Contrary to a recent comment by the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo in which he had faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that the old N200 be recirculated until April 10, 2023, while the old N500 and N1,000 cease to be legal tender, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), at the weekend argued that the directive of the president was not a direct affront to Supreme Court that had temporarily halted the move to ban the old currencies by February 10, 2023.
Speaking on Television Continental, the former Lagos State governor maintained that the president only took the step to help ameliorate the pains of Nigerians who were becoming the unintended victims of the policy.
Keyamo, who is spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, had in an interview on Channels Television, said the president was wrongly advised to make the pronouncement in a nationwide broadcast.
According to Keyamo, although Buhari had good intentions for the naira redesign policy, he was wrongly advised. He had also said he would have advised the president to comply with the Supreme Court order, which was to recirculate all the old notes until they decide on the matter.
“My view is that the president acted honestly, without intention to slight the Supreme Court, but he may have acted on wrong advice. I did not give that advice, it’s not my responsibility. I do not know who gave that advice.
“In his speech, he acknowledged that there were certain matters in court. So, he thought he was playing safe by saying okay, before you decide these matters in court, may I just provide some middle ground, so that the country is burning, there are riots everywhere, so let me just try and provide some succour for people, whilst acknowledging the matters are in court.
“Now, if I were to advise him, I would have advised differently. I would have advised him to comply with the terms of the order of the Supreme Court. All the notes should circulate for now, all the notes. All the old notes should circulate side by side with the new notes for now, because that is the order of the Supreme Court,” he had said.
According to him, the matter was not discussed at the Federal Executive Council.
The comments by Fashola came just as a viral video of some residents of Ogun State were being bribed ahead of Saturday’s election with the old N1,000 notes. Those who received the money in white envelopes with the logo of the state government, however, expressed concerns that commercial banks were no longer accepting the currency. But someone suspected to be a government official, who spoke in Yoruba, was heard assuring the beneficiaries that they should go ahead and spend the money, adding that the government had vowed to ensure that banks in the state collect the old banknotes.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, reflected on the current hardship faced by Nigerians in the wake of the naira redesign project of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and pledged to put an end to the pains the programme had inflicted on the citizenry.
But former vice president and presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, described as comical the reaction of the ruling APC and its governors to recent developments around the naira redesign project.
Weighing in also on the debate around the currency policy, the presidential candidate of New Nigerian People Party (NNPP), Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, knocked the APC governors who criticised Buhari over the naira policy, saying the governors’ loots are now useless.
The Supreme Court had temporarily halted a February 10 deadline to phase out the use of some old banknotes. But a day after the court adjourned the suit filed by some APC states and Sokoto in a move to stop the federal government from banning the use of old N1, 000, N500 and N200, Buhari in a nationwide broadcast, directed that the N200 should be returned as legal tender, while the N1,000 and N500 should be phased out.
The broadcast by the president generated reactions, with nine APC states and Sokoto State now asking the Supreme Court to void Buhari’s directive. Some senior lawyers had also argued that the directive by the president was a clear contempt of the court in a pending matter.
Fashola claimed that the recent nationwide broadcast by Buhari on the ongoing naira redesign policy was not a direct affront to the Supreme Court.
He stated that although the naira swap policy needed to be reviewed, the president took the decision because he had seen the suffering many Nigerians were facing and not to spite the apex court.
Fashola explained, “Let me say that in a democracy where there is a right to speak freely, there’s bound to be divergence of views, as you have had. But I think that the principle about respecting and awaiting the outcome of a court decision sometimes has been stretched, if I may use that word.
“There is also a lot of jurisprudence and scholarship about the boundaries of contempt in actions done and in things said. If I shut the door on your finger, and you went to court to say that the court should direct me to remove or open the door, do I say let’s wait for the outcome of court decision when you are in pain, and people are in pain?
“The question to ask is if I attempt to open that door, would you, the person in pain, say I was acting in contempt or would you gladly have me open the door and then go back to the court and say the matter we have resolved it?
“And that is another angle to look at this thing because I think that whatever interventions the president sought to make were interventions in response to the very palpable pain and I think he said that much in his speech about the unintended consequences of the policy.
Noting that his argument should not be misunderstood for misbehaviour while a case was pending in court, Fashola stated that the conversation around the matter had helped enrich Nigeria’s democracy. He explained that it had also shown the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, and others that had spoken up as people of courage who would not sit in their comfort zones when the people were suffering.
