Feb 10: FG will obey S’Court ruling on old naira notes — AGF Malami

Nigeria's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

• Says to vacate order

• CBN attributes scarcity of new naira to hoarding

• Lawmakers to find solutions to crisis

Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has expressed the Federal Government’s readiness to obey the country’s Supreme Court setting aside the Friday (February 10) deadline earlier given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the last day for the validity of old naira notes.

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), made the disclosure on Thursday, February 9, 2023, featuring on Arise News Channel documentary programme.

Malami said as the Federal Government was ready to obey the Supreme Court ruling putting on hold the CBN demonetisation policy, authorities would also take necessary steps to set aside the interim order it earlier sought.

Recalled on Wednesday, February 8, the Supreme Court had in a ruling suspended the February 10, 2023 CBN deadline for demonetisation policy and fixed February 15 for hearing on the matter.

Malami premised the Federal Government’s decision on its regard for the rule of law, but would still challenge it and would do so within the provisions of the law.

Earlier, Malami had spoke against the Supreme Court decision, and had, thereby, filed reasons before the Supreme Court as to why the suit by three states challenging the February 10 deadline fixed by the CBN for phasing out the old N1, 000, N500, and N200 banknotes should be struck out.

On Thursday, February 9, 2023, the CBN, had, also, blamed the continued scarcity of new banknotes to hoarding in certain quarters.

However, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno, had appealed to the House of Representatives to put up practicable solutions to the economic crisis arising from the scarcity of the redesigned naira notes.

Similarly, the Alliance for Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), a civil society group, had advised the CBN to obey the order of the Supreme Court, temporarily restraining the CBN from going ahead with the plan to phase out the old banknotes from Friday, February 10, until after hearing on the matter, on February 15.

On Wednesday, a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice John Okoro had temporarily put on hold the CBN from effecting the scheduled ban of old naira notes in N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations from February 10.

The apex court order came in a ruling it gave on an ex parte application brought by Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara states against the AGF.

They had asked the court to issue an interim injunction against the government, pending the hearing and determination of their suit challenging the naira redesign policy of the CBN.

The three states argued, had primarily argued that the CBN policy had brought an untold hardship upon the citizenry and only the timely Supreme Court intervention could help in avoiding the looming anarchy in the country.

They premised their argument on the fact that since the CBN came up with the policy, there had been an acute shortage in the supply of the new naira notes in their states, which made it very difficult and nearly impossible for citizens to access the new notes.

ALSO READ: Old naira swap: Supreme Court halts CBN on Feb 10 deadline 

They also argued that the notice period given by the Federal Government was inadequate, contending that the CBN did not follow the laid down procedure for implementation of the policy.

Consequently, responding to their claims, it was on the the ground of their argument the apex court granted the interim order and restrained the Federal Government from banning the old naira notes, pending the determination of the suit, while it subsequently fixed hearing for February 15.

Though he had said the Federal Government would comply with the Supreme Court ruling, AGF Malami speaking with Arise News Channel on Wednesday, explained that it was within the right of the government to challenge any order it was not pleased with, arguing that the government would do so in this matter using the instrumentality of the law.

“The rule of law provides that there has to be obedience to the judgement and orders of the Supreme Court. The rule of law provides that when you are not happy with a ruling you can file an application for setting it aside and in compliance with the rights and privileges vested in us as a government, we are equally looking at challenging the order and seeking for it to be set aside.

“The order was granted by the Supreme Court and the order incidentally lapses on Wednesday, which is the day of the hearing, with that position in mind we have taken steps to file an objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter.

“Jurisdiction on the grounds that when you talk of monetary policy, regardless of the characters they take, the central bank is an indispensable and a necessary party for that matter.

“What we have at hand is a situation where the central bank was not joined as a party and if the central bank as an institution was not joined as a party, the position of the law is clear that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court cannot be properly invoked.

“So we have given considerations to diverse issues, inclusive of the issue of jurisdiction, and come Wednesday we will argue the case from that perspective, among others.

“I think what we are talking about is not whether the ruling is binding or not binding, we are talking about what we intend to do, there is no doubt about the fact that the ruling of the Supreme Court, regardless of the prevailing circumstances, is binding and then within the context of the rule of law.

“You can equally take steps that are available to you within the context of the spirit and circumstances of the rule of law.

“And what we are doing in essence is in compliance with the rule of law both in terms of obedience to the ruling and in terms of challenging the ruling by way of putting across our own side of the story, putting across our case, challenging jurisdiction.

“So the issue of obedience to the ruling of the Supreme Court is out of it. We are wholeheartedly in agreement that naturally, we are bound by it and will comply accordingly. But within the context of compliance, we shall challenge the ruling by way of filing an application seeking for it to be set aside, it is all about the rule of law,” Malami said.