Disregard for Supreme Court ruling dangerous, says Gbajabiamila

Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday faulted the disregard for the Supreme Court ruling by the Federal Government, warning that Nigeria cannot afford economic disaster induced by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), naira swap policy.

He also flayed the CBN for insisting on the phasing out of the higher denominations of the old naira in spite of “three conditions precedent for the apex bank to recall existing notes”.

The Speaker spoke hours after President Muhammadu Buhari met with CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele and the Ado-Doguwa-led House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Naira Re-design before jetting out to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At the meeting, Buhari directed the CBN to take notice of the recommendations of the ad-hoc committee to rectify identified problems with the new monetary policy.

Gbajabiamila, in a statement, said: ”It is not to the benefit of our country for the Federal Government to act in ways that suggest a wanton disregard for the rule of law. It will be better for us to strictly adhere to the court’s order in this matter, pending the adjudication of the substantive suit.”

The Speaker warned that “the ongoing devastation of livelihoods is bound to have consequences long after this difficult moment has passed.”

He wondered whose ”interest is served by persisting in this erroneous course towards an unfolding economic disaster that the country cannot afford.”

Gbajabiamila said: “It is disheartening that the CBN has resolutely refused to admit error and change course in the face of mounting evidence that the implementation of this policy has been a devastating failure.

“Today, citizens and visitors are experiencing grave and unnecessary hardship across our country. They spend hours and days queuing at banks and teller machines to receive stipends of their own money to afford life’s necessities.

“This situation is a consequence of the flawed implementation of the naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). It is also the result of decisions made by the Central Bank’s Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, to refuse counsel, be guided by precedent or abide by the decisions of superior courts.

“There are three conditions precedent for the CBN to recall existing Naira notes. The first is that the permission of the President must be obtained, and the second is that reasonable notice shall be given. The third is that the Central Bank of Nigeria shall pay the face value of the recalled currency upon receipt.

“Whereas reasonable people may disagree as to whether sufficient notice was given for the implementation of this policy, it is evident that the CBN has failed woefully in its statutory obligation to pay the face value of the recalled currency in the form that is useful to the citizens whose current suffering could have been avoided.”

Describing Buhari’s directive to the CBN to recirculate the old N200 note till April 10 as ”a step in the right direction,” the Speaker added that “the decision still falls short of the order of the Supreme Court that the old currencies remain legal tender.”

*Dogowa: politicians need cash for elections

Politicians need money in “hardcopy” to carry out their activities during elections, Doguwa has said.

He argued that there is “a clear-cut provision in the Electoral Act which provides for the amount of money needed for every political office holder to take during campaigns.”

According to him, the President “is expected by law to have N1 billion” and a member of the House of Representatives ”more than N70 million.”

Dogowa told reporters after the meeting with Buhari and Emefiele that the statutory amount was required for logistics and payment of polling agents.

Dogowa, who is also the House Majority Leader, explained that the meeting was to bring Buhari up to date on the “problems of implementation and unintended consequences” of the CBN cash policy.

Acknowledging the “far-reaching quality of the President’s broadcast to the nation earlier yesterday, he said the Legislature and the Federal Government were on the same page.

He, however, added that more needed to be done to remove the “hardship and inconveniences” that have attended the implementation of the policy.

The lawmaker said although most of what they wanted to discuss with the President, especially the extension of the validity of the old N200 notes, had been taken care of in the nationwide broadcast, there was a need to do more.

His words: “Now that the President has issued a directive, how do we ensure that it is being carried out? This is what we came to iron out today (yesterday).

“No matter how professional a policy is, it is counter-productive if it induces suffering in Nigerians.”

On the President’s comment on vote buying, Dogowa replied that no member of All Progressives Congress (APC) or even the opposition plans to induce voters with money.

Recalling that he had once said the cashless policy was targeted at the ruling party, Doguwa claimed that it has already “placed us at a disadvantage.”

His words: “On vote buying, like you said, I want to tell you without any equivocation that Dodogwa you know; who has won election seven times and that I proudly belong to the ruling APC (All Progressives Congress), no one of us in the APC and I believe people in other parties is out to buy votes.”

“But you must also take into cognisance that there is a clear-cut provision in the Electoral Act, which provides for the amount of money needed by every political office holder to take during the campaign.

“A member of the House of Representatives is expected by law to have more than N70 million to conduct his election activities, logistics and other things. N70 million naira cash by law.

“A presidential candidate is expected to have at least N1 billion by law. The law has provided us with the amount of money we need to oversee our election process. You need to pay your agents in the villages where you don’t have an ATM (Automatic Teller Machine), in the villages where you don’t have POS, in the villages where absolutely, you don’t have new naira notes.

“So, this is money that I require, that the law has permitted me to have N70 million for logistics, I need to have it in hardcopy.

“ As I speak to you, I don’t have it and this means if this policy continues this way, if the CBN fails to make available this money, definitely every candidate, no matter what party he belongs to will be put at disadvantage.

“Don’t forget the point I made as a partisan comment r that the policy in itself is a policy that is apparently against the ruling APC because Nigerians that are not happy will look at it as a policy of the government of APC. This has placed us at a disadvantage already.”

Buhari, according to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, insisted that the policy has short and long-term benefits.

He described the policy as “very good, security-wise” as seen from the lessening of kidnappings and associated corrupt practices.

*Emefiele orders banks to begin circulation of N200 notes

Emefiele told the reporters that he met with 15 commercial bank banks and called on them to commence payment of the hitherto withdrawn N200 notes to their customers as directed by Buhari.

He also assured that the apex bank would before the end of this month ensure that between N700 billion and N800 billion in different denominations were in circulation.

But as of yesterday afternoon, commercial banks had yet to circulate the N200 notes.

The CBN boss said: ”I have met with about 15 banks this morning and we’ve given them directives about how they should make all the old N200 available, effective today(yesterday) and I can assure Nigeria that this will help to reduce the pains.

“We meet with bankers at least once daily, to get feedback and the rest of them and I think we should just allow this policy to work. The temporary pains are regrettable, but I can assure Nigerians that it will be well.

”The truth is that we are all servants. We are serving Nigerians. As far as we are concerned the Attorney-General of the Federation has spoken on this matter and the President has sealed the whole issue this(yesterday) morning in his broadcast.

“Nigeria must go cashless. It is a global policy, checking insecurity and fighting corruption”.

But in Lagos, a top official of a bank in Ibeju-Lekki Lagos was seen by The Nation informing customers that they did not open for business because they had no cash to disburse.

“We did not open for business today because there is no cash to pay customers. Not even N200 notes. You remember the situation in Edo State where some bank branches were attacked.

“We do not want that to happen to us. We can only open when the CBN gives us cash,” he said.

Many other banks that opened did not pay both the N200 old notes as well as the new N200, N500 and N1000 new notes. They, however, offered skeletal services mainly transfers, internet banking, and activation of ATM cards and hard tokens.

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