Naira Crisis: States Plan Contempt Proceedings Against Malami, Emefiele

โ€ฆserve AGF Supreme Court judgment, demand immediate compliance

Some state governments are planning to initiate contempt proceedings against the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, over their refusal to implement the Supreme Court judgment on the naira redesign policy of the Federal Government.

It was gathered on Friday that the Federal Government was served with the enrolled order and Certified True Copy of last weekโ€™s Supreme Court judgment, which also ordered that the old N1,000, N500 and N200 should be in circulation alongside the new notes till December 31, 2023.

Saturday PUNCHย gathered that the non-service of the enrolled order and the CTC of the judgment was responsible for the failure of the Federal Government to direct Emefiele to roll out the old notes already withdrawn from circulation.

The silence of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on the judgment of the apex court had fuelled the rejection of the remaining old N1,000 and N500 as legal tender. On Monday, some banks commenced paying customers the old notes in partial compliance with the Supreme Court judgment, but by Wednesday the banks stopped disbursing the old notes as the CBN insisted that it had not given any directive to that effect.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that the enrolled order and the CTC of the judgment were served on the AGF on Friday afternoon.

Counsel for Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states, which dragged the Federal Government before the Supreme Court on the matter, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN), told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that Malami was served with the enrolled order and the CTC of the judgment on Friday afternoon, adding that he expected immediate compliance with the judgment as the non-service of the documents had given the government and the CBN an escape route.

Mustapha said, โ€œThe Attorney-General of the Federation has been served now and we will take it up from there; if there is no compliance now, we will commence committal proceedings against the attorney-general and the CBN governor. When the Supreme Court talks, the constitution makes it compulsory for all government representatives and everybody to comply with its order. Itโ€™s not discretional, you have to obey, it is the last and the final and that is why we have separation of power.

โ€œThe presence of separation of power is for checks and balances; when the Supreme Court talks, it must be complied with by all persons.โ€

The lawyer had earlier told one of our correspondents, โ€œWe are waiting for the enrolled order of the court. We are yet to procure it. As soon as we have it, we will take the next step. When the Supreme Court talks, all organs of government comply and if they donโ€™t comply, the rules are clear. We are going to activate the necessary legal steps within the ambit of the law. But we need to get the enrolled order and serve the defendants. Thatโ€™s where we are.

โ€œAnytime from now, we will be able to get the enrolled order and the Certified True Copy of the judgement, then we will take it up from there. But I can assure you, our clients are monitoring the situation and we will take appropriate steps at the right time.โ€

Asked what the next step would be if there was still no compliance after serving the AGF the enrolled order and the CTC, Mustapha said, โ€œCourts deal with live issues and not speculations. When we get to the bridge, we will cross it.โ€

When contacted, the AGFโ€™s media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu, could not be reached as his phone indicated that it was switched off.

State governors, senior lawyers and other stakeholders had since the judgment was delivered been calling on Buhari to direct the CBN governor to direct commercial banks to start giving out the old notes alongside the new ones in order to ease the scarcity of the naira that has crippled the economy.

Governors Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, among others, had condemned the silence of the President and Emefiele on the judgment.

In the judgment delivered by Justice Agim, the seven-member panel of 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 Courtโ€™s earlier order on the new notes, Justice Agim said Buhariโ€™s broadcast of February 16, 2023 that only the N200 note should remain legal tender made the countryโ€™s democracy look like a mere pretension.

Justice Agim stated, โ€œLet me consider the issue of the Presidentโ€™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.

โ€œThe Presidentโ€™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.

โ€œThe 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.โ€

The court also dismissed the preliminary objections by the AGF as well as those of Bayelsa and Edo states, and stated that it had jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

Naira scarcity worsens

Meanwhile, it was gathered on Friday that cash had dried up in most banks in Lagos and Ogun states due to what senior bankers described as the inability of the CBN to supply them with new naira notes.

A branch manager of a Tier-1 bank told Saturday PUNCH that his branch last received cash last week Tuesday, adding that bankers were also frustrated about the currency crisis affecting the nation.

The Lagos-based branch manager said, โ€œThere have been no supplies of new naira notes to my branch and other neighbouring branches this week. The last supply we got was N5m last week Monday and another N5m the following day. Members of our bullion van team have been on standby throughout this week awaiting signals to come to the CBN to pick cash, but there has been no signal. The N10m we got last week didnโ€™t last up to Wednesday.

โ€œFollowing the Supreme Court judgment, we were initially paying out the old N1,000 and N500 notes deposited with us and which had not been deposited with the CBN to desperate customers, but we had to stop when the customers came back to complain that people were not accepting the old notes from them.โ€

Another senior banker corroborated this, adding that his first generation bank had not been supplied new naira notes to disburse to customers.

He said, โ€œEven me as a banker, I can only boast of N100 as I am speaking to you. We have not been supplied with cash this week. The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Instant Payment platform is not working; the digital payment systems are overwhelmed. When you see crowds at our branches now, we are not giving them cash, what we are doing is to deal with complaints arising from digital payments.

โ€œI think it is deliberate not to supply naira notes to the banks because the government and the CBN donโ€™t want politicians to mop them up. Politicians are desperately looking for cash to pay their agents now. I know of a candidate for the Lagos State House of Assembly, who has launched a passionate appeal to his friends to raise money to pay his party agents, who were not paid after the presidential and National Assembly elections and threatened not to take part in the governorship and state House of Assembly”.

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