Alex Enumah, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Fidelis David in Akure, James Sowole in Abeokuta, Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano
All eyes would be focused on the apex court as hearing in the suit challenging the powers of the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop the use of the old N200, N500 and N1,000 begins today at the Supreme Court in Abuja.
This was just as Ogun State Government has filed an application at the Supreme Court seeking to join Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States in the suit.
Ogun joining the suit confirmed THISDAY’s recent report that as part of efforts to deliberately stall the Supreme Court ruling, governors of some of the All Progressives Congress (APC) states have chosen to continue to file for joinder in the matter.
The suit which was originally filed by the three northern states has since been joined by Ondo, Kano, Ekiti and now Ogun states. Rivers had also indicating its preparedness to do same.
Sources at the Federal Ministry of Justice, had disclosed to THISDAY that the design of the state governors, who were joining the Supreme Court suit was to delay the judgement and have the old currency run till after the election.
One of the sources, who pleaded to remain anonymous had said, “It is the design of the governors, who are adding many joinder suits, to delay the judgement and try to keep the state of affairs whereby the old currency would continue to be in use, while they lobby Supreme Court justices so that they cannot reach a judgement, and to push the Supreme Court decision on this matter until after the presidential election.
“They want to use the cash for the presidential election. So, they are adding more joinder suits to delay the outcome of the judgement so that the two currencies can work together. So, what we see is that the vote-buyers are fighting back.”
The Supreme Court being the final court in the country joined in the matter which had generated intense controversy, when it last week halted the federal government from proceeding to stop the use of the old banknotes from February 10, 2023.
Justice John Okoro, who gave the restraining order against the federal government, held that the order would subsist until today, when it would hear the case of the aggrieved states.
The action of the apex court was sequel to an exparte application brought before it on February 3, by the Attorneys-General of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States.
Since its order on February 8, the apex court has come under heavy knocks by some critics of the administration for venturing into what they believed was the exclusive of the executive, although some others including senior lawyers saw nothing wrong in the action of the apex court since the order made was a temporary one.
When the matter comes up today, it would be expected that the issue of jurisdiction which is very crucial in any case must first be resolved.
More worrisome is the issue of enforceability of the said order, which has further thrown the nation into confusion as some commercial banks and businesses despite the order of the apex court and the pledge by the federal government to obey the order have continued to reject the old naira notes.
Also, lawyers and litigants are being prevented from filing court processes at the Lagos High Court, as officials insisted they would only accept new naira notes.
In the suit marked: SC/CV/162/2023 and filed on February 3, plaintiffs are seeking among other things, a declaration that the demonetisation policy of the federation being currently carried out by the CBN under the directive of the president was not in compliance with the extant provisions of the constitution and CBN Act, 2007 and actual laws on the subject.
Besides, plaintiffs wanted a declaration that the three-month notice given by the federal government through the CBN under the directive of the president, the expiration of which was expected to render the old banknotes inadmissible as legal tender, was in gross violation of the provisions of Section 20(3) of the CBN Act 2007, which specifies that reasonable notice must be given before such a policy.
Although, Mr. Mahmood Magaji, SAN, the lawyer representing the AGF who was the sole respondent in the suit, was present during the hearing and subsequent grant of the ex parte application he however filed the government’s objection to the suit.
The federal government in the Notice of Preliminary Objection dated February 8, claimed that the Supreme Court lacked the necessary jurisdiction to entertain the suit in the first place.
According to their argument, the plaintiffs ought to have commenced the suit before a Federal High Court and not at the Supreme Court.
Besides, the respondent argued that “the plaintiffs have equally not shown reasonable cause of action” against it.
Besides the objection, the AGF, Abubakar Malami also stated that the federal government would take steps to vacate the order when the court resumes, on the grounds that the law allows the government to challenge any order that it is not pleased with and that the government will do so in this instant case by the instrumentality of the law.
Last weekend, governors of the 36 states of the federation rose from a meeting in Abuja with a resolution to direct their Attorneys General to review the suit with a view to consolidating the legal reliefs pursued by the states.
Ogun Joins Suit as Abiodun Reads Riot Act to Banks
Ogun State Government has filed an application at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, seeking to join Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States, in the suit.
The state, in a Motion of Notice filed by its counsel, Afe Babalola and Co, on February 13, sought to be joined as 4th plaintiff/applicant, in a suit number SC/CV/162/2023.
