By Kayode Oyero, Channels Television
Ten States have asked the Supreme Court to set aside the pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari banning old N500 and N1,000 notes.
The governors, in Suit No SC/CV/162/2023, filed on Friday by their counsel, A.J. Owonikoko (SAN), wants the apex court to declare the President’s directives in his Thursday’s broadcast as unconstitutional.
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 the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), as well as the AGs of Bayelsa and Edo States.
The plaintiffs, in 12 grounds of application, argued that Buhari’s directive extending the validity of old N200 notes for 60 days and his ban on old N500 and N1,000 notes is an “unconstitutional overreach and usurpation of the judicial power” of the Supreme Court being that the case is already before the court.
The counsel for the applicants cited Section 232(1), Section 6(6)(b), and Section 287(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which includes the protection of the Supreme Court’s dignity and ensures compliance with its orders by all persons and authorities.
“Contrary to the order of the Honourable Court, the substantive 1st defendant through the President of the Federation, and its agent, the Central Bank of Nigeria, have repeatedly released statements that the old Naira Notes are no longer legal tender, hence resulting in misleading the general public on what the status quo to be complied with, pendente lite, should be,” the relief partly read.
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 an initial suit filed by the 10 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, the President, in a national broadcast on 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 a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
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 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.