Ten days after Supreme Court ruling directing continued use of old N500 and N1,000 notes till December 31, 2023, the Presidency, yesterday, clarified that President Muhammadu Buhari did not direct the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), and governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, not to obey the apex court’s ruling on naira redesign policy.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, said the President never told Malami and Emefiele to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties, and as such, the duo have no reason not to comply with the Supreme Court order on naira redesign on the excuse of waiting for directives from President Buhari.

But going by his public support of the policy as encapsulated in a national broadcast on February 16, President Buhari, yesterday, refused to take the bold step to end the suffering of millions of Nigerians, who are experiencing difficulties because of the naira redesign policy.

In his first public remarks to criticisms by Nigerians of his government’s disobedience to an order of the Supreme Court, President Buhari refused to categorically make an order or give the go ahead to the CBN to issue directives to the banks on the status of the old notes. Instead, he said he did not instruct anybody to disobey any court orders.

Despite the ruling, banks and other businesses have continued to reject the old N500 and N1,000 notes, saying the President and CBN governor have not given them the go ahead.

According to Shehu, the President is not a micromanager and will not, therefore, stop the AGF and the CBN governor from performing the details of their duties in accordance with the law.

The media aide said, in any case, it is debatable at this time, if there is proof of willful denial by the two of them on the orders of the apex court. He said the directive of the President, following the meeting of the Council of State, is that the CBN must make available for circulation, all the money that is needed and nothing has happened to change the position.

Garba described the negative campaign and personalised attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators as unfair and unjust, as no court order, at any level, has been issued or directed at him.

The statement read: “The Presidency wishes to react to some public concerns that President Buhari did not react to the Supreme Court judgment on the issue of the N500 and N1,000 old currency notes, and states here plainly and clearly that at no time did he instruct the Attorney General and the CBN Governor to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties.

“Since the President was sworn into office in 2015, he has never directed anybody to defy court orders, in the strong belief that we can’t practice democracy without the rule of law and the commitment of his administration to this principle has not changed.

“Following the ongoing intense debate about the compliance concerning the legality of the old currency notes, the Presidency therefore wishes to state clearly that President Buhari has not done anything knowingly and deliberately to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice.

“It is an established fact that the President is an absolute respecter of judicial process and authority of the courts. He has done nothing in the last eight or so years to act in any way to obstruct the administration of justice, cause lack of confidence in the administration of justice, or otherwise, interfere or corrupt the courts and there is no reason whatsoever that he should do so now when he is getting ready to leave office.

“As for the cashless system the CBN is determined to put in place, it is a known fact that many of the country’s citizens who bear the brunt of the sufferings, surprisingly support the policy as they believe that the action would cut corruption, fight terrorism, build an environment of honesty and reinforce the incorruptible leadership of the President.

“It is, therefore, wide off the mark to blame the President for the current controversy over the cash scarcity, despite the Supreme Court judgment. The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President.

“President Buhari has also rejected the impression that he lacks compassion, saying that ‘no government in our recent history has introduced policies to help economically marginalised and vulnerable groups like the present administration.’”

AFTER a long silence, CBN, last night, said the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes will remain legal tender till December 31. The apex bank’s Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Isa AbdulMumin stated this in a statement.

“In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the Rule of Law Principle that characterised the government of President Buhari, and by extension, the operations of the CBN, as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks (DMOs) operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of March 3.

“Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023. Consequently, all concerned are directed to conform accordingly.”

The highest court of the land had on March 3 ordered that old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain valid till December 31. This was after 16 states instituted a suit to challenge the legality or otherwise of the introduction of the policy. The 16 states led by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara had prayed the apex court to void and set aside the policy on the ground that it is inflicting hardships on innocent Nigerians.

EARLIER, the CBN had denied directing commercial banks to dispense and accept the old Naira notes in the aftermath of the March 3 Supreme Court verdict, extending their validity till December 31, 2023.

Acting Director of Corporate Communication, Dr. Isa Abdulmumin, who made the clarification, yesterday, was reacting to a statement credited to Anambra State governor, Chukwuma Soludo, claiming that the apex bank had directed banks to transact with the old notes.

He said: “Soludo’s statement emanates from him, not the CBN. The Central Bank has not issued any statement directing banks on collection of old naira notes. I am sure sometime in the future; the bank will issue a statement.”

Soludo had said the CBN Governor, Emefiele, told him commercial banks could dispense and accept old notes from customers. He then threatened not to only report errant banks but also shut their operations.

