It is no longer news that on the 3rd March 2023, the Supreme Court extended the use of old naira notes’ validity till December 2023. A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court led by John Okoro unanimously directed that the CBN must continue to receive the old notes from Nigerians.


The court held that the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for the redesign of the new notes and withdrawal of the old notes without due consultation is invalid and against public outcry.

The sad thing is that the President and its legal adviser, the Attorney General of the Federation are yet to comply with the Supreme Court order, acting as if they were not aware of such. The Buhari-Emefiele’s erroneous policy as affirmed by the Court has led to the scarcity of currency notes, bringing untold hardship to millions of citizens in an economy significantly driven by the informal sector with a large proportion of unbanked persons.

The Supreme Court in its judgment clearly expressed that disobedience of an order of the court shows the country’s democracy a mere pretension and is now replaced by autocracy.

Even during the military era, disobedience to court orders is not as feasible and confident as we are witnessing today. The judiciary stood its ground and fears no gun. Nobody would ever imagine that a day will come in the history of Nigeria when a sitting President, Commander-in-Chief would treat a court order with disdain.

This is one of the reasons an advocate of the Pure Theory of Law, Hans Kelsen opined that sanction should be part of the law. Kelsen’s study of the sanctioned view of the law, legal norms are articulated in the form that if a person does not follow a certain ban, the courts must impose a punishment, whether criminal or civil.

Kelsen on the philosophy of law stated that law should be consistent. It ought to be appropriate at all times and in all locations and not for the president to choose which of the court order to obey.

The founding fathers who worked on the constitution never thought a day like this would come, am sure they would have made provision for adequate sanctions like the immediate removal of the President. We are not talking about the Customary Court order but the Supreme Court order.

The Supreme Court had reiterated that the Nigerian Constitution is founded on the rule of law, the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law. It means also that government should be conducted within the framework of recognized rules and principles.

By the provision of the Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, President Buhari upon swearing-in to office made the following declaration:


“I, Muhammadu Buhari do solemnly swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; 

“that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will;

“that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as President; and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria. So help me God.” (words in Bold are mine for emphasis)

No one would ever imagine that someone who had sworn to the above statement could treat the Court order with disdain. Mr. President, your mathematics on the purported cashless policy is not mathing and it takes a brave man to accept defeat and do the needful. Masses are suffering, how I wish you can stroll on the street and see anger face to face on the people you swore to protect.

Mr. President, maybe your Attorney General did not inform you that irrespective of your intention on the cashless policy, the resultant effect negates the spirit and the intention of the Constitution you have sworn to as it clearly affects the good government and welfare of all persons, principles of freedom, equality and justice.

It was former CJN, Justice Onnoghen Rtd who stated that one cannot panic when his or her actions are in tandem with the rule of law. The action of President Buhari on the failed cashless policy is clearly not in tandem with the rule of law and history will surely place him where necessary.

What also baffles me most is the action of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on compliance with the court order. This is the only ministry that the constitution exclusively provided for and its creation is not for window dressing but to advise the Government on the constitutionality of policies and actions taken or embarked upon by the Government. It is his job to give or proffer justification for the actions, policies and laws of the Government.

How best can we explain to law students that the Rules of professional conduct for Legal practitioners that a Lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and Foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner is not binding on the office of the Attorney General?

All in all, the disobedience to the Court order by President Buhari and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice is clearly the opposite of the Rule of Law and unjustifiable. We must all rise irrespective of party, religion and ethnic affiliations and condemn the unconstitutional action of the President.

Let me end by saying that i don’t nurse any panic for my action and inaction, but i fear the history that would follow my action and inaction.

History will be kind to all. May 29 should come quickly. The masses are suffering.


Fatai Abioduni writes from Abuja