THE Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has faulted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal government for ignoring the Supreme Court order that suspended the Central Bank of Nigeria’s February 10 deadline for circulation of the N500 and N1,000 notes as legal tender.
The court had on February 15 issued an order that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes remain legal tender until February 22 when it would continue hearing on a suit three state governors had filed against the Federal government on issues bordering on the naira redesign policy of the CBN.
Gbajabiamila, in a statement he personally signed in Abuja today, cautioned that the Federal government could not afford situations that “suggest a disregard for the rule of law.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a nationwide television broadcast this morning announced that the old N500 and N1,000 notes had ceased to be legal tender on February 10, while extending the circulation life of the old N200 note till April 10.
He flayed the decision of the federal government on maintaining silence on the Supreme Court order.
Gbajabiamila, a lawyer, said, “The decision of the Federal government still falls short of the order of the Supreme Court that the old currencies remain legal tender.”
He urged the citizens to bear the moment with equanimity for the sake of the country, urging them to work together to resist actions that can escalate tensions.
“In all things, let the well-being of our fellow citizens and the survival of our nation be foremost in our hearts and guide all the decisions we make in this historic moment.
“Citizens and visitors are experiencing grave and unnecessary hardship across the country. They spend hours and days queuing at banks and teller machines to receive stipends of their own money to afford life’s necessities.
“This situation is a consequence of the flawed implementation of the Naira redesign policy by the CBN. It is also the result of decisions made by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to refuse counsel, be guided by precedent or abide by the decisions of superior courts,” the Speaker said.
He said it was disheartening that the CBN had refused to admit error and change course in the face of mounting evidence that the implementation of the policy had been a devastating failure.
Besides Gbajabiamila, a lawyer Rilwan Okpanachi, who spoke with The ICIR, described the action taken by the President to announce the extension as “a regrettable and avoidable contempt of court”, which he regarded as “contemptuous” of the order of the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court order is specific and restricted the CBN, Federal Government and even the commercial banks from countering the February 10 deadline. This means that by the order, the N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain legal tender, and the President lacks the power to extend such.
“The President lacks the power to override the order of the Supreme Court,” Okpanachi said.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.