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Supreme Court delivers judgement on naira redesign suit

The Supreme Court is set to deliver judgement on the suit filed by some state governments to challenge the federal government’s naira redesign policy today (Friday).

A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court had on 22 February heard the case and adjourned till today for judgement.

Members of the panel led by John Okoro are expected to file into the courtroom at 9 a.m. Friday.

The controversial monetary policy being challenged at the Supreme Court had last year introduced newly redesigned 200, N500, and N1,000 notes with tight deadline to mop up the old notes from circulation.

The policy has led to scarcity of currency notes, bringing untold hardship to millions of citizens in an economy significantly driven by the informal sector with a large proportion of unbanked persons.

A 31January deadline intially set for ending the legal tender status of the old notes was extended to 10 February as the supply of the new notes fell far short of the volume needed by citizens to meet their most basic needs across the country.

On 3 February, three statement governments – Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara – citing the hardships the continued scarcity of naira notes brought to their people, sued the federal government at the Supreme Court for a reversal of the policy.

Five days later, the court issued an interim order suspending the implementation of the deadline set by the federal government, and directed that the old and new notes should continue to circulate pending the resolution of the case.

Unmoved by the court’s order, the CBN insisted that the old notes had stopped being legal tender after the 8 February deadline while the scarcity of the new notes persisted.

In defiance to the Supreme Court’s order, Mr Buhari on 16 February, restored the validity of the old N200 notes, insisted that the N500 and N1000 notes had ceased to be legal tender.

At the resumed hearing of the suit on 22 February, the number of plaintiffs rose to 16 after six new states were added to the three initial plaintiffs.

The 16 states now on the list of plaintiffs include: the original plaintiffs – Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara – and the seven that were joined on 15 February – Cross River, Sokoto, Lagos, Ogun, Katsina, Ondo, and Ekiti states.

The rest are the six others that were joined on Wednesday – Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Jigawa, Rivers and Abia states.

Rivers and Abia states had filed separate suits that were consolidated with the main one.

Before then, two states – Edo and Bayelsa – joined the side of the federal government to oppose the suit.

The six-member panel of the Supreme Court promised during the 22 February hearing that it would do justice in the suit.

PREMIUM TIMES is in court to bring to you live updates as the panel of justices delivers its decision on the landmark case today.

8.46 a.m.: Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, whose state is one of the 16 plaintiffs arrives the court room.

8.50 a.m.: Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State arrives the court room. Kaduna State is also one of the plaintiffs.

8.52 a.m: A court official announces that the proceedings scheduled to begin at 9.am. have been postponed till 10.am.

8.55 a.m.: Governors El-Rufai and Yahaya Bello left the courtroom following the postponement of the judgement till 10 a.m.

Photos of Governors El-Rufai and Yahaya Bello before they left the courtroom.
Photos of Governors El-Rufai and Yahaya Bello before they left the courtroom.

9.56 a.m.: Governors El-Rufai and Yahaya Bello, both decked in white attires, return to the courtroom ahead of the filing of the seven members of the Supreme Court’s panel expected at 10 a.m.

10.03a.m.: The members of the Supreme Court led by John Okoro file in. Each of the justices holds an envelope presumed to contain their respective opinions on the case.

10.04a.m. Court official calls the case naming through 16 states that filed the suit as plaintiffs, and the Attorney-General of the Federation along with Bayelsa and Edo State as defendants.

10.07a.m. Lawyers begin announcement of their appearances.

Roll call of the lead counsel parties in two consolidated suits.

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First suit

Plaintiffs:

A.U Mustapha (SAN) – Kaduna and Kogi states

*Junaid Aliyu (SAN) – Zamfara State (2nd plaintiff)
*F.K Salami – Ondo State
*Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) – Lagos State
*K. O Fagbemi – Katsina State
*Tanko Ashang (SAN) – Cross River State
*Adenoma Abimbola – Ogun State
*S.S Kayode – Ekiti State
*Georgia Ude – Sokoto State

Defendants:

*Kanu Agabi (SAN) – Attorney General of the Federation
*Audu Auuga – Bayelsa State
*S.O Osadolor – Edo State

Second Suit

Plaintiffs:

Okey Wali (SAN) – Rivers State

Defendant

T.D Agbe – Attorney-General of the Federation

Third Suit

Plaintiffs:

Senusi Musa – Nasarawa State

Defendant:

Christian Nevo – AGF

Fourth Suit

Plaintiffs:

F.K Salami – Ondo State

Defendant
T.D Agbe – Attorney General of the Federation

Fifth Suit

Plaintiff

A.I Lemu – Niger State

Defendant:
T.D Agbe – AGF

Sixth Suit

Plaintiffs:

Adamu Aliyu (SAN) – Jigawa State

Defendant:

Christian Nevo – AGF

Seventh Suit

Plaintiff:

Abdulkareem Kana (SAN)

Defendant:

Christian Nevo – AGF

Eighth Suit

Plaintiff:

Udochi Iheanacho – Abia Stat3

Defendant:

T.D Agbe – AGF

Members of the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court are:

*John Okoro (presiding)
*Amina Augie
*Mohammed Garba
*Ibrahim Saulawa
*Adamu Jauro
*Tijanni Abubakar
*Emmanuel Agim

 

10.47 a.m. Justice Emmanuel Agim begins reading the lead judgement.

