I was enjoying watching the whole drama surrounding the new naira notes from the side line wishing I would not have to comment at all on it. After a while, seeing how people are putting different spins on this, I decided to say a thing or two; even if it won’t convince anyone, it should in the least show that I picked a side.
First, I feel this policy is ill-time and badly executed. I am 100% in support of the CBN exercising her full rights as far as it is within the confines of the rights established in the CBN Act.
It is ill-timed because this is the first time I would see the swap of currency done in such a short period. What I have seen is a gradual mop-up of these old notes. Once they get into the bank, they don’t go out.
It is badly executed because, for a country where basic day-to-day services still depend on cash transactions, I find it distasteful that the apex bank would think this is how to ‘enforce’ cashless policy. I also don’t see any sense in how anyone could even think of cashless policy in a country where the infrastructure for such is almost inadequate. Plus, did CBN even circulate enough of these new notes?
I don’t intend to excuse the madness and complications introduced by commercial bank workers who decided to cash in on this confusion by selling new notes instead of making same available to the people.
Right, that is a summary of how I feel about the ongoing imbroglio. I stand with the people and I pray and hope things get better as quickly as they can.
That said, I feel uneasy that it is looking like some governors are pretending to stand on the same side of the barricade as I and most Nigerians are. How nice that governors for once, stand with the people? The people they rob blind, rape and oppress.
Before I dive deeper, please be informed that I am not a trained lawyer nor do I have any serious legal background save special electives in Law back in the university days. I have however made effort to pick the brains of trained lawyers to help me further understand what is going on here. Below are few things I need you to know from the onset:
What laws established the CBN:
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was established by the Central Bank of Nigeria Act of 1958, which was later amended in 1991, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2007, and 2018. The CBN Act is the principal law that governs the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria, defines its objectives, powers, and functions, and establishes its governing structure.
The CBN Act is a federal law, and it was enacted by the National Assembly of Nigeria. This Act has undergone several amendments over the years to reflect changing economic conditions and to enhance the effectiveness of the Central Bank in carrying out its mandate of promoting monetary and price stability, fostering the soundness and stability of the financial system, and promoting the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.
I am quoting this freely and not necessarily suggesting the CBN has done any of this so well. As a matter of fact, I intend to suggest the apex bank has failed for the most part as far as these laid down roles are concerned.
What power does the Nigerian President, President Buhari, have over the CBN:
As per the Central Bank of Nigeria Act of 2007, the President of Nigeria does not have the power to sack the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) except in cases where the Governor has been found guilty of gross misconduct, as determined by the Nigerian Senate. In such cases, the President can only remove the Governor with the approval of two-thirds majority of the Senate.
The CBN Act also provides for the appointment and removal of other members of the CBN Board, including the Deputy Governors, by the President, with the approval of the Senate. However, the Governor of the CBN is appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate, and can only be removed from office by the President in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
This is an issue that should and must be understood to have a fair idea of why I am holding this position. Before now, I can recall a couple of times that I feel a sensible Senate should have advised the President to sack the CBN governor with a promise that there is a standing two thirds ready to sign off on his immediate sack.
It’s worth noting that the independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria is crucial to its effectiveness in carrying out its mandate. The CBN Act provides for the autonomy of the CBN and its Board in the exercise of their powers and functions, to ensure that they are not subject to undue political influence or interference.
Finally, why did the governors approach the Supreme Court:
The Nigerian Constitution provides for the principle of separation of powers between the Federal Government and the State Governments, and it also provides for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in resolving disputes between the two levels of government.
According to Section 232 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine any dispute between the Federal Government and a State Government, or between State Governments, if and only if the dispute involves any question of law or fact on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.
This means that Governors of Nigerian States can drag the Federal Government of Nigeria before the Supreme Court if there is a dispute between them on a matter of law or fact that affects the legal rights of either party. Such a dispute can arise from issues such as revenue sharing, constitutional interpretation, or any matter relating to the exercise of powers and functions by either the Federal or State Government.
It’s important to note, however, that before a Governor or a State Government can take a dispute to the Supreme Court, they must have exhausted all available avenues for resolving the dispute, including mediation, arbitration, or other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, as provided for by law.
