Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday faulted the Federal Government’s decision to disregard the Supreme Court’s order on the naira design issue bedeviling the country.
Recall that the apex court had last week given an order for the old N1000, N500 and N200 notes to remain legal tender pending the determination of the case brought before it by some State governors.
However, the apex court, on Wednesday reiterated its order and adjourned the matter till February 22.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, in a nationwide broadcast, instructed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to reintroduce the old N200 note until April 10, 2023, while the old N1000 and N500 cease to remain legal tender.
Gbajabiamila, reacting to the development in a statement on Thursday, said though the president’s directive was a step in the right direction, the Federal Government could not afford situations that “suggest a wanton disregard for the rule of law.”
“This morning, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, announced that he has authorized the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to reintroduce the old N200 notes into circulation, pending when the Bank can make sufficient amounts of the new currency available. This is a step in the right direction, and I hope it helps curb Nigerians’ suffering.
“However, the decision still falls short of the order of the Supreme Court that the old currencies remain legal tender pending the adjudication of a pending suit brought by state governments on the legality of the policy and its implementation.
“It is not to the benefit of our country for the Federal Government to act in ways that suggest a wanton disregard for the rule of law. It will be better for us to strictly adhere to the court’s order in this matter pending the adjudication of the substantive suit,” he said.
The Speaker however urged the citizens to “bear this moment with equanimity,” and desist from actions capable of causing the break down of law and order.
“For the sake of our country, we must work together to resist actions that escalate tensions and endanger our democracy at this crucial moment of national awakening and rebirth.
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“In all things, let the well-being of our fellow citizens and the survival of our nation be foremost in our hearts and guide all the decisions we make in this historic moment”, the speaker said.
While lamenting the country’s current situation, Gbajabiamila added that “citizens and visitors are experiencing grave and unnecessary hardship across our country. They spend hours and days queuing at banks and teller machines to receive stipends of their own money to afford life’s necessities.
“This situation is a consequence of the flawed implementation of the naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). It is also the result of decisions made by the Central Bank’s Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, to refuse counsel, be guided by precedent or abide by the decisions of superior courts.”
He said Section 20(3) of the CBN Act, 2007 provided the statutory authority for the apex bank to initiate and implement policies for the recall of Nigerian currency, stressing that based on the provisions of the law, there were 3 conditions precedent for the CBN to recall existing Naira notes.
“The first is that the permission of the President must be obtained, and the second is that reasonable notice shall be given. The third is that the Central Bank of Nigeria shall pay the face value of the recalled currency upon receipt.
“Whereas reasonable people may disagree as to whether sufficient notice was given for the implementation of this policy, it is evident that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has failed woefully in its statutory obligation to pay the face value of the recalled currency in the form that is useful to the citizens whose current suffering could have been avoided.
“The current scarcity of cash is happening because the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) did not sufficiently replace the old currency it pulled out of circulation across the country. This created an artificial scarcity that put significant additional pressure on the already epileptic electronic banking channels, resulting in a near-complete collapse of trade in the country.
“Businesses cannot operate because neither they nor their customers have access to cash, and electronic banking platforms appear to have uniformly collapsed. It is unclear what interest is served by persisting in this erroneous course towards an unfolding economic disaster that the country cannot afford. The ongoing devastation of livelihoods is bound to have consequences long after this moment has passed.
“It is disheartening that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has resolutely refused to admit error and change course in the face of mounting evidence that the implementation of this policy has been a devastating failure.
“It is deeply troubling that neither the intervention of the National Council of State nor an order of the Supreme Court is sufficient to cause the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to review the decisions that have brought us to this entirely avoidable moment”, Gbajabiamila said.