Udora Orizu writes that the once cordial relationship between the Executive and the National Assembly appears to be in disarray because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that the old N1000, N500 notes have ceased to be legal tender.
Given the trite talk that the relationship between the Executive and the legislative arms of government during the current ninth National Assembly is cordial, no one would’ve ever imagined to witness a day when President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressive Congress (APC) members of the parliament will differ on an issue.
The once cordial relationship between the Executive and the APC dominated National Assembly appears to be in disarray because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that the old N1000, N500 notes are no longer legal tender.
Since the commencement of the ninth assembly, the presiding officers, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan and House Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila made it known that the lawmakers will work with the executive very harmoniously for the benefits of Nigerians.
Lawan specifically said the National Assembly would accept “rubber stamp” label if it would guarantee good governance for Nigerians.
On his part, Gbajabiamila said criticism that the 9th Assembly was a rubber stamp to the executive was not fair, adding that he, and his colleagues, were not elected to fight the executive.
Also, the House majority leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, while disagreeing that the National Assembly is rubber stamp, stated that while they will maintain their institutional independence, the parliament will as well guard seriously the sentiment of the government and their political party (APC). He appealed to Nigerians to continue being patient with the Buhari Government as it strives to make life better for the citizenry.
According to him, with the support of Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari has done well in the past years and will do more in ensuring the masses enjoy more dividends of democracy.
The following years saw this notion coming to pass, with the way the parliament under the leadership of Lawan and Gbajabiamila approved Executive’s loan requests, appointments, bills and so on. Confirmation of nominees, passage of bills, approval of loans which would normally last for a seemingly interminable period, were carried out expeditiously.
The APC dominated parliament was so keen on protecting the President’s interest that they chickened out from their last year’s move to impeach him, over worsening insecurity across the country.
But in recent times, both arms of the government seems to be at daggers drawn, following the announcement by federal government that the Centrsl Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would redesign the N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes with January 3, 2023 as the deadline for the return of the old notes to the banks.
Since the announcement, some APC Governors and lawmakers in both chambers have called for the extension of the deadline.
At the green chamber, an ad-hoc committee was constituted chaired by the Majority Leader, Hon Ado-Doguwa to meet with CBN Governor and Chief Executive Officers of commercial banks over the scarcity of the redesigned currency.
Following Emefiele’s absence on the scheduled day for the meeting, Speaker Gbajabiamila threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on Emefiele.
When the CBN Governor eventually appeared before the ad-hoc committee, he doused the earlier heightened tension among the lawmakers when he said the old notes would be redeemed even after the February 10 deadline.
However, as Nigerians faced more hardships over the scarcity of the new naira notes, Gbajabiamila on February 5 said that the House would have no option but to reconvene before the February 25 elections if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) failed to address the issue.
On February 14, days after the Supreme Court ruling banning the Central Bank of Nigeria from going ahead with its deadline for the end of use of the old naira notes, Gbajabiamila expressed delight with the ruling, saying the House under his leadership has been on the side of the people, working tirelessly to rescue them from economic saboteurs seeking to derail the successes of President Buhari and the APC administration.
He said he’s glad that the judiciary also confirmed House’s position on the implementation of the naira redesign policy.
Earlier, the Senate President gave reasons why the National Assembly is opposed to the currency swap and design policy.
Fielding questions from newsmen after attending the National Council of State meeting at the State House, Abuja, Lawan said the lawmakers faulted the implementation strategy adopted by the apex bank and blamed the nation’s apex bank “for not properly thinking through” before implementing the policy which has continued to attract criticisms. He advised that both the old and the new notes should be allowed to co-exist until the old is phased out.
Apparently not pleased by the lawmakers reservation about the policy, President Buhari on February 16 directed CBN to release into circulation the old N200 note as legal tender up till April 10, 2023.
Buhari who gave the directive in a national broadcast said he sympathizes with sufferings of Nigerians and was giving the directive to ease the sufferings causes by scarcity of new notes supply.
The President disclosed that in line with Section 20(3) of the CBN Act 2007, all existing old N1,000 and N500 notes are no longer legal tender but remains redeemable at the CBN and designated points.
While disclosing that the approval was as a result of wide consultations with relevant stakeholders including the representatives of State Governors, Council of State, Buhari said he’s aware that this new monetary policy has also contributed immensely to the minimization of the influence of money in politics.
This, according to him, is a positive departure from the past and represents a bold legacy step by this administration, towards laying a strong foundation for free and fair elections
The President, who listed the advantages of the ongoing financial reforms embarked upon by the apex bank, said the policy is part of efforts of his administration to restore the statutory ability of the CBN to keep a firm control over money in circulation.
He therefore challenged the citizens to make their deposits of the old notes by taking advantage of the platforms and windows being provided by the CBN.
Buhari also directed the CBN to intensify collaboration with anti- corruption agencies in checking the activities of those who were bent on sabotaging the smooth implementation of the new Naira redesign policy.
He reassured that government would continue to assess the implementation of the policy with a view to ensuring that Nigerians are not unnecessarily burdened, adding that the CBN will ensure the availability of the new Naira notes across the country.
Reacting to the President’s address, Gbajabiamila faulted the decision of the Federal Government to disregard the Supreme Court order on the issue of currency swap.
In a statement personally signed by him, the House Speaker said though the President’s directive was a step in the right direction, the Federal Government could not afford situations that “suggest a wanton disregard for the rule of law.”
He said: “This morning, President Muhammadu Buhari, announced that he has authorised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to reintroduce the old N200 notes into circulation, pending when the Bank can make sufficient amounts of the new currency available. This is a step in the right direction, and I hope it helps curb Nigerians’ suffering. However, the decision still falls short of the order of the Supreme Court that the old currencies remain legal tender pending the adjudication of a pending suit brought by state governments on the legality of the policy and its implementation.
“It is not to the benefit of our country for the Federal Government to act in ways that suggest a wanton disregard for the rule of law. It will be better for us to strictly adhere to the court’s order in this matter pending the adjudication of the substantive suit. For the sake of our country, we must work together to resist actions that escalate tensions and endanger our democracy at this crucial moment of national awakening and rebirth. In all things, let the well-being of our fellow citizens and the survival of our nation be foremost in our hearts and guide all the decisions we make in this historic moment”.
Similarly, the Doguwa-led Ad-hoc Committee, at a meeting with the President hours after his nationwide broadcast, insisted that the currency swap policy at this time is very unpopular and is capable of creating a crisis in the country that could jeopardize the upcoming general elections.
“Mr. President may of course had good intentions in using the policy to tackle insecurity, reduce corruption and engender the global best practice in fiscal policy management but unfortunately due to wrong timing, and the work of some criminal elements in both the CBN and the commercial banks, Nigerians are left suffering,” the panel said
Lamenting further during an interview after the meeting, Doguwa said he needs N70 million in “hard copy” for the polls.
According to him, the naira scarcity caused by the new policy would affect the electioneering expenses of politicians in the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The ranking lawmaker added that all politicians, irrespective of political affiliations, would be affected by the new policy.
“And don’t forget the point I made as a partisan member that the policy in itself is against the ruling party because Nigerians that are not happy will look at it as a policy of the government of the APC. 30-40 days to elections you come out with a policy that is not widely accepted by Nigerians and whether we like it or not that will be seen as the program of the government. So those of us in the APC are not happy about it,” Doguwa said.
As some APC Governors including Kano state Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje and his Kaduna state counterpart, Malkan Nasir el-Rufai also kicked against Buhari’s decision while directing their residents to continue using the old notes, Nigerians are eager to see the next step the APC federal lawmakers will take on this matter.