Lawyers rap Buhari over contempt of Supreme Court
Prominent Nigerian lawyers have condemned the early morning broadcast of Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, saying that his speech constitutes a contempt of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Buhari had in his broadcast acknowledged the apex court interim order restraining the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) from phasing out the old currency notes, N1000, N500, and N200 pending the determination of the suit filed by the governors of Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara States. But the president in his speech announced the phase out of the N1000 and N500 notes, leaving the N200 note in circulation till April 2023.
But eminent lawyers disagreed with the president saying his decision is a clear contempt of court. Human rights lawyers Femi Falana SAN, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa SAN, Chairman, NBA section on Public Interest Interest Law(SPIDEL), and Steve Nwankwo expressed their worries on the president’s broadcast.
Adegboruwa in a statement said: “The President cannot overrule the Supreme Court of Nigeria. There is separation of powers in a democracy. 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”.
Adegboruwa quoted 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.”
He then said: “The broadcast of the president is 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 President should reverse his directive and add the N500 and N1000 old notes, failing which the Supreme Court should overrule the directive of the President on February 22 when the case comes up”, he concluded.
Another lawyer, Nwankwo in his own statement said: “What the Major General has done is tantamount to CONTEMPT OF COURT! The subsisting Order of the SC stayed the Feb 10 deadline “PENDING THE HEARING AND DETERMINATION OF THE SUBSTANTIVE MOTION”.
The Attorney-General of the Federation (Malamí) is fond of giving bad legal advice to the Major General and must have told him that he has the power to meddle with a matter pending before the Supreme Court. NO sir, you guys cannot do that!
In advanced countries, the National Assembly should immediately commence impeachment proceedings against him for the brazen CONTEMPT OF COURT! ;
And NO, your policy has not reduced money politics! Money is still changing hands! Nobody is against the new naira notes. Allow the old notes to naturally phase out! It is totally wrong and unconscionable to craft monetary policy with political motives’, he said.
Falana in his own statement said: “With respect, the decision of the President to exclude old N500 and N1000 notes from the legal tender of Nigeria is of no legal effect as 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;
In 1983, a public officer was suspended from office. He approached the Lagos State High Court for legal redress. While the case was pending, the then military dictator, Major General Muhammadu Buhari dismissed the officer “in the public interest” under the Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No 17 of 1984. In setting aside the purported dismissal, the Supreme Court berated the military junta in the case of Garba vs. Federal Civil Service Commission (1998) 1 NWLR (PT 71) 449 at 453 – 454. Speaking for the apex court, Justice Kayode Eso said inter alia:
What remains now is an examination of the act of the Respondents in dismissing the Appellant from office during the pendency of the action. Such action, I think, is contemptuous of the judiciary, which has been seized with determination of civil rights under the constitution and which has been left unscathed by all military coups. For the judiciary, a powerful arm of government to operate under the rule of law, full confidence, and this must be unadulterated, must exist in that institution. It must indeed be demonstrably shown especially if it is the other arms of government that are involved. In civil days, both the Executive and the Legislation must show to the entire nation their demonstrable confidence in the judiciary. The responsibility is greater during military rule. The military in coming to power is usually faced with the question as to whether to establish a rule of law or rule of force. While the latter could be justifiable a rule of terror, once the path of law is chosen the mighty arm of government, the militia which is an embodiment of legislature and executive must in humility bow to the rule of law thus permitted to exist.“
In view of the foregoing, we urge the Federal Government to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court without any further delay. After all, the President says loudly that he has since become a converted democrat” he concluded.
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