Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara states have finalised arrangements to initiate contempt proceedings against the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele despite the Monday night directive to commercial banks to accept and dispense the old naira notes.
The lead counsel for the three states, Abdulhakeem Mustapha, SAN, disclosed to The PUNCH on Thursday that the press statement released by the CBN in which it directed banks to accept the old naira notes was a mere camouflage to give the impression of compliance.
The Supreme Court had in its March 3 judgment extended the legal tender status of the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes until December 31.
In the ruling delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court held that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), breached the constitution in the manner he issued directives for the redesigning of the naira.
The seven-man panel also slammed the President over his February 16 broadcast in which he said only the N200 note should remain legal tender in flagrant violation of the restraining order made by the apex court.
The court ordered that the old notes shall remain legal tender till December 31.
However, the AGF and the CBN governor failed to comply with the order despite pressure from Nigerians.
During this time, the banks also refused to accept or dispense the old notes, citing the lack of directives from the CBN regarding the judgment.
Further to the enforcement of the judgment, the plaintiffs served the enrolled order and Certified True Copy of the Supreme Court judgment on the AGF penultimate Friday.
Following the failure of the respondents to obey the judgment, the plaintiffs threatened to file contempt charges against the two officials should they fail to obey the apex court order.
On Monday night, the CBN in a statement directed banks to receive and disburse the old notes as directed by the apex court.
The statement signed by the acting Director of Corporate Communications, CBN, Isa AbdulMumin, read, “In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the rule of law principle that characterized the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and by extension, the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court judgment of March 3, 2023.
“Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023. Consequently, all concerned are directed to conform accordingly.’’
But speaking to The PUNCH on Thursday, Mustapha dismissed the CBN statement as a gimmick, insisting that the apex court had not complied with the Supreme Court order.
The senior advocate revealed that he had his clients’ instructions to initiate contempt proceedings against the AGF and the CBN governor.
He stated, “The press release made by the Central Bank of Nigeria is just a mere camouflage just to give an impression of compliance. There is nothing like that. And our clients, Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara, and states have told us that we should go on with the already initiated contempt of proceedings against the Attorney General and the Central Bank Governor.
“The decision of the Supreme Court has not been complied with. They are in contempt of court. We are going to reactivate the already-initiated contempt proceedings. There is a legal process around it.”
On when Nigerians should expect the proceeding to commence, he said, “There is a legal process around it; over time you are going to see it. I can confirm to you that we have a clear mandate for our clients to proceed with the already initiated contempt proceedings because it is clear to all and sundry that the CBN is just playing pranks.
“They are not sincere. And they are acting as if they are above the law. The constitution is clear that all organs and everybody must ensure that the decision of the Supreme Court is enforced.”
The AGF could not be reached on Thursday for comments on the move to commence contempt proceedings against him as calls to his media aide, Umar Gwandu rang out.
He had yet to respond to a text message sent to him on the issue as of the time of filing this report.
Also, the CBN spokesman did not respond to calls and a text message sent to him on the plan to cite Emefiele for contempt.
Meanwhile, Deposit Money Banks have begun to halt the disbursement of old and new notes as they run out of cash in their vaults.
This came barely five days after the CBN declared the old N1000, N500 and N200 notes as legal tender.
Findings by our correspondent on Thursday showed that the Automated Teller Machines in the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State, were not dispensing cash.
Similarly, the ATMS at Guaranty Trust Bank, Union Bank Plc, FCMB and PremiumTrust Bank were not dispensing the old or new notes.
According to the bank customers, Premium bank only dispensed cash for about five minutes before the error message “temporarily unable to dispense cash” was displayed.
A customer who identified himself as Kenny told The PUNCH, “ I have been to other ATMs today and none of them is dispensing. I am tired.”
Meanwhile, an employee of A.G Mortgage Bank, Ikeja branch noted they do not have any money in their vault, adding that they advised their customers to conduct their transactions online
Meanwhile, a massive crowd was observed at the GTB branch at Gate, Jakande Estate Oke-Afa Ejigbo where old notes were dispensed to customers through the ATM.
While customers of the bank could withdraw N10,000, other non-customers were limited to N5000.
As of noon when our correspondent visited the bank, only one ATM out of 4 was dispensing cash, and customers wishing to access the banking hall had to take tallies. However, cash was also dispensed over the counter.
Also, the Eco Bank at Oke-Afa Ejigbo was dispensing cash to customers via the ATM but the maximum withdrawal was N5000.
Likewise, banks on Lagos Island, including the Access Bank at Marina, Zenith Bank at Marina 2, Wema Bank on Broad Street, Union Bank at Tinubu Square and Fidelity Bank at Oniru were also disbursing cash to customers through the ATMs.
In the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, customers heaved a sigh of relief following an improvement in circulation of the old notes on Thursday.
Our correspondent observed that Stanbic IBTC, GT Bank and Zenith Banks located along the airport road and Central Business District were disbursing cash through their ATMs.
A Zenith Bank branch in the central area paid out N3,0000 to customers, down from N5,000 paid to customers earlier in the week.
A First Bank official in the Akure branch, Ondo State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the branch had run out of both the old and new notes and was disbursing only to the aged and disabled people.
He said, “We did not pay any cash to customers, we only selected a few people with disabilities and very aged people with peculiar issues. All we had last week had been exhausted yesterday, and the little that was left we disbursed to people with special needs like the aged and disabled people.
“We were able to disburse the old naira notes to close to 20 people with special cases as directed by the Head of Branch Services, who directed that we should pay the cash to them after listening to their complaints. However, we will be paying N5,000 to each customer tomorrow (today).”