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Naira Scarcity: Fed Govt, states close to settlement


Naira Scarcity: Fed Govt, states close to settlement

The Nation Newspaper

THE search for an out-of-court resolution of the suit instituted against the Federal Government by Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi) over the implementation of naira policy continued yesterday.

For the past 48 hours, both parties have been locked in talks with the Federal Government asking the governors to withdraw the case in the Supreme Court over the phasing out of the old notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) naira redesign policy.

The CBN had on February 10 redesigned the 200, 500 and 1,000 denominations and replaced them with new ones.

But, in a nationwide broadcast on February 17, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the CBN to reintroduced the N200 bill following public outcry.

The President said the resuscitated old N200 notes will co-exist for 60 days effective from February 10.

The apex court will hear the suit instituted by the states today. Seven states – Katsina, Lagos, Cross River, Ondo, Ekiti, Sokoto and Ogun have joined as co-plaintiffs. Imo and Abia states have also indicated to join as co-plaintiffs.

However, Bayelsa and Edo states joined the Federal Governt as co-respondents.

The Nation learnt that the governors and the Federal Government were yet to agree on terms as at the time of filing this report last night.

Also, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) initiated moves to stave off the contempt proceedings insitituted against him and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele by El-Rufai, Matawalle and Bello.

The AGF said he do not want the contempt proceedings because of the wrong signal it might send to the international community.

He said since Emefiele carried out a presidential directive, he was not personally liable.

Investigation showed that Malami and three governors have since Monday been discussing the February 8 interim order of the apex court, which declared N1,000, N500 and N200 as legal tenders until the determination of the suit pending before it.

The first meeting was held at the instance of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sen. Abdullahi Adamu.

Apart from the three governors, the session was attended by the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF)/Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu.

A source at the session said: “Adamu said he convened the meeting to explore ways of amicable resolution of the case in court over the redesigning of some Naira notes.

“He said APC as the party in government should not be seen as divided against itself. He said the party believes in the rule of law.

“The governors said they were not out to undermine or sabotage the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. They said the naira redesign was not in the interest of the common man.

“They however said the government owes it a responsibility to respect the order of the court in order not to set bad precedent.

“Malami, who flew in from Addis Ababa to attend the meeting, pleaded with the governors to sheathe their swords. He said he had consulted all APC governors who have agreed to withdraw the case in court.

“But the APC governors at the meeting said they were unaware of the resolution of the governors which Malami was brandishing. They asked the AGF to speak to the issue.”

Another source said: “At a stage, Malami said the Federal Government was ready to allow the old notes of N200, N500 and N1,000 to be legal tender with the new notes till April 10.

“But he added a caveat – that the governors must discontinue with the case in the Supreme Court before the government makes its decision known. He even said the President may address the nation on Thursday (tomorrow) on the new development if the governors accepted the offer.

“The governors instantly rejected the promissory notes from the AGF. They demanded written terms of settlement which they will table before the apex court. They feared that the Federal Government may renege on the verbal agreement.

“As at the close of the meeting on Monday, there was a stalemate.”

Worried by the breakdown of negotiation, Malami yesterday met with the attorneys-general of Kogi and Zamfara states.

Another source said: “He told the attorneys-general to instruct their counsel to withdraw the matter in the apex court. He said he had secured the consent of the three governors to direct them to close the case.

“Again, one of the attorneys-general asked him why he (AGF) was giving them directive on behalf of their principals. They said they cannot withdraw the case without hearing from the affected governors whose states are the plaintiffs.”

As at press time, Malami and his legal team were expected to begin fresh out-of-court settlement with the counsel to the three states.

“There was no consensus till 7pm when the parties decided to meet again on likely terms of settlement. The gaps in negotiation made the three states to push ahead with the contempt proceedings against Malami and Emefiele.”

Asked of what has become of the case, a counsel in the matter said: “The outcome of the negotiation on Tuesday night will determine whether or not we will withdraw the case.

“We have no choice other than to abide by what the two parties agreed upon.”

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