The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 adjourned a case instituted by some state governors against the Federal Government challenging the implementation of the naira redesign policy. The apex court adjourned the case to March 3, 2023 for judgments.
Earlier, the apex court consolidated the suits instituted by over 12 state governments. At the last hearing on February 15, 2023 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.
All efforts by Abia State Government to be joined in the suit, was turned down and was ordered to present its case at a later date. A motion for the consolidation was also argued by the Counsel for Rivers State, Emmanuel Ukala.
Moving the motion on notice, Ukala asked for consolidation request on the need for the suit to be heard without any hindrance since the matter bothers on the same issue. The head of the 7-man panel, Justice John Okoro, granted the request and ordered consolidation of the ten suits into one.
Now, the plaintiffs in the suit are the Attorney General of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Katsina, Ogun, Cross River, Sokoto, and Lagos states while the defendants are the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), as well as the Attorney General of Bayelsa and Edo states.
Commencing arguments, counsel for the Federal Government, Kanu Agabi, said the Supreme Court held that all reliefs are rooted in section 20 of the CBN Act, therefore, the apex court has no jurisdiction to hear the suit as the action cannot 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. He said the reliefs are against the CBN, yet they didn’t deem it fit to bring the CBN into the matter. He added that Nigerians had already began rejecting the old naira notes way before the President’s directive.
He insisted that the President is not in violation of the Supreme Court order as under the constitution, the President is empowered to veto any legislation. Counsels for Edo and Bayelsa States, also agree that the suit be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
The counsel for Rivers urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought therein Counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation, also urges the court to dismiss the suit entirely.
Also, 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 monetization policy. He added that the President decided to exercise his powers without consulting with the state governments as required by the law.
He further said that they have security report that there will be breach of law and order if nothing is done to address the issue of cash scarcity. He added that the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje is a member of the council and he told him that the issue was never discussed at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.
Rather, 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. The Justice pointed 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.
Also, the Attorney General of Jigawa state stated that Section 148 of the constitution compelled the President to seek the advice of the Jigawa State governor as a federating unit but the President did not do so in the Federal Government implementation of the redesign policy.
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 so many reactions and criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governors like 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 no 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 the Attorney General of the Federation 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.