How the Muhammadu Buhari administration ultimately gave in to popular pressure and complied with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the legal tender status of the old naira notes

Ten days after the Supreme Court extended the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes’ legal tender status until December 31, the Central Bank of Nigeria reluctantly said in a late Monday night announcement that it was complying with the ruling.

In accordance with “the established tradition of respect to court rulings and sustenance of the rule of law,” it was also stated that the decision was made during a meeting of the bankers’ committee. The order marked the end of the unspeakable suffering endured by Nigerians during the previous three months.

Yet, the smug disregard for the supreme court’s ruling and the callous disregard for the suffering brought on by the careless and shoddy implementation of the naira redesign strategy marked a tragic end to the eight years of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, defied public pressure, disregarded appeals, despised threats of a contempt charge, and appeared to be taking a lesson from the President who has often shown blatant disrespect for court decisions despite claims to uphold the rule of law. The CBN’s postponed response to the Supreme Court’s ruling is the cherry on top of Buhari’s disregard for court orders.

There was a severe cash shortage throughout the nation for the three months that the fight against the CBN policy continued, which led to rioting, the destruction of businesses and other property, and the deaths of numerous residents.

The commercial banks were unable to meet the crisis’s demands. The value of cashless transactions fell by 4.83 percent in February from N39.58 trillion in January 2023 to N37.67 trillion as a result of a rise in failed payment transactions.

This occurred at a time when new data from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System showed a monthly increase in the utilization of e-payment gateways of 41.29 percent. The banking system failed the stress test, as evidenced by the dramatic rise in the number of failed transactions, refuting claims that the economy was prepared for the cashless policy.

The administrations of Kaduna, Zamfara, and Kogi States had dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court on February 3 to contest the policy before the barbarism sparked by the CBN policy played out. The FG was prevented from eliminating the legal status of the old naira notes on February 10 as announced by the CBN on February 8 by the court’s wise decision.

Until their motion for an interlocutory injunction is heard and decided, Justice John Okoro issued an order of interim injunction “restraining the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria or the commercial banks from suspending or determining or ending on 10 February, the time period with which the now-outdated 200, 500, and 1,000 denominations of the naira may no longer be legal tender.”

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, who was sued in the matter as the representative of the Federal Government, was not served with the motion because it was ex parte. The court only heard from Abdulrakeem Mustapha, SAN, the applicants’ attorney.

After hearing from the applicants’ attorney, Okoro granted the application as requested. He claimed that his panel had given the judgment “careful thought.” Following the issuance of the order, the court continued the hearing on the main lawsuit until February 15.

The Attorneys General of the States of Katsina, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti, and Sokoto were added as co-plaintiffs by the court on the following adjourned date. The matter was extended by one week to February 22 and the AGs of the states of Edo and Bayelsa were added as co-respondents.

Buhari, who believes he is the state and above the law, ordered in a broadcast on February 16 that for the next 60 days, only the N200 note will be accepted as lawful cash. He claimed that the old N500 and N1,000 notes had lost their legal tender status and should be handed to the CBN, in flagrant violation of the restraining order issued by the supreme court. The decision sparked enormous outrage and confirmed the public’s perception that the president pays little attention to the legal system.

Governors who are accustomed to bowing down to Buhari refrained from referring to him as a despot. Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, urged his people to disregard the President’s order.

The governor stated in a counter-state broadcast that the president’s speech earlier this morning, which limited the legal tender status of old notes to to N200, amounted to complete disdain and disobedience of the February 8 judgement, which was further extended yesterday by the Supreme Court.

The Attorney-stupid General’s attempt to trick the President into disobeying the highest court’s ruling in public demonstrates how eager policymakers are to destabilize the country by openly disdaining the judiciary.

Insisting that the Supreme Court ruling remained in effect, the authorities in Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bayelsa, Zamfara, Ogun, Lagos, and Kwara States similarly instructed citizens to keep using the old notes.

