After hearing reasons in favor of and against the naira redesign lawsuit on Wednesday, the Supreme Court postponed the case for judgment.
The Supreme Court set the date for its decision on the lawsuits brought by some state governments contesting the federal government’s naira reform policy on Wednesday, March 3.
According to John Okoro, the presiding justice of a seven-member Supreme Court panel, “all the cases adjourned until 3 March for judgment.”
The lawsuit for judgment was put on hold after Mr. Okoro’s panel heard reasons for and against it on Wednesday. More than three hours were spent on the proceedings.
The date of judgment is approximately one week after the Saturday (25 February) presidential election in Nigeria and one week before the 11 March state elections.
The contentious monetary policy, which has caused a cash crunch across the nation and put millions of Nigerians through hardship, has been a significant issue in the run-up to the election on Saturday.
Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APCpresidential )’s candidate, claimed that he was the target of the policy that President Buhari, the party’s leader, fiercely supports.
However, since the decision in the case has been postponed until March 3, there won’t be a court decision regarding the monetary policy before this coming Saturday’s election.
The federal government’s naira redesign policy is being challenged in the lawsuit, which some state governments submitted on February 3.
With President Muhammadu Buhari’s blessing, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revealed the policy late last year, introducing newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 notes. By February 10th, it aimed to stop the usage of the previous forms.
A seven-member court panel issued an interim ruling suspending the deadline for the expiration of the old banknotes on February 8, two days before the deadline.
In addition, the court mandated that, awaiting further proceedings in the case, the old N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes should continue to circulate alongside their newly redesigned counterparts.
In addition, the court mandated that, awaiting further proceedings in the case, the old N200, N500, and N1000 banknotes should circulate alongside their newly redesigned counterparts.
However, Mr. Buhari announced in a national broadcast on February 16 that only the old N200 currency notes would stay valid and that the old N500 and N1,000 currency notes had ceased to be legal tender, which was a direct affront to the Supreme Court.
16 new claimants have been added
The 16 states now on the list of plaintiffs include: the original plaintiffs – Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara – and the seven that were joined on 15 February – Cross River, Sokoto, Lagos, Ogun, Katsina, Ondo, and Ekiti states.
The rest are the six others that were joined on Wednesday – Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Jigawa, Rivers and Abia states.
After six additional states joined the plaintiffs at the hearings on Wednesday, there are now 16 plaintiffs.
The lawsuit was first brought on 3 February by the states of Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara in an effort to overturn the limit of 10 February set for the expiration of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes.
However, the number of plaintiffs increased to 10, with seven additional parties joining them at the prior sitting on February 15.
The 16 states that are currently listed as plaintiffs include the three initial plaintiffs—Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara—as well as the seven states—Cross River, Sokoto, Lagos, Ogun, Katsina, Ondo, and Ekiti—that joined on February 15th.
The remaining six states are Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Jigawa, Rivers, and Abia. They entered on Wednesday.
Separate lawsuits from the states of Rivers and Abia were combined with the primary one.
The central government, two additional states, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, are the defendants in the lawsuit. These parties were added as co-defendants on February 15 at their request.
Edo and Bayelsa are the two states.
Through their various attorneys, the plaintiffs made the same points and urged the Supreme Court to grant their requests on Wednesday.
The Kano State government, represented by Musa Sanusi, pleaded with the Supreme Court to change the monetary policy in its case against the federal government.
“There are security concerns that if the naira redesign policy is not reversed, there might be breakdown of law and order due to the hardship it has brought on the citizens,” Mr. Sanusi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told the court.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, and Attorney-General of Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo, both SANs, made the claim that Mr. Buhari had broken the court’s ruling in a broadcast on February 16.
However, Kanu Agabi, a senior attorney general for the federal government, claimed that “the president only interfered in the (currency) crisis by requesting Nigerians to deposit the old naira notes with the CBN.”
Before Mr. Buhari made his national broadcast on February 16 ordering the CBN to recirculate the old N200 notes, Mr. Agabi, a former Attorney-General of the Federation, claimed that Nigerians were already rejecting the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes.
The defense attorney argued that Mr. Buhari was not in fact disrespecting the judge.
The court postponed the case’s resolution until 3 March after hearing from all of the parties’ attorneys.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its commitment to upholding justice in the case.
On Wednesday, when the case was discussed, Mr. Okoro, the presiding justice of the court’s seven-person panel, declared passionately that “everyone is searching for a scapegoat.”
“This court will not continue to be a scapegoat,” the presiding justice informed Lagos State Attorney-General, Moyosore Onigbanjo, when he drew the court’s attention to President Buhari’s violation of its order halting the monetary policy.
“We’ll hear this case, then make a judgment. The (Nigerian) populace can then determine who should be the scapegoat, according to Mr. Okoro, who was ostensibly alluding to the culture in Nigeria that encourages disregard for court orders.
In response to the obstinate Lagos Attorney-General who was asserting that the federal government “has no right of audience before the court for being disobedient to its order” of 8 February, a member of the court’s panel, Amina Augie, roared, “We will gear this case today.”
Until the defendants or their principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, in this matter complies with the order made by this court on February 8th, directing that old 200, 500, and 1000 banknotes remain legal tender pending the outcome of this suit, we seek an order prohibiting the defendants from being granted audience before this court, Mr. Onigbanjo said.