The above would explain why the governors rushed to the Supreme Court and out of good legal guidance, they did not join CBN in the suit. If they did, the Supreme Court, SC, would have thrown it out immediately ask the governors to approach a lower court, say, the Federal High Court.
The NGF had filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government on the 3rd of February 2022 praying for an order restraining the CBN from ending the use of the old currency notes on 10 February as set by the apex bank. Before going further, and I would love to discuss this again, it does not make any sense to me that you will be dragging the FG before an apex court, over the action of an autonomous outfit, CBN, in this case.
Anyway, that was the prayer before the SC. What is absolutely interesting is what the cited as their reasons for this once-in-a-life-time move; “the sufferings the scarcity of the newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 bank notes had brought upon many Nigerians.”
The SC, in her respected wisdom, decided to grant an order of interim injunction halting the plan by the CBN to end the use of the old banknotes as scheduled i.e. February 10, 2023 and set February 15th as the date to hear the main case.
Before February 15th, other governors decided to jump on the suit which naturally makes the SC push the hearing date forward and also, somehow, technically, keeping the injunction alive. Meaning that, there should be a stay of action as far as the February 10 deadline cut-off date is concerned. I would like to know if there are other actions that have to be put on hold. Don’t forget, the parties in the said suit are some state governors and the FG.
All of a sudden, the same governors who have dragged the FG to court are going about telling people in their respective state to disregard the order of the CBN as far as the old notes are concerned and keep their monies. For context, the governor of Kaduna, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, told his people to keep their old currencies and promised amongst other things that if Tinubu becomes President, the policy would be reversed and their monies would remain legal tender. This is way reckless and irresponsible for two reasons.
One, the governor cannot assume the role of the enforcer of the judgement of the SC; that is even if there was one.
Second, no governor has the power to determine what the legal tender is in Nigeria. The issue of currency is way above the reach and paygrade of a state governor. So, El-Rufai technically lied to his people just to project fake confidence and his premise is just as risky as it could get.
As far as the issue of contempt is, I strongly feel the CBN governor, Godwin Emiefele is not guilty of any and I may be wrong. Is President Buhari is in this case? I also don’t think so as well and here is why.
Let me also quickly add here that President Buhari over time has displayed his penchant for disregarding court rulings whenever it does not appeal to his taste and one of his greatest fanboys is El-Rufai. Now both are suffering the consequence of something they used to like. The best he is able to do in this case is tell Emiefele to halt his plans and nothing more. Emiefele may and may not take the words of the President into action and if the President is not happy about this, it is within his right to initiate a move to remove the CBN governor. This process is clearly laid down on the constitution.
To summarize this, Buhari’s demonstration of respecting the court order is to the extent that he tells, not direct, Emiefele to halt and it would suffice to show a letter directed to the CBN governor stating this. If Emiefele in his judgement as the governor of the CBN feels halting would be injurious to the economy of the country, it is within his right as protected by the autonomy he enjoys, to refuse to do as the President says. The President can then in turn, ask that he be fired going through the National assembly.
It therefore looks to me like the President , like the governors are well aware of what the true position of things are and they have just decided to, as usual, score as much political goal as they possibly can.
It is funny that after 8 years of abysmal performance, President Buhari somehow thinks this currency swap and whatever gains he thinks it comes with would put him in a good space in the hearts of the Nigerian people. I have no doubt he is going down as one of the worst presidents Nigeria ever had.
It is in the same breadth disgusting, that state governors are trying to suggest that they are doing this for the Nigerian people. This is total falsehood. There have been periods and instances where Nigerians wanted the governors to stand in their defense and they never did. I am also so certain that once these elections are over, they will return to the usual Czar posture where we, as a people, don’t matter anymore.
The unfortunate implication of this is the untold and unnecessary hardship Nigerians have to deal with and this hardship, instead of being attended to, is being used as a political firepower.
We are back to the proverbial grass that suffers when two elephants fight. In this case, two senseless elephants.
I hope we are able to take a stand as a people against these individuals and let our understanding of our troubles properly guide who we vote for.
Of course, there is no guarantee we are going to have a messiah but we have an opportunity to put a stop to this madness.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.