Vote Buying Scheme Thwarted
Nigeria’s Supreme Court adjourns the Naira redesign case without any pronouncement scuppering the ruling party’s plan to buy votes with old Naira notes
The Supreme Court on Wednesday fixed March 3 for judgment in the suits filled by some State Governors against the Federal Government over the cashless policy and the old Naira note withdrawal by the Central Bank. Reports have revealed that the ruling party the All Progressives Congress (APC) had budgeted N925 billion to buy votes mostly in old N1000 notes.
Justice Inyang Okoro, who led the seven-member panel of justices, fixed the date after taking arguments from parties involved in the suits for three hours.
In an earlier ruling the highest court had ordered that the Central Bank deadline of February 10 of the withdrawal of the old N200, N500, N1000 notes from circulation be discontinued only for the President to announce in a nation wide address that only the N200 note remains legal tender for sixty days while the old N500 and N1000 note remain illegal tender as from Feb 10.
Majority of the Plaintiffs were all APC governors of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Katsina, Ogun, Cross River, Lagos,, Kano, Nasarawa, Abia, Jigawa and Niger with two opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors of Sokoto and Rivers states.
The Defendants were the the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor joined by two PDP states Edo and Bayelsa.
The plaintiffs sought the Supreme Court to overturn the presidential decree and hold the Federal Government in contempt of court.
“People are looking for a scapegoat, so that they can blame the judiciary. But we will hear this matter today by all means. No matter the obstacles. We don’t want to keep this case any longer,” Justice Okoro told the various lawyers in the suit.
“We seek an order prohibiting the defendants from being granted audience before this court until the defendants or their principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, in this matter until the comply the order made by this court on 8 February, directing that old 200,500 and 1000 banknotes remain legal tender pending the determination of this suit.” Moyosore Onigbanjo, Attorney-General of Lagos argued saying the CBN policy was impacting the smooth running of the state.
“The reliefs they are seeking are against the CBN, yet the plaintiffs did not deem it fit to bring the CBN into the matter. Even before the president gave the directive, Nigerians were already rejecting the old banknotes. So, the President directive Nigerians to deposit the notes at the CBN. So, the President is not in violations of the Supreme Court order. Under the constitution, the President is empowered veto a legislation.” Kanu Agabi defending the Federal Government in counter argument. In essence the President was above the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court justices adjourned for five minutes and resumed hearing tales of woe and difficulties from the plaintiffs who pleaded for the court to grant their request.
“All the suits adjourned until 3 March for judgement,” the presiding justice of the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, John Okoro, concluded.
Akowe reports from Abuja