Buhari overruled S’Court in decision on naira notes – Lawyers

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SOME lawyers have faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision on naira notes, hours after the President addressed Nigerians in a national broadcast on Thursday, February 16.

Buhari, in the broadcast, directed that the old N200 note will remain a legal tender until April, while the old N500 and N1000 notes go out of circulation.

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Reacting to the development, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa described Buhari’s action as ‘contempt of court’.

Adegboruwa said the President erred by overruling the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The ICIR reported that some state governors took the Federal Government to the Supreme Court over the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The CBN had introduced new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes and directed that the old notes cease to be legal tender from February 10.

A seven-member panel of Justices of the apex court led by Justice John Okoro ordered the suspension of the policy while ruling on an exparte motion filed by the governors.

On Wednesday, February 15, the Supreme Court adjourned the suit to February 22 and ruled that the old notes should remain legal tender until the determination of the suit.

But Buhari, in a nationwide address on Thursday, announced that the old N500 and N1,000 bills are no longer recognized as legal tender.

In a statement on Thursday, Adegoruwa knocked Buhari for disobeying the principle of separation of powers.

“Under Section 235 of the 1999 Constitution, the Supreme Court is the final authority in legal pronouncements in Nigeria.

“Under Section 287(1) of the Constitution, the President is statutorily obliged to obey, enforce and give effect to the decision of the Supreme Court.

“Section 287(1) of the 1999 Constitution:

“(1) The decisions of the Supreme court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court.”

Adegoruwa added that the President’s broadcast was “sad for our democracy”.

“Since he already admitted that the matter is subjudice, the President should not have proceeded to vary the order of the Supreme Court.

“The President and indeed the executive should not give the impression that citizens can brazenly disregard lawful orders of any court, as that will only encourage anarchy and lawlessness.

“It amounts to executive rascality and brazen disregard and contempt of the Supreme Court for the President to separate the denomination of the old notes for legality. It is not open to the President to choose which portion of the order of the Supreme Court that will be obeyed,” the Senior Advocate Of Nigeria said.

Also speaking on the matter, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), Monday Ubani, said Buhari overruled the Supreme Court with his Thursday declaration that old N500 and N1,000 notes are no longer legal tender.

Ubani, a human rights lawyer, spoke on Channels Television’s The 2023 Verdict program on Thursday.

“The President has actually overruled the Supreme Court decision. That is what I understand by what the President said this morning.

“But unfortunately, what the President has done this morning has actually ignored whatever is going on at the Supreme Court.

“When you say you will only allow old N200 to be in circulation, meaning that (old) N1000 and N500 notes are no longer legal tender.

“He’s clearly not mindful of what is going on at the Supreme Court with what he has just done,” Ubani said.

He added that the President had not set a good precedent because the international community is watching and won’t have confidence in the country’s democracy and judicial process.

“If you cannot obey your court orders, how do you instil confidence in the international community to come into your country to make investments?” he asked.

He noted that Buhari should have allowed the court to settle the matter rather than intervening early in the process.

In a national broadcast on Thursday morning, President Buhari ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to circulate the old N200 notes alongside the new N200, N500, and N1,000 notes from February 10 to April 1, 2023.