President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement on Monday said he never told the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties.
This was made known in a statement released by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Monday.
According to the statement, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has no reason not to comply with the Supreme Court order on naira redesign on the excuse of waiting for directives from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Recall that the CBN had extended the deadline for the swap of old N200, N500, and N1,000 from 31 January to 10 February following complaints by many Nigerians but the Supreme Court, after a suit filed by the States, held that the Federal Government, the CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the 10 February deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue.
However, the President, in a national broadcast on February 16, directed the apex bank to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days — by April 10, 2023. He also said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
There has been a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Umar Ganduje (Kano); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; and many stalwarts of the ruling APC had openly censured and faulted the President’s directive, arguing that it has no grounds because the case is before the apex court.
Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome had equally faulted the President’s move, saying he cannot overrule the apex court of the land.
The highest court of the land had on March 3 ordered that old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain valid till December 31, 2023.
This was after 16 states of the Federation instituted a suit to challenge the legality or otherwise of the introduction of the policy.
The 16 states led by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara had prayed the apex court to void and set aside the policy on the ground that it is inflicting hardships on innocent Nigerians.
The court subsequently ruled that the President’s disobedience of its February 8 order is a sign of dictatorship, adding that Buhari breached the Constitution of the Federation in the way he issued directives for the re-designing of the Naira by the CBN.
After the 3 March judgement by the Supreme Court, the Presidency, CBN and the AGF kept mum, throwing many bank customers and Nigerians into confusion as the ruling of the apex court contradicted the directive of the President on February 16 that old N500 and N1000 notes are banned and old N200 notes remain valid till April 10.
However, the Presidency broke its silence on Monday, saying the President never told the CBN and the AGF not to obey the order of the apex court.
“Following the ongoing intense debate about the compliance concerning the legality of the old currency notes, 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. In any case. it is debatable at this time if there is proof of willful denial by the two of them on the orders of the apex court,” the Presidency stated.
The statement noted that the President is an absolute respecter of the rule of law and that the “negative campaign and personalised attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators is unfair and unjust”.
“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.
“It is therefore wide off the mark to blame the President for the current controversy over the cash scarcity, despite the Supreme Court judgement.
“The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President,” the statement added.