The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the weekend called on President Muhammadu Buhari to respect the judgment of the Supreme Court on the currency redesign policy of his government and ameliorate the suffering of the Nigerian people.
In a release signed by its President, Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau SAN, the Nigerian body of lawyers condemned the way president Buhari has ignored the decision of the Apex Court in declaring the policy as invalid and ordering that old currency be brought back to circulate alongside the new one until December 31, 2023.
Maikyau said: “We cannot under any guise or pretence accept or tolerate any appearance of autocracy or dictatorship. Our system of democratic governance has come to stay, it must not only be respected by all and sundry but must also be jealously guarded and protected. This is the greatest test or challenge to our constitutional democracy and the Executive cannot afford to disregard the ORDERS of the Supreme Court made for the benefit of the people that elected it to power. I therefore on behalf of all Nigerians, call on the President to immediately direct compliance with the terms of the orders made by the Supreme Court in its judgment delivered on 3 March 2023″.
Maikyau lamented the untold suffering that the people are going through due to the policy. “As the hardship and difficulties encountered by Nigerians on this policy bite harder, we witnessed some feeble attempts at ameliorating the situation but as it is with every policy which fails to properly reckon with the law upon which it is meant to operate, the outcome will hardly be beneficial. The manner in which the CBN proceeded with the implementation almost without regard for the apparent sufferings of the people as could be seen across the country began to raise questions as to the true motive of the cash redesign policy. Nigerians did not have to die and neither should there be any loss of properties on account of the implementation of a Naira redesign policy if properly undertaken;
Unfortunately, and sadly so, that was our experience; Nigerians died, properties were destroyed and lost; there is hunger in many homes as people are unable to use their hard-earned funds which they deposited in the banks because of the apparent high handedness of the policy. The rural economy was stifled. Economic activities have dwindled, many farmers engaged in dry season farming have not been able to cultivate their farmlands – only about one out of every ten hectares of rice fields have been cultivated in most parts of North-western States. Food security has come under threat as the cash crunch has affected the ability of rural farmers to engage in farming activities. Simply put, the implementation of the policy appears not to have a human face”, he said further.
For NBA, the Nigerian constitution was not designed for autocratic or dictatorial purposes, but for holders of power to consult widely with other stakeholders in the governance of the country and its people. It was for this reason, according to the association, that some states went before the Supreme Court to challenge the policy which did not carry them and their peoples along. The Supreme Court also stated that it smirked of dictatorial tendencies for a president to act in such a manner in a constitutional democracy.
“It is the negative impact of the policy that led to the institution of the action before the Supreme Court by some States against the Federal Government in Suit No.: SC/CV/162/2023 Between Attorney General of Kaduna State & 9 Ors. Vs. Attorney General of the Federation & 2 Ors. In the Judgment delivered on 3 March 2023, dealing with the rights of the Plaintiffs, the Supreme Court noted at page 35 of the judgment in no unclear terms that: “The rights they assert in this suit are the right to be first consulted by the President as constituents of the Federation and the right to reasonable notice as such constituents before the President gave the directive or approval to the C B N to implement the change of currency notes, the right to protection of their states’ governance, economic and social order against massive disruptions and hardships that has resulted from the hasty and not well thought through and organized implementation of the change and the right to the establishment of adequate infrastructure and measures to prevent the said disruptions and hardships. It is obvious that the directive has been carried out. The fact is common knowledge, is not reasonably open to question and does not require proof, that the implementation of the directive has continued to deprive all persons and the plaintiffs access to a substantial part of their funds in banks, thereby forcefully and illegally depriving them their rights of ownership and use of the said funds for state functions. The President’s national broadcast of 16-2-2023 confirms this.”
On the need for wide consultations before embarking on this policy given the democratic nature of our nation, the apex court at pages 41 – 42 of the judgment said:“The identifying character of democratic constitutional governance is the wide consultations and broad consensus behind the exercise of executive powers through bodies established for that purpose by the Constitution. Such bodies include the Federal Executive Council that is required by the Constitution to have at least one indigene of each of the 36 State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory and the National Economic Council which consists of 36 States Governors elected by their people and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, an appointee of the President, as members, with Vice President as Chairman of the Council who is also a member of the Federal Executive Council and the National Council of State. Good governance and economic prosperity cannot thrive in a plural society like ours if executive power of the Federation with far-reaching impact is exercised without inputs from the constituent states on how it affects them.”
Maikyau stated: “Nigerians may not be too enchanted with our Judiciary, and this may have arisen from unsubstantiated and spurious allegations of judicial misconduct, the fact however remains that we still must look to the Judiciary as the only and final resort, to protect our rights as a people and secure probity in public life. The Supreme Court has spoken for the people of this nation and has appropriately issued ORDERS to the Executive and the orders of the Court must be complied with”.
He assured that the NBA will remain committed to the promotion, entrenchment and respect for the Rule of Law, integrity of the Court and the independence of the judiciary. “The NBA shall stand up against any action that seeks to undermine the Rule of Law, the integrity of the Court and the independence of the judiciary”.
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