Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, yesterday, dismissed insinuations that President Muhammadu Buhari acted in breach of the Supreme Court order on the currency swap case instituted by some governors.
Malami, who spoke to newsmen at the State House, Abuja, stated that Buhari did not in any way act in breach on the case instituted at the Supreme Court by some governors over the naira swap deadline.
He said as far as the rule of law was concerned, there were many options available.
Buhari had on Thursday, February 16, 2023, in a national broadcast, directed the CBN to re-circulate the old N200 denomination of the naira, thereby extending the validity of the notes for another 60 days to April 10 2023.
The President’s broadcast and exclusion of the N1000 and N500 notes in his directive had since generated controversy among the public, especially, lawyers, who differed on whether or not the administration breached the Supreme Court order.
Reacting, Malami said considering the fact that the matter was still in litigation and the fact that their were options to government under the rule of law, the administration was not in breach of the apex court order.
“Your question can best be answered within the context of what constitutes a rule of law in the Nigerian situation. Where an order is made by a court, you have multiple options, but let me state before even addressing the issue of the options available at our disposal as a government.
“The fact, clearly, is that we are not in breach of any order made by the court, inclusive of any order associated with the naira redesign. We are not in breach. I believe I’m not a banker, but you have not gone to establish which bank is it that you have gone to present a N1000 or N500 notes that has been rejected. So we are not in breach.
“But then, assuming we are in breach, the fact remains that this matter is sub-judice, as you rightly know. It’s being contested before the Supreme Court and when an order is made, you have multiple options within the context of the rule of law.
“One, you are entitled as a matter of right, if the facts and evidence support your position, to apply for setting it aside. The position of the law, legal jurisprudence is clear, once you are attacking and you are seeking a setting aside of an existing order of the court, cannot be said to be operating in breach when you presented your application for setting aside.
“If the court is not an apex court, you equally have a right of appeal and support the right of appeal with an application for stay of execution order. So, the bottom line of what I’m trying to state, if the matter is sub-judice and within the context of the rule of law, we are doing the needful as a government, in terms of ensuring that the right of the government, within the context of the naira redesign, is being protected. So, we are not in breach.”
This, nonetheless, some governors including Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State had openly denigrated the naira policy, asking their citizens not to comply with the expiration of the legality of the old N500 and N1000 notes.
The two governors were among those who went to the Supreme Court to stop the February 10 deadline given by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, from ceasing to recognise the N500 and N1000 naira notes as legal tender.
However, fielding question on the insinuation in some quarters that the utterances of the governors were tantamount to treason, the AGF affirmed that investigation could not be ruled out, and that the relevant security agencies would determine if there would be need for further action.
Malami stressed the importance of the redesign policy, which he said would enable citizens to assume collective ownership of the electoral system rather than allowing a few moneybags to take charge, adding that, the policy was designed to allow freedom of choice and also fight corruption.
On the benefits of electoral reforms, the AGF said it was only the President Muhammadu Buhari administration that had exercised the political will to enhance democratic practice through legislative, political and administrative interventions.
He said the reason behind the recent naira redesign policy was to ensure that Nigerians effectively take ownership of their election processes by way of ensuring that no foreign funds were allowed to influence the people’s decision in terms of ownership and by way of limiting the contributions by Nigerians in political parties.
The AGF said the policy was not to allow money to play a prominent role in affecting freedom of judgment of Nigerians, but that the naira redesign has a lot of advantages associated with the fight against corruption in terms of design visibility and transparency.
His words: “Advantages associated with sustenance and allowing the freedom of the people of Nigerians to prevail, freedom devoid of monetary inducement and intervention is equally part of it.
“But then on the issue relating to the open rebellion in view of the fact that the sizable portion of such considerations constitute the subject matter of litigation before the Supreme Court. But above all, as you rightly know, you equally raised the issue of treason or certain order associated with it. These issues are usually issues that are issues of forces.
“So you cannot rule out the possibility of investigation but the responsibility of investigation and doing the needful arising from the weight and assessment of the implications of the statements is the responsibility of the security agencies and I believe they are doing the needful in that effect to determine whether there is need for further action.
“Actions associated with investigations as to what other measures need to be taken in case it is their conclusion that there is the need for actions to be taken related to the utterances made. So, that is the best I can say on that rebellion.”
He said the idea of prosecution is something that should be understood and that it is the vilification of corruption that has now been translated to have in front and at the disposal of government.
“I thought it’s the benefit and visibility that can be used in the infrastructure and development of 200 million Nigerians. that matters to the demand of an individual that has perhaps illegitimately or unlawfully or fraudulently acquired N200 billion and he now sets aside N100 billion because he has greater voice speaking that we have to obey the rule of law.
“Then we now submit to the interest of an individual over and above the national interest that will support us in ensuring deepening democracy, in ensuring having in place a corrupt free society, in ensuring having in place resources that can now translate into infrastructure.
“So, it is about a few, limited number for that matter that has succeeded in having at their disposal resources that they are protecting and then forcing a compromise on a policy that is beneficial to 200 million Nigerians. Our interest is not a fraction of the whole,” he said.