Old naira notes: Buhari didn’t disobey Supreme Court – Fashola

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Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, minister of works and housing, has argued that the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on old naira notes is not a direct affront to Supreme Court, which had temporarily halted the move to ban the old currencies by February 10, 2023.

Speaking on Television Continental, the former Lagos State governor maintained that the president only took the step to help ameliorate the pains of Nigerians who were becoming the unintended victims of the policy.

Fashola explained, “Let me say that in a democracy where there is a right to speak freely, there’s bound to be divergence of views, as you have had. But I think that the principle about respecting and awaiting the outcome of a court decision sometimes has been stretched, if I may use that word.

“There is also a lot of jurisprudence and scholarship about the boundaries of contempt in actions done and in things said. If I shut the door on your finger, and you went to court to say that the court should direct me to remove or open the door, do I say let’s wait for the outcome of court decision when you are in pain, and people are in pain?

“The question to ask is if I attempt to open that door, would you, the person in pain, say I was acting in contempt or would you gladly have me open the door and then go back to the court and say the matter we have resolved it?

“And that is another angle to look at this thing because I think that whatever interventions the president sought to make were interventions in response to the very palpable pain and I think he said that much in his speech about the unintended consequences of the policy.”

Noting that his argument should not be misunderstood for misbehaviour while a case was pending in court, Fashola stated that the conversation around the matter had helped enrich Nigeria’s democracy. He explained that it had also shown the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, and others that had spoken up as people of courage who would not sit in their comfort zones when the people were suffering.

Fashola said the fact that recent central bank governors in Nigeria tended to get into trouble close to elections should spur a review of the system to look at how political the apex bank had become. He stressed that although the central bank had a right to implement the current naira redesign policy, some of the reasons adduced by the bank were outside the law.

“So the question to then ask is, has a law been used for a policy seeking to achieve an objective that is not within the law? And this is an invitation to parliament and I think this is the time to step up and say, has our politics left our central banking-related laws behind?” he said.

“The minister argued that what happened was a mop-up of Nigeria’s currency and not a swap, arguing that the central bank may not have expected the outcome.“It seems to me that the central bank does not intend or contemplate a mop-up policy, it actually contemplates in my view, a swap of notes,” he added, pointing out that the central bank may have overreached itself.

Fashola said Nigeria changed notes some 15 years ago, stressing that it did not cause this much pain, but wondered why the present case was causing untold hardship. He stated that the current development might negatively affect the banking system in Nigeria. He said everyone must work together to ensure that the effect on the banks were mitigated.

Recall that Festus Keyamo, who is spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, had in an interview on Channels Television, said the president was wrongly advised to make the pronouncement in a nationwide broadcast.

According to Keyamo, although Buhari had good intentions for the naira redesign policy, he was wrongly advised.

He had also said he would have advised the president to comply with the Supreme Court order, which was to recirculate all the old notes until they decide on the matter.“My view is that the president acted honestly, without intention to slight the Supreme Court, but he may have acted on wrong advice. I did not give that advice, it’s not my responsibility. I do not know who gave that advice.

“In his speech, he acknowledged that there were certain matters in court. So, he thought he was playing safe by saying okay, before you decide these matters in court, may I just provide some middle ground, so that the country is burning, there are riots everywhere, so let me just try and provide some succour for people, whilst acknowledging the matters are in court.

“Now, if I were to advise him, I would have advised differently. I would have advised him to comply with the terms of the order of the Supreme Court. All the notes should circulate for now, all the notes. All the old notes should circulate side by side with the new notes for now, because that is the order of the Supreme Court,” he had said.

According to him, the matter was not discussed at the Federal Executive Council.

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