March 22, 2023

SERAP sues Buhari over ‘unlawful ban on old N500, N1,000 notes’

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over “the unlawful directive banning the use of old N500 and N1,000 banknotes, contrary to the interim injunction granted by the Supreme Court that the old N200, N500, and N1000 notes remain legal tender.” Joined in the suit as Defendants are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The Supreme Court in a case initially brought by 10 states recently held that the old banknotes remain legal tender pending the determination of a motion on notice fixed for February 22. The deadline for the swap of the old notes expired February 10. However, Buhari in a national broadcast last week directed the CBN to recirculate only the old N200 banknotes, thereby overruling the Supreme Court and banning the use of old N500 and N1,000 notes in the country. In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/233/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja SERAP is asking the court to determine “whether President Buhari’s directive banning the N500 and N1,000 banknotes is not inconsistent and incompatible with the constitutional duties to obey decisions of the Supreme Court and oath of office.”

SERAP is asking the court for “a declaration that President Buhari’s directive banning the use of old N500 and N1,000 banknotes is a fundamental breach of section 287(1) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and his constitutional oath of office, and therefore unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void.” SERAP is seeking “an order of interim injunction restraining President Buhari, the CBN and Mr Malami, their agents or privies from further enforcing the presidential directive banning the old N500 and N1,000 banknotes, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “Upholding the rule of law is the cornerstone of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy. President Buhari and other public officials and authorities have a binding legal responsibility to strictly comply with the rule of law and obey the decisions by the Supreme Court, and all other courts.” SERAP is also arguing that, “The directive to ban the use of N500 and N1000 banknotes, contrary to the interim injunction by the Supreme Court, is ultra vires – beyond the constitutional and legitimate powers of President Buhari and the government.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, and Kolawole Oluwadare, read in part: “It is a very serious matter for anyone to flout a positive order of a court.”
“President Buhari’s directive undermines the authority and independence of the judiciary, which is an underlying constitutional principle intended to ensure that government is conducted according to law, and to prevent the arbitrary exercise of powers or discretion by public officials and authorities.” “An order of Court must be obeyed even if such an order is perverse, until such a time that the order is set aside by a competent court. A flagrant flouting of an order of the court by the executive is an invitation to anarchy.”

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