Senior lawyers yesterday urged the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to comply with the Supreme Court judgment of last Friday.
They warned that not obeying the order would amount to contempt of court and further cast the government and officials as showing disregard for the rule of law.
The Supreme Court held that the old naira notes would remain valid until December 31 and that the old N200, N500 and N1,000 will co-exist with the new ones.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) Seyi Sowemimo, Babatunde Fashanu, Chino Obiagwu, Kunle Adegoke, Wahab Shittu and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa said the judgment must be complied with.
According to Sowemimo, the Federal Government and CBN were bound to obey the judgment.
He said: “I don’t think any of them – the CBN or Federal Government – has a choice in the matter.
“They were represented in court and the Supreme Court has given a final decision.
“The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and that being so, that is the final decision.
“If they want to observe the rule of law, then they have no choice but to comply with the decision.”
He dismissed the claim by the Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami (SAN) that he could not advise the CBN on monetary policy.
Sowemimo believes Malami was duty-bound to advise the government to comply with the judgment.
He said: “The Attorney-General himself ought to know that he does not have a choice but to advise the Federal Government to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court.
“It’s a clear-cut decision. There shouldn’t be any argument about it.
“It’s too late to say it is an economic policy and you cannot advise on it; it is the legal aspect of it that went to court concerning whether they were within their rights to impose or implement that sort of policy without the necessary consultations.
“The Supreme Court has said no, they acted unlawfully.
“The AGF does not have much of a choice in the matter anymore; his duty is to advise the government to comply.”
Fashanu said it was the duty of the AGF to advise the Federal Government to obey the Supreme Court judgment.
“When the Supreme Court gives an order, it must be obeyed by the parties it is directed against.
“It is a dereliction of duty for the AGF to be talking of monetary policy when the Supreme Court has laid down what is to be done.
“This is a tendency towards anarchy and it is unfortunate,” the SAN said.
Obiagwu expressed similar views, noting that the Supreme Court “is a policy court.”
“It has given a decision that is a policy that went beyond the law. Nobody has a right to pick and choose which judgment of the Supreme Court to obey or not to obey,” the SAN said.
He warned that the Attorney-General and CBN officials could face sanctions for failing to comply.
Obiagwu said: “Once the apex court has made that decision, the CBN must comply. If it doesn’t, it can be cited for contempt.
“The Attorney-General has no right to pick and choose or to advise the government on which judgment of the Supreme Court to obey or not.
“It’s the final judgement; they don’t have any right to disobey it.
“If they do, there are consequences and we at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) are ready to make sure that any executive recklessness is brought to justice.
“Remember that the Supreme Court reprimanded the Federal Government for disobeying its interim orders. Justice Emmanuel Agim clearly stated that this was unacceptable in a democracy.
“If the Federal Government goes ahead to restrict the old notes contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court, there will be consequences, including on the AGF, because we have historical records of AGFs being cited for contempt.”
Adegoke reiterated that the Federal Government was bound to comply with the order.
He said: “On the new naira note issue, the Supreme Court, the final court in the land, has given its decision.
“It is obligatory on all institutions, the presidency, the office of the AGF, the CBN, to obey the decision of the Supreme Court. That is not only the final court, it is the highest court from which there is no appeal.
“The Supreme Court, having given its decision, is now mandatory in line with the constitution for all institutions to implement the decision to the letter.
“There is no option for anyone of them to say it is even deliberating on it. The next thing is to implement it.
“The old naira notes, together with the new naira notes, have to co-exist till 31st December 2023 in line with the decision.
“That would give sufficient time to the CBN to be able to issue sufficient new naira notes to be in circulation to replace the old notes.
“There is no option about the decision of the Supreme Court. There is no choice to choose whether to obey or not to obey.”
Shittu said anyone who disobeys the order should be cited for contempt.
The SAN said: “The Supreme Court is the ‘uncommanded commander’. Once it sneezes, the country catches a cold. Once it makes a pronouncement, it takes immediate effect.
“The order of the Supreme Court does not require any other authority, including CBN’s directive, for immediate compliance.
“Anyone standing in the way of the implementation of Supreme Court order should be immediately arrested, cited for contempt and taken to prison.”
Adegboruwa described the judgment as “a courageous confirmation of the sanctity of the rule of law and due process”.
He added: “It is a soothing relief from the hardship that Nigerians have been subjected to, over the past few weeks, on account of this rather thoughtless policy.
“The court should always be the platform for the resolution of all disputes by all aggrieved persons.
“I salute the sagacity and courage of the justices of the Supreme Court for rising up to rescue Nigerians from the pangs of death, frustration and looming economic recession.
“As there is no room for further appeal against the judgment of the Supreme Court, I urge the President to immediately direct the CBN to comply fully with the judgment of the Supreme Court, as stated under Section 287(1) of the Constitution and allow all the N200, N500 and N1000 old notes to be circulating along with the naira new notes till December 23, 2023.
“Across all our land, there will joy in many homes, businesses will bounce back and Nigerians will find cause to celebrate their freedom from all forms of dictatorship and arbitrariness.”
Also, a senior lawyer, Dr Fassy Yusuf, said there was the need for President Buhari to obey the judgment.
To him, the President’s silence was worrisome, adding: “Were it to be the other way, they would have expeditiously hailed the judgment.”
He disagreed with Malami’s claim of being unable to advise on monetary policies.
He said: “The unusual silence of the Presidency and the AGF to the judgment on the ill-conceived and callously executed currency ‘colourisation’ is worrisome and befuddling.
“The outgoing administration should be prepared for a titanic battle with the third arm of government, especially from the NBA.
“President Buhari should know that arbitrariness is not part of democracy. His government cannot decide the judgment it would obey.”
Dr Yusuf urged those close to the corridors of power to advise President Buhari to give immediate effect to the landmark judgment to prevent anarchy from taking over the land.
“Enough of economic and social strangulation.
“Meanwhile, in a sane country, the AGF and CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele would have resigned or should have been booted out.
“Here we are. They are pretending as if nothing has happened!
“The damage caused to the country and the psyche of our people can never be fully quantified. A stitch in time saves nine.”