Rasheed Adegoke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in this interview with SOLOMON ODENIY
I speaks on the continued disregard for Supreme Court orders on the new naira policy by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele
Five days after the pronouncement of Supreme Court that the old notes should circulate till December 31, the CBN, and Buhari have yet to comply.
What do you make of this?It is still part of the exhibition of lawlessness we have been complaining about.
I will also blame the Attorney General of the Federation.
He is the chief law officer of the government and one of his duties is that the decisions of courts are immediately put to execution.
But when we have an AGF violating the decision of court, he forgets that he would leave office one day and would need that same judiciary to run to.
It is very painful that their actions have made lesser institutions pattern their conduct on the lawlessness of the executive, which is why ordinary bankers can now claim they have not received a memo and would not obey the order of a supreme court.
What is a memo when there is an order from the Supreme Court?
Will the CBN decide to punish them for obeying the order of the court?
And should the memo not come from the CBN then banks would not obey an order from the supreme court? So what do we make of our courts?
And the day they are being arrested they would run to the same court to seek justice? Is this not an indolent way of thinking?
The proper thing now is for the masses to rise against any bank not obeying the supreme court order and ensure the order is enforced.Can citizens under the law enforce this order?
Yes, they can by shutting banks that refuse to cooperate. All institutions including citizens are mandated to enforce the decision of not only the Supreme Court but all courts.
The masses can also mobilise massively when the executive arm of government chooses to be reckless and lawless and shut down such a bank. You will then see that they would immediately comply.You seem to be bothered about the banks. What about the CBN?
The man at the helm of affairs at the CBN has been acting in an unacceptable manner. Who does he think he is?
What does he want to turn the country to?
By now, he should be in jail for his total disregard for the rule of law in the country.
It is sheer insanity for anyone not to obey the order of the apex court.While delivering the judgment, Justice Emmanuel Agim held that the disobedience of the Supreme Court’s earlier order on the new notes made the country’s democracy become a mere pretension and it is now replaced by autocracy or dictatorship.
What do make of such words?
They are not harsh on the President in any form whatsoever.
It is the duty of the court not just to deliver judgments but to make sure it chastises anybody who is not obeying the rule of law or who is violating court orders.
When you look at it during the time of the military in the 1980s and 1990s, the Supreme Court did not mince words in condemning the military governor of Lagos state when he took over the properties of Odumegwu Ojukwu while the case against the military government was pending in court.
The courts described the act of the governor as executive lawlessness and recklessness. No word could be bigger.
The words used by the Supreme Court in this instance are milder because when they say somebody is lawless, the implication is that the person is living in an archaic world. It is weightier to use such words.
To that extent, when you now look at the decision of the Supreme Court against Buhari on the issue of the Naira redesign, Supreme Court is the highest court of the land, it is a policy court as well as a court of law and when it feels that there is certain attitude from the executive which may be violating the rights of the citizens, it is the duty of the court to give a pronouncement on it. The court may be right or wrong.
Even if the court is wrong being the highest court of the land, it is an infallible court, it is not infallible because it is final but it is final because it is infallible. It is the last court of the land and whatever it pronounces it is in the interest of the nation and every party in the case must comply.
But it is unfortunate that a government that had benefited from this court’s pronouncement has refused to obey. Let me cast your mind back to 2019 when Atiku Abubakar went to court to challenge the reelection of Buhari.
The Supreme Court ruled in accordance with what it understood to be the law. For such a person who has remained in his office courtesy of the judiciary decision, it is out of place for the government to disrespect the judiciary.
It is mandatory for the President and institutions of the land to obey pronouncements of the court, no matter how small, not to talk of the highest court of the land. The implication is that the court has taken note of the penchant of the President for disregarding court orders.
Do you think this would have an impact on our democracy and jurisprudence in the country?
Yes, it does. It will show that through the act of the president, that respect for the rule of law is an option.
That should not be.
You know that is not consistent with what we know to be the rule of law, what we all know to be the principle of separation of power, and what we respect as a civilization in modern dispensation. Do not forget that we do not have a monarchical system of government in place in the country.
Even in some countries practicing the monarchy system of government, there is a dilution with pro-democratic institutions and practices to an extent, the queen and kings are no longer ultimate; they are under the law and that is the essence of the rule of law. No one should be above the law, that is what would show us to be human and not animals.
We are not in the lord of the ring kind of society. It is incumbent on the president and other institutions to obey court orders.Is there anything that could be done as a form of retribution to the President to serve as a lesson for others coming behind who might want to tread the same path?There is.
These are impeachable offences. In a sane society when an incumbent is totally disregarding the rule of law and court orders, the national assembly would have commenced impeachment procedures. And when such acts would affect the fundamental rights of the citizens the court might set aside such acts and when he leaves office, he might be exposed to prosecution for violations committed while in office.
The president does not enjoy immunity for life and that is one of the ways we can start to establish institutions in the country.
In Nigeria, we only have strong men and weak institutions. it behoves the three arms of government and other institutions under them to work together to ensure the establishment of strong institutions in the country.
A good example was when Donald Trump refused to leave the government house and wanted to carry on in defiance of Americans’ decisions. All the institutions withdrew from him without anyone giving specific instructions.
Right now, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has been declared the winner of the just concluded election, the next thing is that certain paraphernalia of office should be shifting towards him. Buhari by now should be seen that he is being denuded of these things; with this he would not continue to see himself as the ultimate that can do no wrong.