The current artificially-contrived currency crisis badly exposes the weaknesses in our Constitution and other establishment laws. CBN under the guise of a “currency swap” has rather implemented a currency confiscation agenda all in a bid to curb vote-buying which is not its mandate. Thus, Nigeria is currently held for ransom by two people: President Buhari and his appointee, Governor Emefiele of the CBN. Buhari is the chief culprit here while Emefiele is a mere errand-boy enforcer. In essence, these two public officers are holding over 200 million people for ransom given the economic hardship, emasculation and strangulation individuals, households and businesses have been subjected to in the last few weeks. Clearly, something is fundamentally wrong if a President will use a CBN Governor to practically shut down economic activities and burn down the country to achieve a political goal. This is a signature misuse of office and abuse of power unfolding before our eyes. An elected officeholder and his appointee have subordinated the interests of 200 million Nigerians over theirs. This is dreadful!.
Regardless of our political leanings, what is bad is bad! Everyone is feeling the heat. This includes both the supposed targets of Buhari and Emefiele’s machinations and the opposition parties and their supporters who hope to profit from the people’s misery. The opposition believes the crisis will hurt the ruling party’s candidates at next Saturday’s election. The supporters of APC, PDP, LP and NNPP buy goods and services from the same market, live in the same areas, use the same hospital, attend the same schools etc. The harrowing pain is therefore collective regardless of which side of the divide you are on. Not even the videos and images of the destruction and burning of public and private properties including banks’ branches, tears and wailing of citizens who cannot pay for services including food and medicals, attack on and threat to lives of commercial bank workers etc. have touched the president or his enforcer. They are both blind to emotion and reason maybe because they have water and not blood flowing in their veins.
Who is to blame for all of these? The people themselves, the electorate, you and I. Every Nigerian has a senator and representative at the two chambers of the National Assembly (NASS) who make laws on their behalf and perform oversight functions on the executive arm of government. The people have failed by using the NASS to make laws to curb the excesses of elected and appointed public office holders including the president and the CBN Governor. As our constitution and other laws stand today, the NASS has inadvertently given dictatorial powers to the president and CBN Governor and the people are suffering the consequences of the exercise of those dictatorial powers. The CBN Governor has inadvertently created a template which other appointed heads of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) may fancy using in future to inflict pain and hardship on Nigerians.
Pray, what stops the Comptroller-General (CG) of Customs from shutting all land borders or confiscating all goods at our borders for 3 months because he wants to intercept a rumoured consignment of contrabands? And for 3 months, nobody can bring in any goods including food and essential medicals because of a crazy, sadist and uncreative CG who has the backing of the president? Or who will stop the Minster of Aviation or the DG of NCAA if any of them decides to shut our airspace with the backing of the president because they want to settle political scores or prevent some politicians from flying to campaign venues across the country? Who will stop the DG of NDLEA if he seizes all consignments because he is searching for contrabands or NAFDAC DG wakes up one morning and revokes all approvals granted to drug manufacturers because a politician owns a drug company and they want to weaken his financial base? These are scary thoughts but they can and will happen one day if we do not act now. This is why Nigerians (i.e. the people) through their elected federal lawmakers must act now to save the country from these other Nigerians (i.e. wicked and sadist elected and appointed officeholders).
The current checks and balances mechanisms in the 1999 Constitution are not very effective. That was why President Buhari had the effrontery to overrule the Supreme Court and there were no consequences. How and why should this happen in a constitutional democracy governed by the rule of law? This reinforces the opening sentence of this intervention. As things stand today, the president is greater than the Supreme Court and the people (NASS).
We have to reverse this by amending our constitution and other laws such that the order of power descends from the people (NASS) to the Supreme Court and the president. 1 man cannot be greater than 200 million people who elected him into office. It is an insult. And 20 or 25 Supreme Court Justices cannot be greater than 469 lawmakers (who are representing 200 million Nigerians). Our laws must be amended to remove and reduce all tyrannical tendencies in the executive arm of government.
