A lawyer and human rights activist, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, says the presidency has not disobeyed the Supreme Court order, which stated that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes are still legal tender.
The PUNCH reports that the Supreme Court had on Wednesday, affirmed the validity of the old notes, maintaining that the hearing on February 8 which paused the implementation of the February 10 deadline on the use of the old naira notes still subsisted.
Reactions had trailed the insistence of the CBN that the February 10 deadline remained, with many calling on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the Governor of the Central bank, Godwin Emefiele, to obey the order of the apex court.
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But speaking during an interview on Thursday evening, on The Verdict 2023, a programme aired on Channels Television, Odinkalu said neither the President nor the CBN governor disobeyed the orders of the court, adding that the authority of the country’s currency outweighed the matter.
“The Supreme Court to the best of my knowledge, has not said what people are meaning (and) presenting it as having said. Because, that is not a policy of the court, it’s a misplacement of the capabilities and assets of a court for it to get to that kind of thing. I suspect what the Supreme Court has said is preserve the status quo ante until we hear the case, status quo antebellum, which is what the thing was before the onset of litigation.
“Now, the question then becomes, what was the status quo antebellum that you are trying to preserve? And this is where the laziness of the judicial system as well as the limitations of law actually come to full view, because status quo antebellum actually, was the Central Bank circular on exactly when this thing should stop. I suspect this is the advise the President got, he has not breached anything.”
The former chairman of Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission, also explained that by the same logic, the President had not gone against the law by stating that the old N200 be recirculated into the system, adding that a currency system “cannot not be legislated or brought into existence by a court.”
Odinkalu, also said that actions and orders of governors, countering the President’s order on the policy amounted to treason, adding that they could not ask the President to yield authority on currency systems.
“The core of a government’s credibility, national or international is three things; defence and security, foreign affairs and currency. On this matter, I think President Buhari is fighting for the last thing a government should fight for, and on that, he is well within his rights to do so.
“I don’t think it is proper for state governors to go around, issue orders countermanding a President on exactly the thing that a central government cannot negotiate – money and currency. And quite frankly, what the governors are doing in this matter, verges on treason. You cannot be telling a President to yield up his authority over currency systems, that is not negotiable at all. These are the people who quarrel Nnamdi Kanu, and they are going ahead to do the same thing? I’m sorry, that is not negotiable”.