Naira redesign: Fashola, Keyamo differ over Buhari’s action

The political drama over the naira redesign policy took another dimension when two ministers of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet and members of the campaign train of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) expressed differing opinions over the policy.

Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, and Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Minister of Works and Housing, expressed their views over the weekend on the actions of President Buhari, with Keyamo speaking against his action while Fashola spoke in favour.

Keyamo, the spokesperson for the APC Presidential Campaign Council (APC-PCC), had criticised the president for making that nationwide broadcast during an interview on Channels Television, insisting that he could have maintained the status quo pending the outcome of the Supreme Court. A judgement is expected on Wednesday, February 22.

Although Keyamo praised the intended benefits attached to the naira redesign policy, he insisted that those advising him pushed him to make that announcement, an action that is seen as a contempt of the judicial processes.

He said that he would advise the president to comply with the Supreme Court order, which was to recirculate all the old notes of N500 and N1,000 until they decide otherwise.

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“My view is that the president acted honestly, without intention to slight the Supreme Court, but he may have acted on wrong advice. I did not give that advice; it’s not my responsibility. I do not know who gave that advice.

“In his speech, he acknowledged that there were certain matters in court. So, he thought he was playing safe by saying okay, before you decide these matters in court, may I just provide some middle ground, so that the country is burning, there are riots everywhere, so let me just try and provide some succour for people, whilst acknowledging the matters are in court.

“Now, if I were to advise him, I would have advised differently. I would have advised him to comply with the terms of the order of the Supreme Court. All the notes should circulate for now, all the notes. All the old notes should circulate side by side with the new notes for now, because that is the order of the Supreme Court,” he had said.

President Buhari had on February 16 maintained that the N500 and N1,000 old notes ceased to be legal tender, while the old N200 note continued to be legal tender until Monday, April 10, 2023.

Fashola, on the other hand, stated during his guest appearance on Television Continental over the weekend that the president was moved by compassion, taking into account the suffering caused by the policy’s impact on the masses, and insisted that this new step was taken to help alleviate Nigerians’ pains.

He insisted that the action of the president was not an affront to the rule of law or a direct confrontation with the Supreme Court.

“Let me say that in a democracy where there is a right to speak freely, there’s bound to be divergence of views, as you have had. But I think that the principle about respecting and awaiting the outcome of a court decision sometimes has been stretched, if I may use that word,” Fashola explained.

“There is also a lot of jurisprudence and scholarship about the boundaries of contempt in actions done and in things said. If I shut the door on your finger, and you went to court to say that the court should direct me to remove or open the door, do I say let’s wait for the outcome of the court’s decision when you are in pain and people are in pain?

“The question to ask is: if I attempt to open that door, would you, the person in pain, say I was acting in contempt, or would you gladly have me open the door and then go back to the court and say the matter has been resolved?”

“And that is another angle to look at this thing because I think that whatever interventions the president sought to make were interventions in response to the very palpable pain, and I think he said that much in his speech about the unintended consequences of the policy.

Fashola added that this development has indeed added to the beauty and growth of the democratic system.

He also said that unlike other people, Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, and others in the party fold had shown courage, seeing how the masses were suffering.

He stressed that although the central bank had a right to implement the current naira redesign policy, some of the reasons adduced by the bank were outside the law.

“So the question to then ask is, has a law been used for a policy seeking to achieve an objective that is not within the law? And this is an invitation to parliament, and I think this is the time to step up and say, has our politics left our central banking-related laws behind?”

He defended the Central Bank’s action, saying that although the apex bank didn’t anticipate the outcome, it was doing all within its power to resolve the issue.

“It seems to me that the central bank does not intend or contemplate a mop-up policy; it actually contemplates, in my view, a swap of notes,” he said.



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