Nigeria: 10 States Drag Federal Govt to Court Over Naira Swap Policy

19 February 2023

Ten states in the country have asked the Supreme Court to set aside the ban by President Muhammadu Buhari on use of the old N500 and N1,000 notes as legal tenders.

The states, in suit No SC/CV/162/2023, filed on their behalf by Mr Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), want the apex court to declare the president's directives in his Thursday broadcast as unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs in the suit are the attorneys-general 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.

The plaintiffs, in 12 grounds of application, argued that Buhari's directive extending the validity of old N200 notes for 60 days and his ban on old N500 and N1,000 notes are an "unconstitutional overreach and usurpation of the judicial power" of the Supreme Court being that the case is already before the court.

Counsel for the applicants cited Section 232(1), Section 6(6)(b) and Section 287(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which includes the protection of the Supreme Court's dignity and which ensure compliance with its orders by all persons and authorities.

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 an initial suit filed by the 10 states, held that the federal government, the CBN and commercial banks must not continue with the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue on February 22.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said not all the operations for the conduct of the February 25 and March 11 general elections require the use of physical cash.

Yakubu allayed concerns bothering on the unavailability of cash yesterday in Abuja after a tour of the training centre for INEC's ad-hoc staff or presiding officers and inspection of facilities at the national collation centre at the International Conference Centre (ICC).

There have been concerns that this year's general elections may be postponed or suffer glitches due to cash crunch in the wake of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) naira redesign policy.

This prompted Yakubu to lead a delegation of the management of the commission to the CBN headquarters, where CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele assured the commission of the required cash for the elections.

"We visited the CBN last week on the issue of cash for payment of some of the services, not all, some of the services that we are going to engage on election day.

"The bulk of payment for goods and services is made through electronic transfer. But there are certain critical services that will be remunerated by cash; and that's why we went to the CBN and it's a small percentage of the budget.

"The Central Bank has assured us that we will not suffer any encumbrances in that regard. So there are no issues with respect to that," he said.

The INEC boss added that the commission is ready to conduct the presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday, February 25.

Yakubu, who expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far, assured that by this time next week, Nigerians would be voting in over 176,000 polling units in the presidential and National Assembly elections.

He also said the choice made by Nigerians for the next president of the country would also be announced at the ICC Abuja.

On the security situation in the country, he said protests over cash crunch is a security matter which would be discussed with security agencies.

He said the commission had been given assurances by security agencies of their readiness to secure polling environments across the country.

He said, "As you know, we have our own role clearly cut out and others also have their own roles clearly cut out, but the most important thing is that we're working together, and the security agencies have assured us that they will secure the environment for elections to vote peacefully nationwide. So, we have no issues in that respect."

The INEC boss also said the National Peace Committee (NPC) led by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), would undertake the signing of the peace accord on Wednesday at the ICC ahead of the Saturday elections.

Speaking on logistics and other processes leading to the election, he said the commission was good to go as far as transportation and movement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials were concerned.

He said, "While we'll deploy our platforms, we call it citizens' contact centre, where citizens can ask questions, respond to issues or challenges in the field, and will be able to in turn, also respond speedily to give citizens a happy voting experience.

"So this is basically what we have for the media. There will be a place earmarked for those who wish to set up studios to be able to do so. And those of you who wish to bring your outside broadcasting bands will also accredit to bring your outside broadcasting vans."

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