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By Aduragbemi Omiyale
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that he never instructed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, to defy the supreme court order which extended the validity of the old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes to December 31, 2023.
On March 3, 2023, the apex court directed the federal government to allow the currency notes to remain as legal tender till the end of the year.
However, 10 days after the judgement, this directive has not been adhered to, causing residents of the country and commercial banks to reject the banknotes, insisting on hearing from Mr Buhari or Mr Emefiele before they accept the old Naira notes, especially when the redesigned currencies are scarce.
In a statement issued on Monday by Mr Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Buhari was described as a man who respects the judiciary and will never disobey its judgements.
“At no time did he (Mr Buhari) instruct the Attorney General and the CBN Governor to disobey any court orders involving the government and other parties,” the presidency said.
“Since the President was sworn into office in 2015, he has never directed anybody to defy court orders, in the strong belief that we can’t practise democracy without the rule of law, and the commitment of his administration to this principle has not changed,” the statement added.
“Following the ongoing intense debate about the compliance concerning the legality of the old currency notes, the Presidency, therefore, wishes to state clearly that President Buhari has not done anything knowingly and deliberately to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice.
“The President is not a micromanager and will not, therefore, stop the Attorney General and the CBN Governor from performing the details of their duties in accordance with the law.
“In any case, it is debatable at this time if there is proof of wilful denial by the two of them on the orders of the apex court.
“The directive of the President, following the meeting of the Council of State, is that the bank must make available for circulation all the money that is needed, and nothing has happened to change the position.
“It is an established fact that the President is an absolute respecter of the judicial process and the authority of the courts. He has done nothing in the last eight or so years to act in any way to obstruct the administration of justice, cause a lack of confidence in the administration of justice, or otherwise interfere or corrupt the courts, and there is no reason whatsoever that he should do so now when he is getting ready to leave office.
“The negative campaign and personalised attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators is unfair and unjust, as no court order at any level has been issued or directed at him.
“As for the cashless system the CBN is determined to put in place, it is a known fact that many of the country’s citizens, who bear the brunt of the sufferings, surprisingly, support the policy as they believe that the action would cut corruption, fight terrorism, build an environment of honesty and reinforce the incorruptible leadership of the President.
“It is, therefore, wide off the mark to blame the President for the current controversy over the cash scarcity, despite the Supreme Court judgement. The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President.
“President Buhari has also rejected the impression that he lacks compassion, saying that no government in our recent history has introduced policies to help economically marginalised and vulnerable groups like the present administration,” the statement said.