The applicant in the Notice further stated that it sought to be a co-plaintiff for the just and effective determination in the suit instituted by the other three plaintiffs.
The plaintiff also notified the Supreme Court that it shall rely on all the processes already filed in this action in addition to the affidavit in support of the application.
Listing 13 grounds upon which the application was predicated, the plaintiff submitted among others, that the implementation of the federal government-sanctioned policy had thus far negatively affected the citizens all over the federation which includes Ogun State, and left several residents of the state stranded, cash strapped and frustrated leading to riots, grievous interruption of commercial activities, and a gradual economic downturn in the state.
“The implementation of the policy has totally paralyzed and brought to standstill the economic activities of Ogun State and also severely impaired the government’s ability to deliver on its economic agenda to the people,” it stated.
Also, Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, yesterday read riot act to commercial banks, operating in the state, warning that the state government would shut down any bank operating in the state that refused to accept the old naira notes.
The warning was sequel to complaints received from the people by the state government that commercial banks and some filling stations were rejecting the old naira notes as legal tender.
The governor spoke yesterday, while addressing market men women at Itoku Kampala market in Abeokuta, as part of his reelection campaign to Abeokuta North Local Government Areas.
Abiodun, who frowned at the action of the banks, noted that since the new naira notes was not available, commercial banks must accept the old notes to ease the suffering of the people.
Wike Faults Policy
Governor Nyesom Wike said implementation of the naira swap policy by the CBN was political, adding that it has worsened the living condition of the poor across the country.
The Rivers State governor said Nigerians were suffering as a result of the tactless implementation of the naira swap policy, and urged government to urgently ameliorate the condition of the people.
Wike made the remark yesterday, during the official presentation of letter of nomination on the “award of Independent Man of the Year 2022,” on him by the management of Independent Newspapers, at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The governor stressed that the essence of government and its agency such as CBN, was not to inflict hardship of the masses, but to cushion it.
“We are in a difficult situation now. It doesn’t matter what anybody may say. The truth must be told at all times. Nigerians are suffering now and as a people we owe that responsibility to cushion the level of hardship that Nigerians are facing, we are not to worsen the situation,” he added.
Wike said people were not necessarily opposed to the redesigning of the N1000, N500 and N200 notes, but were concerned about the implementation of the policy and the hardship it has inflicted on the masses.
Gbajabiamila Says Relief Underway
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has expressed delight with the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter.
Gbajabiamila, while speaking in Lagos, yesterday, during the launch of the second edition of GbajaRide community transportation initiative, said the House of Representatives under his leadership has been on the side of the people, working tirelessly to rescue them from economic saboteurs seeking to derail the successes of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC administration.
He said he was glad that the judiciary also confirmed House’s position on the implementation of the naira redesign policy of the central bank, and that relief was underway.
Ganduje Threatens to Sanction Erring Banks, Business Owners
Kano state government has warned that it would not hesitate to revoke operational licences of major business owners or take action against anyone who refuses to accept the old naira notes as a means of transaction.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who handed down the warning in a statement issued by the commissioner for information and internal affairs, Malam Muhammad Garba and made available to THISDAY, yesterday, said the old naira notes were still legal tender.
The governor noted that it came to the notice of the government that some business owners such as supermarkets, malls, banks, restaurants, hotels, traders in markets, filling stations, motor parks, among others, were in the habit of rejecting the old naira notes in business transaction.
Ganduje further observed that the non-acceptance by some selfish individuals was further worsening the already tensed situation exacerbated by the non-availability of the new naira notes.
Armed Policemen Take over Ondo CBN Office to Prevent Attack
Armed policemen yesterday took over the premises of the CBN located in the Alagbaka area of Akure, the Ondo state capital to prevent attack by angry bank customers. The customers were angry over the rejection of the old naira notes by commercial banks and other business centres in the state.
On Monday, commercial motorcyclists and drivers, traders, civil servants, businessmen, and women besieged their various banks in exchange for the old notes for the new ones but were turned back by the officials.
Some of the customers who spoke with journalists revealed that the banks were no longer collecting the old notes despite the supreme court order.
Mr Emmanuel Adeniyi said, “the Automated Teller Machines (ATM), of the commercial banks, are still dispensing the old notes and they are rejecting the notes from us, what kind of impunity is that?”