THIS came, as some banks, yesterday, received new notes in Abuja for onward distribution to customers. They got N1.7 million. A banker, who confirmed receipt of the cash, said plans were on ground to disburse to 30 customers at N20,000 each, while priority customers are to get additional N400,000 and their staff members share the remaining N700,000.

He explained: “Yes we got N1.7 million from CBN this morning (yesterday). We have been disbursing to our customers, but none went into the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Thirty of our customers will get N600,000, priority customers will get N400,000, while the remaining N700,000 will be distributed to our staffers.”

He said there was no promise from CBN that the disbursement will continue on a daily basis, adding: “No one knows when and how the new notes will be distributed. There is no new directive on how frequent the disbursement will be. We do not know when next we will get. For example, the bank did not get a dime last week. No one knows the next move of CBN.”

THE Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned the Federal Government’s position on its naira redesign policy. In a statement by the association’s president, Yakubu Maikyau, NBA said it is demanding compliance with the judgment of Supreme Court.

The statement read in part: “It is sad that the Federal Government and its agency, the CBN, will remain so adamant about the plight of Nigerians as a direct consequence of the implementation of the naira redesign policy, in spite of several interventions for review thereof to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians, leading to the damning remarks and orders by the Supreme Court.

“Regrettably, not even the clear findings by the Supreme Court as to the unfair and deceptive nature of the policy could make the Federal Government retrace its steps. The Supreme Court went to the extent of not only condemning the actions of the President as contemptuous of the court but also held that the actions constitute a threat to the rule of law and the existence of our democracy.

“The Supreme Court has issued directives to the Federal Government for the benefit of the people and there is no option other than to comply. The President is under constitutional obligation to comply and enforce the decision of the Supreme Court.”

Quoting Section 287 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) the NBA stated that, “the decisions of the Supreme Court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by Court with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court.”

The body of lawyers explained further that the country couldn’t, under any guise or pretence accept or tolerate any appearance of autocracy or dictatorship noting “our system of democratic governance has come to stay, it must not only be respected by all and sundry but must also be jealously guarded and protected.”

Accordingly, the NBA urged the President to immediately direct compliance with the terms of the orders made by the Supreme Court in its judgment delivered on March 3, and pledged its commitment to the promotion, entrenchment and respect for the rule of law, integrity of the court and the independence of the judiciary.

CITING what he called “killer” policy of the Naira redesign, former Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Asaba Branch, Abere Funbo Brideba, has called for immediate resignation of the CBN Governor.

In an interview with The Guardian at the weekend in Asaba, Brideba observed that in a normal society, Emefiele would have resigned due to rejection of the policy by most Nigerians, currently experiencing untold hardship.

“Now, the condition of living of Nigerians is depreciating continuously and whatever good intention they think is their policy, we can not believe anymore, and the only option left is to jettison the entire idea, open the banks and make the new notes available to customers across the country.”

He regretted that the people and financial institutions have been rejecting the old notes after the apex court’s ruling due to the long silence of the President and CBN helmsman.

ALSO yesterday, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) called on entire citizens of the region, including governors, businesses and banks to comply with the Supreme Court verdict.

Its spokesman, Isuwa Dogo, in a telephone chat, urged socio-political and cultural organisations, civil society and human rights bodies across the six geopolitical zones to encourage people to accept the old currencies. He also charged the 36 state governors to come hard on banks and businesses refusing the old N500 and N1000 notes as legal tender.

SIMILARLY, officials of Kogi State government and stakeholders in the financial sector have stormed the streets of Lokoja to sensitise the people to accept the old notes.

Addressing a large crowd of Okada riders and market women at the newly constructed Ganaja Flyover in Lokoja, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, congratulated Nigerians on the apex court’s ruling, urging the people to use the old alongside the new notes till December 31.

“We have met with the banks, and they have agreed that they will accept old Naira notes as deposits. So, we urge all Okada riders, Keke riders and market men and women to accept the old notes,” he said.

Also speaking, State Security Adviser, Commander Jerry Omodara (rtd), implored the citizens to cooperate with government in its bid to ease the financial strains occasioned by the currency redesign policy.

In his remarks, Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Mukadam Asiwaju Idris Asiru, restated that the banks had begun accepting old notes as deposits, urging the people to take advantage of the situation.

Representatives of the major banks in Lokoja also assured the people of readiness to accept the old naira notes as deposits. They said the directive took effect from yesterday morning, appealing customers to freely accept old notes as legal tender.