Saturday, September 30, 2023

Chidi Odinkalu: Buhari didn’t disobey court; FG can’t negotiate naira policy with states

Lawyer and human rights advocate Chidi Odinkalu claims that the federal government cannot bargain with states over national currency policies.

In an interview with Channels Television on Thursday, Odinkalu added that a court lacks the authority to issue orders about a nation’s monetary policy.

President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday that he had instructed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to extend the expiration date of the old N200 notes till April 10.

The old N1,000 and N500 notes will be redeemed at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and authorized locations for 60 days, according to the president.

The Supreme Court had ruled that the notes were lawful tender before the president’s order and until the outcome of the lawsuit brought by several state governments.

Several responses have been sparked by the president’s directive.

In response to the incident, Odinkalu stated that Buhari did not violate the rulings of the supreme court and added that some state governors’ actions in defiance of the president’s order amount to “treason”.

“The supreme court, to the best of my knowledge, has not said what people are presenting it to have said, because that is not the province of a court. It is a misplacement of the capabilities and assets of a court for it to get to that kind of thing,” he said.

“I suspect what the supreme court has said is ‘preserve the status quo ante until we hear the case’ — status quo antebellum, which is what the thing was before the onset of litigation.

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“Now, the question then becomes what was the status quo antebellum that you are trying to preserve?

“And this is where the laziness of the judicial system, as well as the limitations of the law, actually come to full view because status quo antebellum actually, was the central bank circular on exactly when this thing should stop. I suspect this is the advice the president got. He has not breached anything.

“A currency system cannot be legislated or ordered into existence by a court and every court has to be careful about how it uses or abuses its authority and competence.

“A currency system is a promise backed up by the guarantee of a central bank, which is such basis of monetary economics.

“If the central bank that guarantees a monetary system withdraws its support, you cannot legislate that into existence because the trust that backed up that monetary system has collapsed. One million supreme court orders will not bring into existence a currency system that has lost legitimacy.

“The core of a government’s credibility, national or international, is three things — defence and security, foreign affairs, and currency.

“On this matter, I think President Buhari is fighting for the last thing a government should fight for, and on that, he is well within his rights to do so.

“I don’t think it is proper for state governors to go around, issue orders countermanding a president on exactly the thing that a central government cannot negotiate — money and currency.

“And quite frankly, what the governors are doing in this matter, verges on treason. You cannot be telling a president to yield up his authority over currency systems. That is not negotiable at all.”

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