 

Highlights of the case of plaintiffs

     

      • By 15 December 2022, the new naira notes were bot available despite assurances of the CBN.

      • Many citizens had submitted their old notes to their banks, therefore, having their expectations dashed as the new naira notes were scarcely available.

      • CBN never stated how much of the new notes it printed and released into circulation.

      • It is not doubt that none of the banks had received enough to pay their customers and meet the cash withdrawal limits

      • Days running into weeks, long queues remained at ATM machines with many returning home empty handed.

      • The president failed to consult with Council of States, the National Economic Council, banks, CSOs and others before embarking on the “demonetisation policy”.

      • The security implications of the policy were not considered.

      • The implementation has hampered trade, small and medium scale enterprises.

      • No adequate structures were put in place for smooth implementation of the demonetisation policy.
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      • The policy has unlawfully impeded the executive power of the states.

      • The approval of the policy by President Buhari without consultation with National Economic Council, which has state governors as members, violated section 23 (3) CBN Act.

    Highlights of defendants’ preliminary objection

       

        • Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case

        • The case us not within the ambit of original jurisdiction of the court.

        • Official Secret Act requires suit to be filed against any public within three months.

        • The suit is statute barred and speculative.

       

      11. 10 a.m. Justice Agim recalls the Supreme Court order of 8 February directing that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 remained legal tender.

      On 15 February, plaintiffs filed a affidavit of non-compliance with the court order. The plaintiffs said the defendant, through the CBN, released statement that old notes ceased to be legal tender on 10 Feb.

      Defendant’s lawyer said the allegation was a mere rumour.

      11.14a.m. The lead judgment now begins to consider the defendants’ argument that the court lacks jurisdiction to decide on the case.

      Justice Agim says the government of Nigeria is an agent of the federation to govern Nigeria to its benefit and well being.

      The act of the President and government of Nigerian is an act of the federation.

       

      11.19a.m. The government of the federation in implementing the policy should have held adequate consultation to avoid massive disruption of government operations and trades.

      The dispute is between the states and the government of the Federation.

      The dispute is within the original jurisdiction of the court.

      The argument that it is the CBN was the proper party to be sued is invalid. It is not the action of the CBN that is being challenged.

      The suit challenges the validity of the decision of he President to redesign naira, release the new notes into circulation and withdraw the old notes without consultation with Nigerian through th3 Council of states and the National Economic Council without prior notice or giving reasonable notice to the public

      The CBN only carried out the directive of the president.

      It is glaring from the law that the CBN has no power to to carry out the policy without the directive of the president

      The policy is directed by the President.

      The CBN does not have to be joined as a party.

      This suit is not an action against the banks or the CBN.

      11.30a.m. The subject matter of this suit can be entertained under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

       

      11.39a.m. The constitution having issued unlimited subject matter jurisdiction, no court including this court has the power to exclude from the original jurisdiction of the court.

      All the preliminary objections are dismissed.

      “I hold that the this court has jurisdiction to determine all the suits.”

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      11.39 a.m. It is obvious that the president did not consult with the Council of States, the National Economic Council and other stakeholders including the National Security Council.

      The constitution does not expressly state that the president must hold such consultation

      The duty is implicit in section 5 of the Constitution that makes the President an agent of the federation.

      Such duty is inherent in a democracy.

      The first defendant belatedly realised that it needed to consult with the Council of States.

      President acknowledged the widespread problems of the policy.

      There is nothing to show either through newspapers and gazette that reasonable notice was given to the public.

      Notice was given only by a way of press remark by CBN governors on 26 October 2022.

      It is this press remark that that the president relied on to redesign naira notes and withdraw the old ones.

      This press remark cannot constitute a reasonable notice to the public

      It is what it is – mere press remark.

      The directive given by President is invalid.

      11.51 am. Such directive is not just handed down after personal conversation with the governor of CBN.

      11.51a.m. In other countries, old and new currency notes are allowed to circulate simultaneously for not less than one year.

      11.53a.m. In the light of the above, I hold that no reasonable notice was given to the public in line with Section 20 of CBN Act 2007 before the president gave the directive of the redesign of new naira and the withdrawal of new notes.

      Therefore the directive is invalid and the implementing invalid.

       

      11.58a.m. It is not in doubt that the President refused to comply with the order of the court that the old 200, 500, and 1,000 naira notes should continue to be legal tender.

      Interestingly, there is not even nothing to show that that the President’s directive for the release of N200 notes was implemented.

      I agree that the first defendant ought not to be heard when the president has refused to obey the authority of this court.

      Disobedience of order of court shows the country’ democracy a mere pretension and now replaced by autocracy.

      This suit is meritorious.

       

      Supreme Court extends old naira notes validity till December

      The Supreme Court has extended the the validity of the N200, N500, and N1,000 notes till 31 December.

      A seven-member panel of the court led by John Okoro unanimously directed that the CBN must continue to receive the old notes from Nigerians

      The court held that the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for the redesign of the new notes and withdrawal of the old notes without due consultation is invalid.

      Emmanuel Agim, a member of the panel, who read the lead judgement, also condemned the President’s disobedience of the court’s 8 February order that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes should continue to circulate alongside the new ones.

      He said the president’s broadcast of 16 February that only N200 notes should remain legal tender made Nigeria’s democracy look like a mere pretension while democracy is replaced with autocracy.

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