To start with, the Constitution should be reviewed and updated every 5 years. It should be statutory, automatic and not subject to the president’s discretion or whims. Also, amendments to the constitution should no longer require presidential assent. Once the NASS passes the amendments and 24 States Assemblies out of 36 pass the same amendments, the amendments take automatic effect. The NASS represents 200 million people. If 200 million people have taken a position, it becomes binding. No one individual should sit in Aso Rock and use his pen to decide whether to assent or not or use a constitutional amendment to settle political and personal scores.
All other enabling laws such as the CBN Act, SEC Act, FIRS Act, EFCC Act, Electoral Act etc. should be automatically reviewed and updated every 3 years. It will interest readers to know that the CBN Act was last updated in 2007, that was 16 years ago, enough time for a monster like Emefiele to evolve. These Acts should be amended to include clear provisions for the removal of their Heads (Governor, DG, Executive Chairman, Executive Secretary, CG etc.) by NASS. Using the CBN Governor as an example, where he/she is found to have initiated policies that are damaging to the economy and people, any of the two chambers of the NASS can pass a simple resolution to suspend him from office for 6 months. Once a chamber suspends him from office, any action he takes thereafter is illegal, null and void and of no effect. If the NASS decides to sack him from office, both chambers must pass resolutions to remove him from office. For the avoidance of doubt, this includes and applies to all government appointees including Federal Cabinet Ministers.
Also, no Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) of government or the head of the MDA should be able to sue the NASS or obtain an injunction preventing the NASS from sitting over a matter. This should be clearly spelt out in the Acts of these MDAs. For example, Governor Emefiele should not be able to sue NASS or obtain a black market injunction preventing the NASS from sitting to pass a resolution to suspend Emefiele or sack him from office. The constitution should be amended such that no individual, entity, body, state, presidency or government can obtain any injunction from the court to prevent the NASS from sitting.
For the CBN Act specifically, currency introduction and redesign proposals should require approval by both chambers of the NASS going forward. Both chambers of NASS should be able to pass a resolution suspending any policy or directive introduced by any MDA which results in unintended consequences for the people post-implementation. Because we cannot underestimate the mischief of the executive, the Rules of the NASS should be updated and strengthened to provide for virtual/remote sitting where all resolutions passed have the same binding effect as those passed when it sits physically.
On the Supreme Court, what happens when a president disobeys the Supreme Court? This is an interesting question. Looking back in history, President Andrew Jackson once disobeyed the US Supreme Court in 1832 and got away with it. In August 1974, it was only the threat of impeachment by the US Congress that compelled President Richard Nixon to surrender the White House tapes to the special prosecutor after he previously defied the US Supreme Court’s 8-0 unanimous ruling to do so a month earlier. In 2005, President Obasanjo defied the Supreme Court by withholding Lagos State’s council funds and got away with it.
This is 2023 and Buhari is about to get away with another contempt of the Supreme Court.
Where a Nigerian President fails to carry out the orders of the Supreme Court, such a decision should trigger a call for the impeachment of the president by NASS because defying the Supreme Court is a fundamental violation of the constitution and a sure pathway to anarchy. Unfortunately, in climes such as ours with politico-ethno-religious suspicions, the NASS maybe be unsuccessful in impeaching him. But there are other checks. A president who defies the Supreme Court cannot hold political office in Nigeria after the end of his tenure.
If the president is in his first tenure, he cannot run for re-election as he is automatically constitutionally barred from seeking re-election. Such a president cannot present a budget to the NASS for approval and cannot appoint anyone who requires the senate’s confirmation. These are subtle safeguards against the powers and mischievous tendencies of a tyrannical president if one ever emerges in future. Our constitution should be amended to include these safeguards.
If the above recommendations are implemented by NASS, we would have saved our country from ourselves. The overarching objective of these recommendations is the elevation of the people over a few. 200 million Nigerians are greater than any one individual, no matter who you are in the following sequence: the people (NASS) first; the judiciary (Supreme Court), second, and the executive (Presidency), third.
By Dr Gbenga Adefulu,
The opinions and views expressed in this write-up are entirely that of the Writer(s). They do not reflect the opinions and views of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or any of its employees. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of materials herein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or its employees concerning the legal status of any country, its authority, area or territory or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers. Equally, the sketches, images, pictures and videos are gotten from the public domain.