The spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council (APC-PCC), Festus Keyamo, has alluded to President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on the naira swap policy being ill-advised.
Buhari, in a Thursday national broadcast on the controversial policy, ordered that the old N200 banknotes remain in circulation till April 10, while the old N500 and N1,000 bills no longer serve as legal tender.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) first set the policy in motion in October 2022, issuing a redesign of the three highest denominations of the naira, which was officially completed and unveiled in November 2022.
The initial deadline of January 31, 2023 was later extended to February 10, but with the governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara approaching the Supreme Court, an interim order was given putting the policy’s implementation on hold.
The ensuing currency scarcity has led to protests across the country with several cases of ATMs destroyed, as well as banking facilities and property damaged.
“My view is that the President acted honestly without intention to slight the Supreme Court,” Keyamo said during a live appearance on Channels Television’s The 2023 Verdict on Friday. “But he may have acted on wrong advice.”
He added, “I did not give that advice; it is not my responsibility. I don’t know who gave that advice. I want to say this openly because tomorrow, people will ask me where I stood at this time.”
The Minister of State for Labour stated that Buhari’s speech acknowledged that there were certain matters in court and that the President believed he was playing safe by purportedly intervening to quell the growing tension across the country.
READ ALSO: CBN Denies Directing Banks To Collect Old N500, N1,000 Notes
“He thought he was playing safe by saying, ‘Before you decide this matter in court, may I just provide some middle ground so that country burning, there are riots everywhere, so let me just try and provide some succour to the people, whilst acknowledging the matters are in court.’
“Now, if I were to advise him, I would have advised differently. I did not advise him. It’s not my responsibility; I don’t know who.”
Asked what his counsel to the President would have been, Keyamo said it would be for him to “comply strictly with the terms of the order of the Supreme Court, [which is that] all the old notes should circulate for now side by side with the new notes because that is the order of the Supreme Court.”
He added that by virtue of the constitution, “all authorities in Nigeria must obey the orders of the Supreme Court, “adding that anything to the contrary is “a descent to anarchy.”
According to him, the day people begin to disobey the order of the Supreme Court is an invitation to “revolutionary intervention or other kinds of interventions” in the nation’s democracy.
He described the judiciary and the Supreme Court as the last bastion to defend Nigeria’s democracy.
Keyamo also addressed the allegations of treason against governors, including those of Kaduna and Kano, who have warned that severe action would be taken against corporate entities in their states that reject the old notes.
“It’s federalism in action. Those who are clamouring for true federalism – this is true federalism in action. People are thinking that this is the first time that governors of the APC are taking the President to court. It’s not,” he said.
“On various issues, they have always challenged the President in court. It doesn’t affect their amity; it doesn’t affect the cohesion of the party; it doesn’t affect the cohesion of these individuals.”
In his assessment, the minister stated that the President “at times” approves of the institutions set up by the constitution to resolve disputes, adding that the courts are there to resolve disputes.
“Don’t forget that the governors took the President to court over certain executive orders that he gave, I think regarding the state judiciaries and legislature and they won at the Supreme Court,” he said.