Yet the mounting rage over the cash shortage quickly reached a boiling point as angry consumers set fire to banks and smashed ATMs in the states of Delta and Edo. Three people died as a result of the violence that paralyzed social and economic activity in the two states, and many more were hurt.

The demonstrations similarly stretched to the states of Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Benue, and Kwara. The paucity of currency, which had made living intolerable for many Nigerians, was the source of residents’ rage. Due to the lack of naira notes, traders in border areas were forced to accept CFAs.

The AGF and the CBN governor were distant and disinterested as the citizenry, who have been primarily made poorer by the economic policies of the All Progressives Congress dictatorship, decried the poorly thought-out naira redesign plan that had further exacerbated their existential issues.

A seven-member Supreme Court bench chaired by Justice Okoro handed down its eagerly anticipated decision on March 3. The decision, which was hailed as a triumph for the people, said that the old notes will continue to be valid until the end of December. The President, according to the court, violated the constitution when he issued orders for the redesign of the naira.

Judge Emmanuel Agim stated that Buhari’s proclamation that only the N200 note should remain legal currency made the country’s democracy look like a mere pretense in response to the Supreme Court’s earlier judgment about the new notes.

“The rule of law upon which our democratic administration is established becomes fictitious if the President of the country or any authority or individual refuses to execute the orders of courts,” Agim said, criticizing the retired general for his dishonest pretenses.

In a constitutional democracy like ours, the President disobeying court rulings is an indication that the constitution has failed and that democratic administration is now only a facade and is being replaced by autocracy or dictatorship.

There was no response from the Presidency for ten days after the admonition from the temple of justice, which was typical of the Katsina man in the Presidential Villa. Buhari’s advisors similarly rejected media enquiries concerning adherence to the court decision.

Nigerians can no longer tolerate any form of dictatorship in a democratic government, the Nigerian Bar Association insisted, as demonstrated by the President and his AGF’s disobedience to the court order. The Nigerian Bar Association was appalled by the lack of respect for the court order and demanded immediate obedience to the ruling.

“We cannot accept or tolerate any appearance of despotism or dictatorship under whatever pretense. The NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, stressed, “Our system of democratic administration has arrived; it must not only be respected by everybody, but it must also be jealously guarded and preserved.

The President said that Buhari never ordered the AGF and CBN governor to disregard any court decisions involving the government and other parties, having been roused from its slumber by the summer’s intense pressure from irate Nigerians.

Buhari, in typical fashion, washed his hands of the mess, saying in a ridiculous statement released by his media aide Garba Shehu, “Since the President was sworn into office in 2015, he has never directed anybody to defy court orders, in the strong belief that we can’t practice democracy without the rule of law and the commitment of his administration to this principle has not changed.” This statement was made in reference to the president’s unwavering belief that we cannot practice democracy

Nonetheless, there are numerous instances of Buhari disobeying court orders. It is generally known that his administration disregarded court rulings in cases involving the former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-ZakZaky, and the Nigerian Aluminum Smelter Company.

Dr. Kolawole Olaniyan, a legal expert for Amnesty International, asserted that the President has demonstrated “shocking contempt for the rule of law and human rights, defying Nigerian judges on at least 40 instances” since taking office in 2015.

Dr. Kolawole Olaniyan, a legal expert for Amnesty International, asserted that the President has demonstrated “shocking contempt for the rule of law and human rights, defying Nigerian judges on at least 40 instances” since taking office in 2015.

The London-based attorney who charged that the President had a contemptuous attitude toward judges also questioned the President’s sincerity in his fight against corruption. In a post headed “Buhari is Ignoring Nigerian Judges – We Must Not Let Him Get Away With It,” Olaniyan made the allegations.

Nigerians are unlikely to forget the naira redesign scandal and the individuals responsible for its disastrous fallout once the economy returns to normal and the country changes to a new leadership. Their day of judgment can arrive sooner or later.

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