The Federal Government has said it would obey the Supreme Court ruling that temporarily suspended the Friday, February 10, 2023 deadline given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for the exchange of the old naira notes with the newly redesigned naira notes, even as it has already commenced legal action to get the Supreme Court to dismiss and vacate to ruling, claiming that the Apex Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, confirmed this on Thursday, February 9, during an interview on Arise Television where he said that the government was hopeful that the ex-parte ruling which expires on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, would be upturned.

Malami, whose position is coming barely 24 hours after he had on behalf of the Federal Government, filed an objection and asked the Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit by 3 states (Kaduna, Zamfara, and Kogi States) over the naira redesign policy of the CBN, has also clarified the authority of the Federal Government to pursue legal due process in challenging the Central Bank ruling.

According to him, it was within the right of the Federal government to challenge any order it was not pleased with, using the instrumentality of the law.

He said, “The rule of law provides that there has to be obedience to the judgement and orders of the Supreme Court. The rule of law provides that when you are not happy with a ruling you can file an application for setting it aside and in compliance with the rights and privileges vested in us as a government, we are equally looking at challenging the order and seeking for it to be set aside.”

Malami disclosed that the federal government had already put machinery in place to challenge the jurisdiction of the apex court to hear the suit of the three states, adding that the singular fact that the CBN was not joined as a party in the suit, robbed the apex court of necessary jurisdiction.

He said when the court reconvenes next Wednesday, the federal government, on one hand, would be challenging the jurisdiction of the apex court to entertain the suit, and on the other, see how the interim order would be vacated.

While affirming that the decision of the Supreme Court is binding regardless of prevailing circumstances, Malami said: “The order was granted by the Supreme Court and the order incidentally lapses on Wednesday, 15th February, which is the day of the hearing. With that position in mind, we have taken steps to file an objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter.

“Jurisdiction on the grounds that when you talk of monetary policy, regardless of the characters they take, the central bank is an indispensable and a necessary party for that matter.

“What we have at hand is a situation where the central bank was not joined as a party and if the central bank as an institution was not joined as a party, the position of the law is clear that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court cannot be properly invoked.

“So we have given consideration to diverse issues, inclusive of the issue of jurisdiction, and come Wednesday we will argue the case from that perspective, among others.

“I think what we are talking about is not whether the ruling is binding or not binding, we are talking about what we intend to do, there is no doubt about the fact that the ruling of the Supreme Court, regardless of the prevailing circumstances, is binding and then within the context of the rule of law.

“You can equally take steps that are available to you within the context of the spirit and circumstances of the rule of law.
And what we are doing in essence is in compliance with the rule of law both in terms of obedience to the ruling and in terms of challenging the ruling by way of putting across our own side of the story, putting across our case, challenging jurisdiction.

“So the issue of obedience to the ruling of the Supreme Court is out of it. We are wholeheartedly in agreement that naturally, we are bound by it and will comply accordingly. But within the context of compliance, we shall challenge the ruling by way of filing an application seeking for it to be set aside, it is all about the rule of law,” he said.

It would be recalled that on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, the Supreme Court in the ruling by a 7-member panel led by Justice John Okoro, temporarily halted the CBN’s February 10, 2023 deadline for the exchange of the new naira notes with the newly redesigned naira notes.

The Federal Government however filed a preliminary objection to the suit, insisting that the Supreme Court lacked the necessary jurisdiction to entertain the suit in the first place, even as it argued that the agency (CBN), whose Act was being complained about by the plaintiffs, was a statutory body with legal personality that could sue and be sued in its name and it own right, yet was not a party in the suitby the Governors.

The Notice of Preliminary Objection filed by its lawyers, Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, and Tijanni Gazali, also claimed that the suit of the 3 states ought to have been instituted before a Federal High Court and not the Supreme Court, as done by the Attorney Generals of the states as plaintiffs.

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