The Presidency Monday evening said the Central Bank of Nigeria had no reason not to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court on the naira redesign policy.
It stated that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), did not instruct the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to disobey “any court orders involving the government and other parties.”
These are contained in a press statement released by the President’s Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
The statement is a reaction to public concerns that Buhari has not reacted to the Supreme Court ruling of March 3 which ordered that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes should continue to circulate alongside their redesigned counterparts as legal tender until December 31, 2023.
“The Presidency wishes to react to some public concerns that President Muhammadu Buhari did not react to the Supreme Court judgement on the issue of the N500 and N1,000 old currency notes, and states here plainly and clearly that at no time did he instruct the Attorney General and the CBN Governor to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties,” the statement said.
Shehu stated that the President had never “directed anybody to defy court orders, in the strong belief that we can’t practise democracy without the rule of law and the commitment of his administration to this principle has not changed.”
The statement, absolving Buhari of any wrongdoing with regard to compliance with the apex court order on the legality of the old naira notes, said, “the Presidency, therefore, wishes to state clearly that President Buhari has not done anything knowingly and deliberately to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice. The President is not a micromanager and will not, therefore, stop the Attorney General and the CBN Governor from performing the details of their duties in accordance with the law.”
According to Shehu, however, “it is debatable at this time if there is proof of wilful denial by the two of them on the orders of the apex court.”
Shehu added that Buhari’s directive following the meeting of the Council of State was that the apex bank should make available for circulation all the money that was needed “and nothing has happened to change the position.”
Stating that Buhari has been “an absolute respecter of judicial process and the authority of the courts” since his assumption of office about eight years ago, Shehu maintained that, “The negative campaign and personalised attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators is unfair and unjust, as no court order at any level has been issued or directed at him.”
“As for the cashless system the CBN is determined to put in place, it is a known fact that many of the country’s citizens who bear the brunt of the sufferings surprisingly support the policy as they believe that the action would cut corruption, fight terrorism, build an environment of honesty and reinforce the incorruptible leadership of the President,” the statement added.
Shehu further stated that it was “off the mark” to blame “President for the current controversy over the cash scarcity, despite the Supreme Court judgement,” insisting that “the CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President.”
The statement added that Buhari rejected the impression that he lacks compassion, saying that “no government in our recent history has introduced policies to help economically marginalised and vulnerable groups like the present administration.”
The PUNCH reported that a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice John Okoro had directed on March 3 that the old notes should remain in circulation as legal tender until December 31, 2023.
The court had ruled that Buhari’s directive in a February 16 nationwide broadcast that only the old N200 notes were to remain valid and in circulation with the new notes until April 10 while outlawing the old N500 and N1,000 notes, was “without due consultation.”
The panel, in a judgement read by Emmanuel Agim, condemned Buhari’s decision to go against the court’s order of February 8 which held that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes should continue to circulate alongside the new ones pending the hearing and determination of a suit before it.