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Nigeria News: Nigeria's Democracy Replaced By Autocracy Or Dictatorship - Supreme Court Ruled

  MARCH 07 , 2023 | EASTERN PILOT Report By: Ade Adesomoju | The Supreme Court has adjudged President Muhammadu Buhari a disobeyer of court ...



Report By: Ade Adesomoju |

The Supreme Court has adjudged President Muhammadu Buhari a disobeyer of court order over his handling of the federal government’s currency notes redesign policy. A seven-member panel of the court led by John Okoro made the pronouncement on Friday in a unanimous judgement on a suit filed by some state governors to challenge what they described as the federal government’s “demonetisation policy”. “The disobedience of orders of courts by the President in a constitutional democracy as ours is a sign of the failure of the constitution and that democratic governance has become a mere pretension and is now replaced by autocracy or dictatorship,” Emmanuel Agim, a member of the Supreme Court panel, said in the court’s lead judgement.

The policy, introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in October last year, includes issuing newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 bank notes and withdrawing their old versions from circulation within a short period. It initially set 31 January to end the legal tender status of the old notes but had to shift it to 10 February when it was obvious that the CBN lacked the capacity to supply enough of the new notes into circulation. The policy approved and directed by Mr Buhari has led to the scarcity of banknotes. This has, in turn, created chaos, disrupting economic activities and bringing hardships to millions of citizens in Nigeria’s cash-dependent economy.

Three state governments – Kaduna, Kogi, and Zamfara – sued the federal government at the Supreme Court over the issue on 3 February, seeking an order invalidating the policy. On 8 February, two days ahead of the 10 February deadline set by the CBN to end the use of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes, the Supreme Court granted an interim order suspending the implementation of the policy. The court ordered that both the old notes and their newly designed versions should remain legal pending further hearings in the suit.

Buhari’s disobedience

But in violation of the court’s order, President Buhari, in a broadcast on 16 February, restored the validity of the old N200 notes and insisted that the old N500 and N1,000 banknotes had ceased to be valid. “It is not in dispute that the 1st defendant refused to obey the said order. The President’s 16 February 2023 national broadcast reproduced here on pages 27-31 demonstrates this disobedience,” Mr Agim held.

He added, “In disobedience of the order, he directed that only the old N200 naira notes be recirculated. “Interestingly, there is nothing to show the implementation of even that directive. I agree with the 9th plaintiff, that the 1st defendant is not entitled to be heard by this court when it has effused to respect the authority of this court and the authority of law from which the authority of the President and the Government of Nigeria derives.” Mr Agim said Mr Buhari’s disobedience to the court order makes democratic governance illusory.

“The rule of law upon which our democratic governance is founded becomes illusory if the President of the country or any authority or person refuses to obey the orders of courts,” the Supreme Court justice held. The court invalidated the policy on Friday as it was issued by the President without consultation as expected in a democracy. The court then extended the validity of the old naira notes till 31 December and ordered that they remained legal tender alongside the old notes up till the new deadlines. Mr Buhari, a former military dictator with a poor human rights profile in the 1980s, campaigned to be elected as a democratic president in 2015, promising that he had become a reformed democrat. But since coming to office in May 2015, Mr Buhari has hardly lived up to his promise, as his administration consistently picks and chooses which court orders to obey in the last seven and half years of its coming to power. Friday’s pronouncement was the first time a court would specifically adjudge him as disobedient to a court order.

The federal government, in another instance, disobeyed the orders of the Federal High Court in Abuja on the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu’s bail and access by his legal team and family members. Justice Binta Nyako had to question the Department of State Security, DSS on such disregard at a time, yet the situation remained the same. The Federal High Court in Abuja also granted Kanu, the permission to apply for an order of mandamus to compel the Department of State Service to allow him to have unfettered access to medical care, but on several occasions, access to health care have been refused.

Again The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Thursday, October 13, 2022 quashed the terrorism charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu. It discharged and acquitted him of the seven-count charge pending against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja. The appellate court, in a decision by a three-man panel led by Justice Jummai Hanatu, said it was satisfied that FG flagrantly violated the law, when it forcefully rendered Kanu from Kenya to the country for the continuation of his trial. It held that such extra-ordinary rendition, without adherence to due process of the law, was a gross violation of all international conventions, protocols and guidelines that Nigeria is signatory to, as well as a breach of the Appellant’s fundamental human rights.

The appellate court noted that FG failed to refute the allegation that the IPOB leader was in Kenya and that he was abducted and brought back to the country without any extradition proceeding. It held that FG was “ominously silent on the issue” which it described as very pivotal in determining whether the trial court would still have the jurisdiction to continue with the criminal proceeding before it. “In law, that is a costly failure and such failure is an admittance by the Respondent. “Where a party fails to controvert a deposition by an opponent, the issue not contested is deemed conceded”, the court held, adding that the onus was on FG to prove the legality of the Appellant’s arrest and return from Kenya.

More so, the court noted that Nigeria is a signatory to OAU Convention which it ratified on April 28, 2022, as well as the Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, which it said prescribed how a wanted person could be transferred from one country to the other. It held that any extradition request must be in writing, with a statement indicating offences for which a person is wanted. The appellate court held that FG’s action tainted the entire proceeding it initiated against Kanu and amounted to “an abuse of criminal prosecution in general”. “The court will never shy away from calling the Executive to order when it tilts towards Executive recklessness”, the Appellate court held, even as it accused FG of engaging in “serious abuse of power”.

Till date this court pronouncement was flagrantly ignored with impunity while Nnamdi Kanu continued to be illegally and unconstitutionally detained in a solitary confinement in the Nigeria secret service dungeon in Abuja. There is also A Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital rulling, which ordered the Federal Government to pay the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, N500m as damages following his illegal abduction and human rights abuse. The court also ordered the Federal Government to return him to Kenya, from where he was extraodinary rendition to Nigeria on June 19, 2021. The court presided over by Justice E.N. Anyadike, insisted that the extradition of Kanu from Kenya without recourse to the legal process was a flagrant abuse of his fundamental human rights.

Kanu, through his counsel, Aloy Ejimakor, had approached the court challenging his extraodinary rendition from Kenya on June 19, 2022. Ejimakor told the court that the suit was sui generis (of a special class) and was primarily aimed at redressing the unlawful expulsion or extraordinary rendition of Kanu, which is a clear violation of his fundamental rights under Article 12(4) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution. Speaking to journalists shortly after the verdict, Ejimakor said the judgment showed that the court is still the common man’s last hope.


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