Tuesday, 21 May, 2024

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New Naira Crisis and Buhari’s Seamless Drift


President Muhammadu Buhari recently directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days.He, however, said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes are no longer legal tender in Nigeria, apologising to Nigerians over the difficulty experienced in the implementation of the naira redesign policy.

However, even as he acknowledged the difficulties Nigerians were passing through as a result of the new policy, the President lamented that the currency in circulation grew from N1.4 trillion in 2015 when he assumed office to N3.23 trillion at the end of 2022, noting that N2.1 trillion of the cash in circulation have been retrieved since the launch of the naira redesign policy of the Federal Government on October 26, 2022.

Buhari’s Disregard for Court Orders’Buhari’s directive came despite the Supreme Court order that the Federal Government, the CBN and commercial banks must not continue with the deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue.Immediately after the broadcast, President Buhari came under fire for flouting the Supreme Court order on the validity of N1,000, N500 and N200 as legal tenders.

Civil society groups and senior lawyers including Babatunde Fashanu, Femi Falana and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa said the President’s pronouncement was contemptuous and slammed him for spurning the injunction in his broadcast, stressing that the President showed utter disregard for the separation of powers by overruling the highest court in the landFalana, specifically, said: “It constitutes a contravention of Section 287(1) of the Constitution which provides that ‘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.’”

The Position of 10 States Ten states of the federation challenging the policy also approached the apex court for an order setting aside the pronouncement of the President declaring the end of the old notes.The plaintiffs include the Attorneys Generals (AGs) of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Katsina, Ogun, Cross River, Sokoto, and Lagos states while the respondents are the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the AGs of Bayelsa and Edo states.Specifically, the plaintiffs in the motion filed by A.J. Owonikoko, SAN, described the action of the president as “an unconstitutional overreach and usurpation of the judicial power” and as such should be set aside.

According to them, the action of the president had put the citizens in a dilemma as to which directives is to be obeyed because the interim order of the Supreme Court halting the federal government’s ban from taking effect from February 10, is still subsisting having not been vacated by the apex court.Also, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), said Buhari has been laying a very bad precedent by flagrantly disobeying court orders which is crucial for the sustenance of democracy and its values.Meanwhile, some state governors have even gone as far as directing their people to continue to use the old naira notes as a legal tender, with the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai specifically saying the policy will be cancelled if the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, wins the February 25th election.

Governors have no right to challenge Buhari On the contrary, the National Vice President of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, faulted the state governors countering Buhari’s position saying they have no right whatsoever, to challenge the authority of the president.His words: “We have only one Commander-in -Chief and he has made a nationwide broadcast stating the way he wants the matter to be resolved and these governors should abide by the president’s directive. If they don’t like what the president has done, they should approach the court, but not to incite Nigerians against the government. We don’t want our democracy to be derailed.”What they are doing is treasonable offense and so we condemn their action because the situation in the country does not require further tension being created by these governors”.

President Buhari’s “Seamless Drift”On his part, the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) said it was time for President Mohammadu Buhari to play the role of a statesman, by halting his “seamless drift” and the implementation of the currency swap policy.Akeredolu in an open letter to the President, titled: “Mr President Should Halt This Seamless Drift”, lamented that the events of the past days, resulting in the intervention of the apex court and the increasing gale of violence sweeping through the country, portend serious danger to the current democratic governance.The letter read in parr: “The crises engendered by the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria to redesign some currency notes, threaten to disrupt, not only the forthcoming general elections. The events of the past days, culminating in the intervention of the apex court in the land, and the increasing gale of violence sweeping through the country, portend serious danger to the current democratic governance. Consequently, this period invites all patriots to speak out with a view to proffering practicable solutions and not project cheap partisan interests.

I seize this opportunity to appeal to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to play the role of a Statesman at this crucial moment. It is apparent that the crises, which the current policy on currency swap has created, continue to spiral menacingly”.Governor Akeredolu appealed to the President to allow both the new and old notes to co-exist for the interest of the masses.“There is incontrovertible evidence bordering on miscalculation, error of judgement and/or disinformation on the part of the policy makers, especially the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on the failed implementation of the policy, the effect of which compels the whole country to groan, immeasurably, at present.

“There is hardly anyone who contends with either the statutory functions of the Central Bank of Nigeria or the occupier of the office of its Governor, one of which is the monetary policy. It is also not debatable that the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria is empowered, under our law, to exercise certain executive power. It can, however, not be the original intendment of the drafters of the relevant statutes that the implementation of any policy should occasion widespread hardship and pervasive agony in the land.

Governor Akeredolu stated further that the safety of the people is the supreme law, thus, any measure, purportedly designed to ameliorate their conditions, must not reduce the entire populace to a beggarly existence.“There is pervasive discontent in the land. A policy, presented as currency swap, must not be construed by both the reasonable members and people of average intelligence in the society to convey the deplorable impression of contrived subterfuge manifest in the official confiscation of legitimate deposits of the people in banks, as a counter measure against electoral malfeasance, terrorism and banditry”, he stressed.

The Woeful Implementation of the New Naira PolicyThe Chairman of the South West Governor’s Forum faulted the timing of the policy, adding that the problem created by the naira and fuel scarcity have affected lots of Nigerians, stressing that the implementation of this policy has been woeful despite claims to the contrary.

“Desirable as the policy appears to be, its implementation excites curiosity as regards the real motive of its drivers, especially at this time when the conduct of general elections is almost here. The mere knowledge that the N1000 and N500 notes represented 82% of the currency in circulation and that the N200 note, whose validity has been extended, by fiat, for another 60 days, represented 7%, expose the mendacious slant in the advice given to Mr President. This counsel clearly misrepresented, deliberately, the facts as they existed before the commencement of the implementation of the policy.

“The implementation of this policy has been woeful despite claims to the contrary. The suffering of the masses, occasioned by the non-availability of new notes to replace the old ones, equally decreed out of existence by presidential fiat in contravention of the CBN Act, 2007, could have been averted if the strategy of a gradual and systematic withdrawal of the old currency notes had been adopted. I make bold to assert that the unfolding events across the country show that the policy has failed significantly. It is, therefore, expected that the President will halt this needless drift into the abyss of chaos, more so, when the ruling of highest court still subsists”, he noted.

Continuing, Akeredolu called on the President to allow both the old and new notes co-exist until normalcy returns to the country.“It will be a fitting parting gift for the people of this country, especially the downtrodden, who feel the negative impact of the poorly implemented policy. While the reasons adduced for the policy appear legitimate, there can be no justification for the confiscation of the lawful earnings of Nigerians. The negative impact which the mediocre and, I dare say, mischievous implementation of the policy by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is having on the poor people and small business owners defeats all the good programmes of the Federal Government designed to elevate as many people as possible out of the morass of poverty.

Akeredolu added that there is nothing wrong in reversing the unpopular decision adjudged to not only be counter-productive but also bear the insidious seeds of potential fire in the land.“There is no shame in rescinding a decision adjudged not only unpopular and counter-productive, but which also bears the insidious seeds of potential conflagration in the land, one of the ostensible reasons for this ill-conceived policy”.

Credit: This Day

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