Naira swap: Supreme Court has duty to decide on original jurisdiction– Ubani

Lagos lawyer, Mr Monday Ubani, on Thursday, said the Supreme Court still had a duty to decide on whether its original jurisdiction was properly invoked in deciding on the naira swap.

Ubani told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that although the Supreme Court possessed original jurisdiction in matters affecting the federal and state, there was, however, a need to make findings on its jurisdiction in this regards.

The apex court had on Wednesday, granted an interim order, temporarily preventing a withdrawal of the old naira notes from circulation.

This temporary order is coming on the heels of a motion exparte filed by three states: Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara.

The applicants had sought an order stopping the withdrawal of the notes, pending determination of the substantive suit.

The court presided over by a seven-man panel had granted the order as prayed and adjourned the case until Feb. 15 to hear the motion on notice.

Reacting to the decision of the apex court, Ubani noted that although the rulling had helped many Nigerians gain relief, there was, however, a need to set the records straight.

“Even before the expiration of usage of the old currencies, it was difficult to see the new notes in banks, and so these three state governors felt the need to approach the court in its original jurisdiction.

“Now, original jurisdiction of a court can be invoked by the provisions of section 212 of the 1999 constitution, where there is a dispute between the federal and state government.

“When the original jurisdiction of the supreme court is invoked, it rightly requires a seven-man panel to adjudicate and no longer five,” he said.

Ubani, however, noted that since the fact in issue was not a legal dispute between the federal and state governments, the federal government may raise a preliminary objection.

“Looking at the law as it is, one of the things the federal government may do, is to file a preliminary objection on grounds that it is not a legal dispute between the state and federal government.

“So, the court will have to determine that issue as raised, while the FG is also expected to put in a counter affidavit in response to the applicant’s motion.

“So, the supreme court will first have to decide on the issue of its jurisdiction, whether the instant suit is a legal dispute, which necessitated a resort to its original jurisdiction,” he said.

Ubani also debunked the contention that the ruling did not affect the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) since it was not made a party to the suit.

“We hear the argument that since the CBN was not joined as a party the ruling is not binding on it, and I say it is wrong.

“The naira swap or redesign is a policy of the federal government and so, if the Attorney General of the Federation who is the chief legal officer of government has been joined, it is binding on all institutions,” he said.

According to Ubani, regardless of what the position is in society now, the supreme court will first have to make a finding, on whether its original jurisdiction was properly invoked.

He noted that while the question of jurisdiction still awaited determination, it was worthy of note that many Nigerians were happy with the temporary order of the court.

“No doubt, the decision of the apex court is a welcomed one. However, the court still has a duty to decide on whether its original jurisdiction was rightly invoked,” he said.