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Naira Redesign: Why Supreme Court adjourns ‘consolidated case’ till March 3

*Supreme Court holds that all reliefs being sought by about 12 states of the Federation are rooted in Section 20 of the CBN Act 2007, and therefore, the Court has no jurisdiction to hear the suit as the action cannot commence with an Originating Summons

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

The Supreme Court has advanced the major reason for its decision, Wednesday, February 22, 2023, to adjourn the pending Naira redesign policy lawsuit till March 3 this year.

The Supreme Court Wednesday had adjourned a case about 12 state governments instituted against the Federal Government, challenging the implementation of the Naira redesign policy in Nigeria.

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, and bales of new banknotes 

Earlier, the apex appellate court had consolidated the suits instituted by over 12 state governments.

It is recalled that the last hearing of the case Wednesday, February 15, seven states joined the three initial states as co-plaintiffs, while Edo and Bayelsa states later joined the Federal Government as co-defendants.

However, the Court 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, were rejected, but the Southeast state was ordered to present its case at a later date.

Emmanuel Ukala, Counsel for Rivers State, also argued the motion for consolidation of the suits.

Moving the motion on notice, Ukala premised the consolidation request on the need for the suit to be heard without any hinderance since the matter bothers on same issue.

Justice John Okoro, Head of the seven-man panel,  granted the request and ordered consolidation of the 10 suits into one.

The plaintiffs in the suit are the Attorneys-General (AGs) of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Katsina, Ogun, Cross River, Sokoto, and Lagos states while the defendants are Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), as well as the AGs of Bayelsa and Edo states.

Opening the defence, Kanu Agabi, SAN, Counsel for the Federal Government of Nigeria, said that 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.

Agabi also wondered why the plaintiffs did not bring Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, to court as a respondent, after making reference to him 32 times in their Originating Summons.

The reliefs are against the CBN, yet they didn’t deem it fit to bring the CBN into the matter, argued the Counsel to the Federal Government.

According to Agabi, Nigerians had already begun rejecting the old banknotes way before the President Buhari’s directive on banning N500 and N1000 notes as legal tender in the country.

He further insisted that the President is not in violation of the Supreme Court order.

The Counsel contended that under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as as amended), Buhari is empowered to veto any legislation.

Meanwhile, Counsels for Edo and Bayelsa States, also agrees that the suit be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

However, the Counsel for Rivers State urged the Supreme Court to grant all the reliefs sought therein.

Counsel to the AGF, also urged the Court to dismiss the suit in its entirety.

Besides, the Attorney-General of Kano State, also a co-plaintiff, argued that Buhari sidelined members of the National Economic Council, but only relied on the advice of the CBN Governor in the implementation of the monetisation policy in the economy.

The President decided to exercise his powers without consulting with the state governments as required by the law, he contended.

The Kano State legal Counsel further said that they had a security report that there would be breach of law and order if nothing is done to address the current cash scarcity in Nigeria.

He added that the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje is a member of the Council, and he disclosed that the issue was never discussed at the NEC meeting.

Rather, the President relied only on a member of the Council, and the Emefiele ignored the Finance Minister and the Vice-President, who is the chairman of the Council.

The Justice pointed out if 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 observed 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.

ConsumerConnect had reported the 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.

How Buhari directs CBN to re-circulate N200 notes

President Buhari, in a national broadcast Thursday, February 16, has directed the Bankers’ 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.

Buhari stated the old N500 and N1,000 banknotes had ceased to be legal tender in Nigeria.

However, following the President’s pronouncement last Thursday, there have been unsettling reactions and stark criticisms against his directive directive, including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress.

Among others, 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 several chieftains of the ruling party have openly faulted the President’s directive.

They contended, that the directive has no legal grounds because the case is still before the Supreme Court.

Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria, such as Mr. Femi Falana and Chief Mike Ozekhome, have equally criticised the President’s move.

According to them, Buhari could not overrule the highest court in Nigeria.

Also, three State Governors- Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi have filed another suit against Malami, and CBN Governor Emefiele over alleged ‘contempt of court’ and their failure to comply with the Supreme Court order on the validity of the  old Naira notes in circulation.

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