The Supreme Court, on Friday, descended heavily on President Muhammadu Buhari for disobeying its earlier order that the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes should be allowed to circulate with the newly redesigned notes until the final determination of the suit filed by some state governments on the matter.
The apex court also ordered that the old naira notes be allowed to circulate side by side the new notes until December 31, 2023.
A seven-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice John Okoro gave the judgment. Other justices that sat on the case are Emmanuel Agim, Amina Augie, Mohammed Garba, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro and Tijanni Abubakar.
In the judgment delivered by Justice Agim, the apex court held that Buhari breached the constitution in the manner he issued directives for the redesigning of the naira.
On the disobedience of the Supreme Court’s earlier order on the new notes, Justice Agim said Buhari’s broadcast of February 16, 2023 that only the N200 note should remain legal tender made the country’s democracy look like a mere pretension.
Justice Agim stated, “Let me consider the issue of the President’s disobedience of the 8-2-2023 interim order that the new and old versions of naira notes continue to circulate as legal tender until the determination of the pending application for interlocutory injunction. It is not in dispute that the 1st defendant refused to obey the said order.
“The President’s 16-2-2023 national broadcast reproduced here in pages 27-31 demonstrates this disobedience. In disobedience of the order, he directed that only the old N200 naira notes be re-circulated. Interestingly, there is nothing to show the implementation of even that directive. I agree with the 9th plaintiff that the 1st defendant is not entitled to be heard by this court when it has effused to respect the authority of this court and the authority of law from which the authority of the President and the government of Nigeria derives.
“The rule of law upon which our democratic governance is founded becomes illusory if the President of the country or any authority or person refuses to obey the orders of courts. The disobedience of orders of courts by the President in a constitutional democracy as ours is a sign of the failure of the constitution and that democratic governance has become a mere pretension and is now replaced by autocracy or dictatorship.”
The court also dismissed the preliminary objections by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as well as those of Bayelsa and Edo states, and stated that it had jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara were the first to sue the Federal Government over the naira redesign policy and were joined on February 15 by Cross River, Sokoto, Lagos, Ogun, Katsina, Ondo and Ekiti states.
Later, Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Jigawa, Rivers and Abia states joined the suit.Rivers and Abia states had filed separate suits that were consolidated with the main one.
Edo and Bayelsa had joined the side of the Federal Government to oppose the suit.
The defendants had earlier questioned the jurisdiction of the court and argued that the proper party in the suit was the Central Bank of Nigeria and not the President or the federation.
Justice Agim held that the President failed to consult the National Council of States, the Federal Executive Council and the National Economic Council before directing the CBN to introduce new naira notes.
The apex court maintained that Buhari usurped the powers of the CBN when he issued the directive banning the old naira notes from February 10, 2023 and by doing so made the action ultra vires.
It held that the unconstitutional use of powers by Buhari on the naira re-designing breached the fundamental rights of the citizens in various ways, adding that such use of powers by the President was not permitted under democracy and was an affront to the constitution.
Among others, the Supreme Court held that unlawful use of executive powers by the President inflicted unprecedented economic hardship on the citizens.
Earlier on, the court examined the defendants’ argument that it lacked jurisdiction to decide on the case.
Dismissing the argument that the CBN was the proper party to be sued, the court stated that it was not the action of the CBN that was being challenged, but the validity of the decision of the President to redesign the naira, release the new notes into circulation and withdraw the old notes without consultation with Nigerians through the Council of States and the National Economic Council.
Citing Section 23(2)1 of the Constitution, the court held that the dispute between the Federal Government and states must involve law or facts.
The apex court further held that Buhari in his broadcast admitted that the policy was flawed with a lot of challenges.
The court held that the CBN did not have to be joined as a party in the suit as it had no powers to carry out the policy without the directive of the President and that the suit was not an action against the banks or the CBN.
Justice Agim said, “I hold that this court has jurisdiction to determine all the suits.
“In 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 old notes.
“Therefore, the directive is invalid and the implementation invalid.”