State governments, which sued the Federal Government on the naira redesign policy, have given the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, till Tuesday to comply with the order of the Supreme Court on the currency.
The state governments threatened to file contempt charges against the two top officials on Tuesday should they fail to obey the apex court which ordered that the old N1,000, N500 and N200 should be in circulation alongside the new notes till December 31, 2023.
Over one week after the court handed down the order, the AGF and the CBN have kept mum over the verdict. Their silence has emboldened Nigerians and businesses to reject the old notes as legal tender.
Saturday PUNCH reported on Friday that the Federal Government had been served with the enrolled order and Certified True Copy of the Supreme Court judgment ordering the use of old notes as legal tender for 10 months.
The counsel for Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, which dragged the Federal Government before the Supreme Court on the matter, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN), disclosed that Malami was served with the enrolled order and the CTC of the judgment on Friday afternoon, adding that he expected immediate compliance with the judgment as the non-service of the documents had given the government and the CBN an escape route.
Mustapha said, “The Attorney-General of the Federation has been served now and we will take it up from there; if there is no compliance now, we will commence committal proceedings against the attorney-general and the CBN governor.”
But giving an update on the move to enforce compliance with the order of the apex court on Sunday, the Zamfara State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Junaidu Aminu, revealed that since the Federal Government had refused to implement the judgment, the plaintiffs in the suit would approach the court again to ensure compliance with the court’s order.
States await FG
Aminu told The PUNCH that the states would file contempt charges against the Federal Government on Tuesday.
He said, “We have just served the Attorney General of the Federation with the Certified True Copy of the Enrolled Order of the Supreme Court last Friday. We are waiting for them to respect the court’s decision on the naira notes and comply with the decision. If they fail to comply on Monday, we are filing our case on Tuesday.’’
The AG insisted that Emefiele must address Nigerians on the naira notes issued on or before Monday (today), noting that “that is what Nigerians are waiting for.”
“If he fails to do so, we will go back to court again to sue him and the Federal Government on contempt charges,’’ he warned.
The Zamfara State justice commissioner explained that it was the duty of the AGF to direct the CBN governor to implement the court’s verdict on the naira notes.
Aminu further said, “The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, is the one who should direct the CBN to comply with the Supreme Court’s verdict and allow the old naira notes to remain legal tender until December 31.”
Explaining why the CBN governor was not a party in the matter, he stated, “The matter is between some states and the Federal Government. The CBN governor is an ordinary civil servant who receives directives from the Federal Government.”
Speaking with The PUNCH on Sunday, Ekiti State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dayo Apata, SAN, said the state would align with other states on whatever legal steps would make the Federal Government comply with the Supreme Court judgment on the naira redesign and cash swap policy.
Apata said, “Definitely, we are all in the same boat and what is important to us is to ensure compliance with the court order. So, whatever we will do legally that will make the parties comply, we will align with it.
“Whatever that is going to be legally possible for us to achieve the aims and objectives of our going to court, we will align with other states.’’
C’Rivers back others
In the same vein, the Cross River State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Tanko Ashang, said the state would join other states to sue the FG.
“Yes. You are aware we were part of the parties that took the Federal Government to Court. The state parties are together,” he said.
Also, the Kogi State Government affirmed that machinery had been set in motion to compel the CBN to comply with the judicial directive.
The state Commissioner for information, Kingsley Fanwo, in a telephone chat with our correspondent explained that the plaintiffs in the suit including Kogi State had already commenced work on enforcing the judgment.
Commenting on the continued silence of the Federal Government on the order, the Rivers State Government said it was disturbing.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Chris Finebone, who said this in an interview with The PUNCH, noted that it was important the FG made pronouncements on the Supreme Court order rather than keeping mum in the face of the suffering being experienced by the citizens.
“The way to go is clear. The Supreme Court has ruled that the old notes should remain valid as legal tender.
“So, I think what the Federal Government should have done is to come out to say yes, we have heard from the Supreme Court and we will give it everything to support the use of those old currencies until such a time as specified by the court judgment.”
On his part, the Ondo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Charles Titiloye, told The PUNCH that together with other states, Ondo State would take steps to ensure compliance.
He, however, declared that the state would not hesitate to deal with people rejecting the old naira notes.
Currently, Titiloye disclosed that the government had been appealing and sensitising the people to the order of the Supreme Court on the matter.
He said, “We have taken a lot of steps: Last week, we visited banks informing them that no bank should reject the old notes. They must collect and they must disburse and we discovered that almost all of them complied.”
The AGF could not be reached for comment on his alleged refusal to obey the court order. Several calls to him and his media aide, Umar Gwandu, rang out.
Also, the CBN spokesman, Abdul Isa, was unreachable as calls to his line on Sunday indicated that it was switched off.
He had yet to respond to a text message on the failure of the apex bank to comply with the Supreme Court order as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN, has disclosed his intention to sue the CBN over its failure to disclose the number of new notes issued to commercial banks.
