Amid the worsening naira crisis, the Supreme Court will today (Wednesday) resumes hearing on the old notes deadline suit between some state governments and the Federal Government even as Nigerians expect the apex court to give a favourable judgment that will ameliorate their suffering.
The Supreme Court had on February 8 restrained the Federal Government from implementing the February 10 deadline for swapping the old naira notes with new ones, but the Central Bank of Nigeria refused to shift the deadline.
The injunction was sequel to a suit filed by Zamfara, Kogi and Kaduna state governments against the Attorney-General of the Federation on February 3.
Other states including Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, Kano, Sokoto, Ogun and Cross River have also joined the suit as co-plaintiffs.
But the crisis between the governors and the federal government over the naira redesign initiative worsened last Thursday when President Muhammadu Buhari in his nationwide broadcast ignored the apex court order by extending the validity of the old N200 notes while insisting that the old N500 and N1,000 remained illegal.
Buhari further stated that the old N200 note would be legal tender till April 10, 2023, while urging Nigerians to deposit their old N500 and 1000 notes with the central bank.
Insisting on the order of the apex court, the governments of Kaduna, Ogun and Sokoto states, however, said the people in their states should continue to use the old naira notes as legal tender until the Supreme Court delivered its final pronouncement on the case pending before it.
On Sunday, the All Progressives Congress National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the National Working Committee of the party met with 12 APC governors and in a communique after the meeting admonished the CBN and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to comply with the order of the apex court.
No fewer than 15 persons have died in protests provoked by the shortage of new naira notes across the country.
Also, at least 12 states have witnessed protests as a result of the policy.
A fresh proceeding was filed before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
During the last sitting on the matter on February 15, the lawyer to the plaintiffs, Abdulhakeem Mustapha, accused the Federal Government and its agencies of flouting the court order.
Mustapha said his clients had since filed a notice of non-compliance with the order of the court and demanded that the apex court take action against the AGF to protect the dignity of the court.
“That order has been flouted by the government. We are talking of executive lawlessness here. We have filed an affidavit to that effect”, Mustapha said.
The forms filed by the team of lawyers representing the three states are now part of the applications awaiting the Supreme Court’s consideration as proceedings resume on Wednesday.
In the fresh documents filed before the Supreme Court, the three states which are the original plaintiffs in the suit cautioned the AGF and Emefiele about the consequences of their continued failure to comply with the apex court’s order made on February 8.
According to findings, two sets of Form 48-one directed at the AGF and the other at Emefiele were issued by the Chief Registrar of the apex court following an application by the team of lawyers representing the three states.
The issuance of Form 48 on a party believed to have flouted an order of the court is the first stage in the commencement of contempt proceedings.
The form which provides notice of the consequence of flouting the court order could be followed with the issuance of Form 49 if the contemnor does not repent.
Form 48 dated February 15 read: “Take notice that unless you obey the direction contained in the attached Order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered on the 8th day of February 2023, you will be guilty of contempt of Court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”
Against this background, the Ondo State Government has said it is waiting for the judgment of the Supreme Court on the pending suit.
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Charles Titiloye, said, “The Supreme Court would sit on all the cases tomorrow ( Wednesday) and pronounce its judgment. The Supreme Court has the power to give judgment and give details later.”
Meanwhile, indications emerged on Tuesday that banks can collect the old notes till April 10.
Though the CBN recently threw depositors into confusion as it gave conflicting orders on the deposit of old N1,000 and N500 notes.
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