Fashola said the fact that recent central bank governors in Nigeria tended to get into trouble close to elections should spur a review of the system to look at how political the apex bank had become. He stressed that although the central bank had a right to implement the current naira redesign policy, some of the reasons adduced by the bank were outside the law.
“So the question to then ask is, has a law been used for a policy seeking to achieve an objective that is not within the law? And this is an invitation to parliament and I think this is the time to step up and say, has our politics left our central banking-related laws behind?”
The minister argued that what happened was a mop-up of Nigeria’s currency and not a swap, arguing that the central bank may not have expected the outcome.
“It seems to me that the central bank does not intend or contemplate a mop-up policy, it actually contemplates in my view, a swap of notes,” he added, pointing out that the central bank may have overreached itself.
Fashola said Nigeria changed notes some 15 years ago, stressing that it did not cause this much pain, but wondered why the present case was causing untold hardship. He stated that the current development might negatively affect the banking system in Nigeria. He said everyone must work together to ensure that the effect on the banks were mitigated.
Buhari Vows to End Hardship Faced by Nigerians Over Naira Scarcity
In the message he sent home from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where he was attending the annual summit of the African Union (AU), Buhari said he was fully aware of the hardship some policies of government, “which are meant to bring overall improvement to the country,” had caused. He appealed for further patience, saying the government is taking appropriate measures to ease the suffering.
Buhari, according to a statement issued yesterday by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, also expressed gratitude to Nigerians for electing him president for two terms. He urged the citizens to vote for the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, in the forthcoming election, saying, “He is reliable and I know he will build on our achievements.”
In a video recording to shore up support for Tinubu in the election coming up in a few days, Buhari, according to a statement issued yesterday by Shehu, expressed gratitude to Nigerians for electing him president for two terms. He urged the electorate to vote for the APC presidential candidate.
The president emphasised that Tinubu had demonstrated commitment to the development of the country and the well-being of its people.
In the campaign message to voters, Buhari called on “our traditional rulers, religious leaders and parents to warn their followers and wards alike, to not allow themselves to be used by a few to foment trouble”.
The president stated, “I want to assure you that the government has taken adequate security measures to allow everyone to come out and cast their votes. I am, therefore, appealing to everyone to give them the necessary support.
“Fellow Nigerians, I want to use this opportunity to once again thank you for electing me to be your president on two occasions.
“I am not a contestant in this election, but my party, the APC, has a candidate in the person of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As I mentioned before, Tinubu is a true believer in Nigeria, who loves the people and the development of our country.
“I am calling on all of you to vote for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is reliable and I trust he will build on our achievements.
“Finally, I want to once again assure you that I am fully aware of the current hardship you are facing as a result of some policies of the government which are meant to bring overall improvement to the country.
“I am appealing to you to exercise further patience as we take appropriate measures to ease these hardships. God willing, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.”
Atiku: APC Governors’ Reaction to New Policy Comical
Atiku described as comical the reaction of the APC governors to the naira design project. In an email message he sent to out yesterday, Atiku stated, “In the last weeks of the campaign, it is comical to see the ruling APC in open disagreement about how their party has taken the country aback.
“The good part of it is that the APC governing elite has by itself admitted that the party has only brought pains and hardship on the country.
“But while the APC continues with their rumblings, I am very proud of the work that we have done together in bringing the Recover Nigeria message to every doorstep across the country.
“It is the determination and commitment by folks like you in pushing the campaign that gives me the confidence that we shall achieve victory on Saturday. In these final days, we have to do even more!
“We still have ample time to push harder in ensuring, first, that everyone around you with their PVCs comes out to vote.
“Secondly, we must rally our base by convincing our friends, colleagues, families, and spouses to vote for the safe choice, which the PDP represents. Governor Okowa and I are exceptionally proud of your terrific work and we both believe that you shall deliver your polling units for the PDP on Saturday.”
Your Loot Now Completely Useless, Kwankwaso Taunts APC Governors
Kwankwaso knocked the APC governors criticising Buhari over the naira redesign policy. The former Kano State governor said he was shocked that APC governors could act in that manner.
Kwankwaso said at an NNPP function, “In each state, you have branches of banks and in some states, you have even the national headquarters of those banks, on one hand we thought they (governors) would take all the billions from government houses and so on to banks.
“But we realised these same governors were abusing their leaders, insulting them, I was shocked. I never thought some of them could abuse Buhari to that level.
“On one hand, I was surprised that facts were coming out and we began to wonder what is wrong with them? Maybe the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was right that some governors are keeping billions of naira in their compounds across the country.
