I agree with the objection filed by the A.G.F, Abubakar Malami, SAN, challenging the competence of the suit filed by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara State on the new Naira notes. The Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction under Section 232 of the Constitution, shouldn’t be invoked in this case.
We shouldn’t bastardise the legal system, due to political expediency. For the Supreme Court to have original jurisdiction, there must be a dispute between the three States and the Federation; not a dispute between the States and the Federal Government. What’s the dispute here?
There’s a difference in law, between the Federation and the Federal Government. I’m unable to see how the redesign of the currency by the CBN, has clothed the Supreme Court with the requisite original jurisdiction in this matter. This is a case for the Federal High Court.
It is also intriguing that the very agency that is responsible for this policy, was not joined as a party to the suit. The three States are only being crafty by half. They know that joining the CBN, will automatically rob the Apex Court of jurisdiction. This is still very problematic. The CBN ought to be heard directly, in any suit challenging its policy. It is not enough to sue the AGF, simply because the CBN is an agency of the Federal Government. The CBN ought to be independent, and should be heard. Can the AGF direct or control the CBN?
Going by precedents, like the case of A.G Lagos State v A.G Federation (2014) 9 NWLR (Pt.1412) 217, where the Supreme Court declined jurisdiction over a dispute involving a State and an agency of the Federal Government, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this suit.
Section 251(1)(d) of the Constitution, specifically vests the Federal High Court with exclusive jurisdiction on Legal Tender. The case brought by the three States, is on legal tender. They should have first approached the Federal High Court. Let’s hope for a quick resolution.
As an addendum, I have seen and read the Originating Summons filed by the three States, their reliefs are couched in a disputable manner. It’s doubtful whether the reliefs they’re seeking as presently constituted, are grantable in law.
They are claiming that the three months deadline set by the CBN for the expiration of the new notes, is not reasonable. I have three issues with this: 1. The CBN Act gives the CBN the power to set a deadline (give reasonable notice). The CBN Act doesn’t define reasonable notice.
2. The suit was brought after the expiration of the said three months on the 31st of January, 2023. Why didn’t they file the suit during the lifespan of the three months? The CBN only extended the deadline. Their reliefs don’t reflect the extension. This will be interesting.
3. Section 20 of the CBN Act makes the old notes redeemable upon the expiration of the deadline. While the old notes will no longer be accepted as legal tender, those who possess them can redeem their value by submitting them to the banks in exchange for the new notes.
The CBN has clarified this position, as we witnessed when the CBN Governor appeared before the House of Representatives. The issue remains that the new notes are in short supply, largely because the banks are hoarding them. We have seen evidence of this.
It is true that Nigerians are suffering. It is for the CBN to make the new notes sufficiently available, and for the banks to honestly release them to customers and the public. It seems that, the CBN has already taken possession of a large chunk of the old Naira notes.
It is left to be seen how this lawsuit as presently constituted, will change the situation after February 10. I reiterate that the appropriate court, in my opinion, is the Federal High Court, and not the Supreme Court. However, I’ll defer to My Lords at the Supreme Court.
Inibehe Effiong, Human Rights Lawyer, Lagos