Critics Label Buhari’s Old N500, N1,000 Notes’ Ban Extrajudicial Action

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Human rights lawyer Monday Ubani.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike.

 

In their respective swift reactions to the early Thursday morning nationwide broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari on Naira scarcity, two weighty critical voices, both of them lawyers, have faulted the legality of the President banning the old versions of the N500 and N1,000 banknotes as legal tender, even while the Supreme Court is yet to rule on the matter before it.

Buhari, according to human rights lawyer, Mr. Monday Ubani, has overruled the Supreme Court with his Thursday declaration that old N500 and N1,000 notes are no longer tender.

Ubani, who is the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) spoke Thursday on Channels Television’s special election programme, The 2023 Verdict.

Similarly, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, South-South Nigeria, on Thursday faulted the ban of old N500 and N1,000 notes by the President despite an order of the Supreme Court saying three old banknotes should remain legal tender till a determination on the case.

Wike, in a media chat after the President’s national broadcast on Thursday morning, described as a “corporate interference”, the pronouncement of the President that old N200 notes remain valid for 60 days while old N500 and N1,000 notes cease to be legal tender.

Ubani, a former NBA Vice President, said that the President’s intervention should have been to allow the apex court to resolve the matter and not cut short the process.

“The President has actually overruled the Supreme Court decision. That is what I understand by what the President said this morning,” Ubani said.

He further stated: “There was an interim order which says you should hold on until the Supreme Court look at the grievances made by the state because unfortunately many other states are joining the suit, and the Supreme Court saw the wisdom in giving room for other parties to join so that there will proper parties before going ahead to look at the issues on its merit and that was why there was an adjournment yesterday (Wednesday).

“But unfortunately, what the President has done this morning has actually ignored whatever is going on at the Supreme Court.

“When you say you will only allow old N200 to be in circulation, meaning that (old) N1000 and N500 notes are no longer legal tender,’ he said.

“My own understanding of what has taken place is that he has overruled the Supreme Court. He’s clearly not mindful of what is going on at the Supreme Court with what he has just done.”

According to Ubani, the President has not set a proper precedent because the international community is watching and won’t have confidence in the country’s democracy and judicial process.

In his words: “I am not too happy with what has happened this morning in terms of the President overruling the Supreme Court. I am not happy. We are not telling the world that we are practicing democracy. It is not a proper precedent. The world is watching us, the international community is watching us.

“If you cannot obey your court orders, how do you instill confidence in the international community to come into your country to make investments? In case there is any dispute, can there be a decision of the court that can be complied with within your country? We are not sending the right signal.”

In a similar vein, Wike said: “The Supreme Court having given an interim order, we should have waited for it. As far as I am concerned, it is a corporate interference which is not good for our system, for our democracy.”

The Rivers helmsman said that, though the naira redesign policy is allegedly targeted at some people, the timing and implementation were wrong.

Wike said that he thought the President would have obeyed the apex court of the land and not interfered.

“The highest court of the land has made a pronouncement. The Supreme Court has said do not do anything that will affect the use of the old naira note.
“I feel that (the President’s declaration) is not the proper thing and I am not happy,” he said.

The advisers of the President, according to the Governor, should have counselled him to respect Supreme Court order.

He added: “This also tells us how we do not respect or obey the rule of law. At this level, the advisers to Mr. President would have said, ‘This issue is subject to litigation and any step you take will one way or the other affect the Supreme Court’s (stance)’.”

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