“Now the policy has made that looted money completely useless, I think that is why they are angry. So we are so happy with the federal government on that, the money they have collected is completely zero, it has expired.
“And I think all agencies should keep their eyes on that and I want to assure you that our party is going to assist the federal government, especially on election day, please tell all members of NNPP to join EFCC, to join the police and other security agencies that wherever they see them trying to buy votes, please stop them.”
Dogara Hails Buhari’s Move to Curb Vote-buying
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, commended Buhari’s efforts aimed at curbing vote-buying ahead of the 2023 general election.
Dogara said he was also affected by the hardship caused by the naira redesign and currency scarcity, but pleaded with Nigerians to endure this for a few weeks and see it as a sacrifice for free, fair and credible elections.
He spoke at the weekend in Kaltungo, Gombe State, at the gathering of over 15,000 Christian youth under the auspices of Evangelical Churches Winning All (ECWA) International Youth Conference, where he was honoured with the award of service to the youths, the church and humanity.
Dogara stated, “For those critising the president on the issue of timing, I want to remind them in the words of Dr King Jnr that time is eternally neutral and the time is always ripe to do right.
“Let me end by calling on the CBN to ensure the redesigned notes are made available to our people but even if the CBN failed to do so, my plea to all Nigerians is to endure the pains for few more weeks for our votes to count and for us to elect a president we truly deserve.
“Let me emphatically say that the president has the sole constitutional powers over currency matters and all those busy running their mouths because they have been denied the opportunity to deploy the ill- gotten naira they have stashed to buy votes, they are committing treason,” he stated.
The former speaker added, “The president is absolutely right not to have given in to the greed of the few against the needs of the many. While the president is right to have acted on what he knows and in the best interest of the country, his traducers are petty, unpatriotic, treacherous and grossly irresponsible.
“I want to specifically commend President Buhari over the initiative to curb vote buying in the forthcoming general elections. I am not uninformed of nor unaffected by the hardship caused by the naira redesign and swap policy, but I want to plead with Nigerians to endure it for these few weeks as sacrifice for a free, fair and credible election.”
The former speaker stressed that Nigeria needed a steady hand, not one that must always be steadied. He emphasised, “We need a hand on which nothing dies not the hand that spills everything that is placed on it if we do not want our collective national destiny to be spilled.
“We need a grounded leader not a feckless pretender who has become a perfect gift to every level of comedy both local and internationally. By our votes, let us send a strong and clear message to those who want to foist this tasteless joke on us that Nigeria is no comedy cellar or Viva Blackpool.”
Dogara urged Nigerians to vote for Atiku.
Kaigama Condemns Attack on Banks, Urges Free, Fair Election
Catholic Archbishop of the Abuja Metropolitan Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, condemned what he described as unruly acts of rioting in some parts of the country that saw protesters attacking bank ATMs, beating up bank staff, and destroying their property.
Regarding Saturday’s presidential election, the archbishop said his prayer was for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agents, and the judiciary not to bow to pressure from any quarter and compromise their work so that only true winners would emerge in the elections.
While delivering sermons at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church Parish, Dutse-Sangbagyi, in Abuja, yesterday, Kaigama said notwithstanding the hardship in the land, persons opposed to certain government policies should react in an enlightened manner.
He said, “The recent bank policy has plunged many Nigerians into untold hardship, because of very limited access to physical cash. However, when we are not comfortable with certain decisions, we should react in an enlightened manner.
“The unruly acts of rioting in some parts of the nation that attacked bank ATMs, beat up some bank staff, vandalised banks and destroyed bank properties, blocked streets, forcing businesses to close, etc., are not signs of maturity.”
Commenting on Saturday’s presidential election, Kaigama said Nigerians must play their role in creating a better country by participating in the exercise.
He stated, “This time we want an election of credible and competent candidate and not an election marred by manipulation or violence that scares away voters.
“Our earnest prayer is that INEC, the security agents and the judiciary will not bow to pressure from any quarters and compromise their work so that only true winners in the elections, who, as Philippians 4:8 says, are honourable, just, pure, lovely, can emerge and free Nigerians from the bondage of economic hardship, criminality and needless division based on tribe and religion.”
Quoting the communique given at the just concluded first plenary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Kaigama echoed the call on leaders to love the people they lead through good governance.
He said at the meeting that the bishops had decried the worsening insecurity caused by so-called unknown gunmen, and urged the government to do more to safeguard the lives and property of citizens. He emphasised the need for the government to improve the economy of the country and arrest the skyrocketing cost of goods and services.