The PUNCH reports that the senior lawyer had in line with the Freedom of Information Act written to the apex bank asking for the amount of new naira notes issued to commercial banks.
A letter from Falana Chambers signed by Femi Adedeji dated February 16, 2023, demanded that the CBN should provide details of how the new notes were disbursed to commercial banks.
Before this, the CBN had maintained that it printed sufficient new N200, N500 and N1,000 notes to go around, blaming politicians for hoarding the new notes.
In a Freedom of Information Act letter sent to the bank, Falana said, “Our attention has been drawn to your statement wherein you claimed that some unnamed politicians have mopped up the new naira notes made available to all commercial banks by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“We are compelled to request you to furnish us with information concerning the amount of the redesigned notes of N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations made available to each commercial bank by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“Furthermore, we also request you to furnish us with the list of customers of the commercial banks who collected more than N100,000 approved by you from the commercial banks”.
However, speaking with one of our correspondents on Sunday, Falana noted that despite the FOI Act, which mandates the bank to provide the details within seven days, the apex bank had yet to furnish him with the requested information.
He said, “We reached out to them and we were told that they are still working on it. But I can assure you that they don’t have any information to give us. If they truly have any information, they would have written a reply.
“They had seven days in line with the FOI act. We will be suing them if they fail to furnish us with the necessary information. The court will have to compel them to do so.
“People are suffering because of this naira policy. It is highly unfortunate and the truth is that the printing and minting company cannot print enough new naira notes that will be compared to the number of old naira notes that the CBN took away from circulation. That is the truth. They do not have that capacity. So why should they let people continue to suffer?”
Adeleke warns banks
In a related development, Osun State Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, has warned banks in the state against rejecting the notes as deposits and asked the CBN Osogbo Office to intervene.
Adeleke, who spoke through his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, in an interview with The PUNCH said the rejection of the old notes by banks was already creating tension in the state.
He said beyond forcing the people to accept the old notes for transactions, the refusal of the banks to accept the old currencies was unacceptable.
Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum has decried the Federal Government and the CBN’s disobedience to the judgment of the Supreme Court on the naira redesign policy.
The pan-Northern socio-political organisation warned that such an act could snowball into anarchy in the country.
The ACF gave the warning in a statement by its National Secretary, Murtala Aliyu, released in Kaduna on Sunday.
The forum in the statement titled, ‘Supreme Court orders on naira redesign,’ said its stance was also in tandem with the state governors’ position on the naira redesign policy.
It cautioned the President, Major-General Muhammad Buhari (retd.) on the costly price he would pay over the unpopular policy.
The ACF said, “Some 10 days ago, the Supreme Court of Nigeria held that the President, Muhammadu Buhari, breached the Constitution of Nigeria in the way he issued a directive to the CBN for the redesign of the naira without consulting with the National Council of States and the Federal Executive Council.
“Whatever the CBN or anyone else says about the benefits of the policy, which are many, is of little comfort as soon as the highest court in the country has deemed that it is, or, at least the manner of its implementation, breaches the law.
“Ten days is long enough time for the government to find its way towards complying with a court order which is central to the achievement of peace, order and good governance in the country.
“President Buhari is under oath to defend the constitution of Nigeria. As his long-term supporters, it will be remiss of us if we fail to warn that the much-touted benefits of the naira redesign can never justify the damage to his credential as a democrat and a stickler for the rule of law.
“This is quite apart from the real possibility of the crisis morphing into a serious social disorder leading to the possible breakdown of law and order throughout Nigeria. We do not believe nor can we advise him to pay such a heavy price on account of a policy whose immediate goals are not entirely clear to a majority of Nigerians.”
The Spiritual Director Catholic Adoration Chaplaincy Enugu, Reverend Fr Ejike Mbaka, has also asked the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to reverse the CBN policy, insisting that it was collapsing the economy.
Mbaka, who spoke in a homily at the Adoration Chaplaincy ground on Sunday, wondered why Buhari wished to bequeath unimaginable suffering and hardship on Nigerians as he was leaving office.
He said, “The President should leave the office with a good name. How can countrymen and women be crying as they are going out? If anybody advised you over such a dirty, rubbish, wicked and barbaric policy, why can’t you say I am the president and reverse it? What I want to say is that it is not good, the CBN Monetary Policy.
“Banks are closing, businesses are collapsing, industries are collapsing, do you want to kill Nigeria before you leave? If you want to make a cashless economy it will not be an instant order, it is not a military coup d’etat. It is supposed to be gradual by gradual.”
The fiery catholic priest stated that in a country where things work, when a new policy is introduced, the government will pilot it and give incentives to the first people to embrace it.
Mbaka categorically stated that Nigerian banks are not technically ready for a cashless economy, adding “sometimes when you make a transfer your account will be debited without being credited and when you complain, they will ask you to go to the bank. When you get to the bank, they will ask you to write a letter and come back after three weeks.’’