Supreme Court says it is not a scapegoat, consolidates suits by 10 states on old Naira notes validity deadline; rises to resume shortly for further hearing, ruling


● Insists that matter will not be further adjourned

The Supreme Court on Wednesday consolidated the suits instituted by 10 state governments against the federal government challenging the implementation of the naira redesign.

At the last hearing on February 15, seven states joined the three initial states as co-plaintiffs, while Edo and Bayelsa states joined the Federal Government as co-defendants.

Anxiety and expectations are now high as the Supreme Court has just consolidated the suit at the ongoing hearing the suits this Wednesday morning.

The court, however, refused to join Abia State in the suit on the grounds that it came late with its originating summons.

All efforts by the Abia State Government to be joined in the suit were turned down and was ordered to present its case at a later date.

A motion for the consolidation was also argued by the Counsel for Rivers State, Emmanuel Ukala.

Moving the motion on notice, Ukala premised the consolidation request on the need for the suit to be heard without any hindrance since the matter bothered on the same issue.

The head of the 7-man panel, Justice John Okoro, granted the request and ordered consolidation of the ten suits into one.

Now, the plaintiffs in the suit are the Attorneys General (AGs) of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Katsina, Ogun, Cross River, Sokoto, and Lagos states while the defendants are the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), as well as the AGs of Bayelsa and Edo states.

Justice Okoro, while reacting to the approaches some lawyers adopted had said that the judiciary should not be made a scapegoat.

He warned that the way this suit was going, the judiciary would be made a scapegoat and had insisted that the court would hear the matter today and all contempt proceedings would be heard also today.

Okoro said that in the decision, the court would make appropriate pronouncements and people would know who the scapegoat was.

Reacting to a claim by one of the lawyers that he would have to contend with eight different processes which he had yet to file responses to, Justices and Okoro said that Plaintiffs’ processes wree essentially the same and if he respondsled to one, it was a response to the others.

They advised that he could adopt the filed one for the ones not filed.

Okoro, in response to another lawyer who said he neededxtimecto file a certain preliminary objection to some pricesses, said there was nothing there that he could not respond to today.

Counsel to Ogun State Babalola, SAN, had to, at another time, withdraw his point of order at the behest of Augie who said if he continued this way, Ogun State would be dropped from the case and the matter would proceed with the others.

Okoro ruled that court would rise to allow counsel peruse processes and prepare a response. Court will resume shortly for hearing and ruling in the matter.

Back Story

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had extended the deadline for the swap of old N200, N500, and N1,000 from January 31 to February 10 following complaints by many Nigerians but the Supreme Court, after a suit filed by the states, held that the Federal Government, the CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue on February 22.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a national broadcast last Thursday, directed the apex bank to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days — by April 10, 2023. He also said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.

There has been a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive, including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Umar Ganduje (Kano); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; and many stalwarts of the ruling APC have openly censured and faulted the President’s directive, arguing that it has not grounds because the case is before the apex court.

Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome have equally faulted the President’s move, saying he cannot overrule the apex court of the land.

Also, three State Governors- Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi have filed another suit against Malami, and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele over contempt of court and their alleged failure to comply with the Supreme Court order on the old naira notes. (With additional report by BarristerNg)

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