By Sola Omoniyi, Lagos
Foremost Rights Advocacy Group, the Centre For Human Rights and Anti- Corruption Crusade (CHURAC) has written to the International Criminal Court, ICC in Netherlands to arrested and prosecute former Nigerian President, Mr Muhammadu Buhari and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele over alleged crime against humanity while presiding over the affairs of the country.
This assertion was contained in a petition by the group’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Alaowei Cleric Esq, on Wednesday.
The petition titled, “REQUEST FOR PROSECUTION OF MUHAMMADU BUHARI AND GODWIN EMEFIELE FOR CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY” said: “By virtue of the power conferred on you in respect of prosecution of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court as provided under Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, we hereby call on you to immediately carry out an investigation of the former Nigerian President, Mr Muhammadu Buhari and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele and prosecute them if found wanting over policy they initiated and implemented when they were in government in Nigeria.”
It would be recalled that on the 26th of October, 2022 the Nigerian Central Bank president led by Mr. Godwin Emefiele announced the redesign of the Nigerian currencies of 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes respectively with January 31st, 2023 as the deadline for use of the old naira notes.
Meanwhile, the announcement was greeted with a lot of criticisms, with financial experts all over the world, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) saying that the timing of the policy would hurt the Nigerian economy thereby causing hardship to Nigerians.
While reacting, in October 28, 2022, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in the Government of the Federation of Nigeria, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the CBN did not consult her Ministry on the Policy and that the Currency Swap Policy would further jeopardize the Nigerian economy.
However, former President Muhammadu Buhari said on the 30th of October, 2022 that CBN had his backing to redesign the said naira notes against all wise counseling.
The former President further declared in November 10, 2022 that there’s no going back on the redesign of naira notes despite the apparent and identified demerits in the Policy.
The group recalled that on the 17th of November, 2022, CBN instructed commercial banks in Nigeria to work on Saturdays in the week to enable customers to return the old naira notes and to completely mop up the old naira notes on or before the deadline in January 31st 2023.
The former President, Buhari, also on the 23rd of November, 2022, unveiled the redesigned new naira notes of 200, 500 and 1000, while the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele said on the 8th of December 2022 that banks had received the new currency notes of 200, 500 and 1000 naira on the 7th of December 2022 and that by December 15, 2022, the Nigerian deposit Banks would begin dispensing the redesigned naira notes to customers across the Country.
The group stated, “Sadly, from December 15, 2022 up to the end of January, 2023, the redesigned new naira notes were not in circulation. Yet on the 7th of January, 2023, CBN directed banks to stop over-the-counter withdrawal of the redesigned new naira notes in order to create artificial scarcity of the naira notes. Despite public outcry and warning, Emefiele said on the 23rd of January, 2022 that there will be no going back on the January 31st, 2023 deadline for the phasing out of the old naira notes.
On the 29th of January, 2023 CBN extended the deadline for the swap of old naira notes to February 10th 2023, giving a 7-day extra grace period for direct deposit with CBN.
Alaowei reiterated, ” The apex Bank said on the 31st of January 2023 that CBN, not the deposit banks, will continue to collect the old naira notes after the deadline thereby making life difficult for the ordinary Nigerians.
However, in February 2nd 2023, CBN ordered banks to resume paying the new naira notes over the counter having seen the hardship and sufferings of Nigerians but the banks complained that the new naira notes were not available in the banks. Nigerians have to buy the few circulated new naira notes with costly prices. Ten Thousand Naira, for instance, have to be sold for fifteen thousand naira or more. Only few people can have access to the currencies. People in the rural areas became victims of this systematic policy of starvation. The Naira scarcity has occasioned an untold hardship which resulted in loss of lives and means of livelihoods across the Country.”
The petition emphasized, “On the 2nd of February 2023, some of the Nigerian State governments of Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara sued the Federal Government of Nigeria over the inimical naira redesigned policy at the Country’s apex court, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Suit No: SC/CS/200/2023. Despite being aware of the pending Suit, CBN said it has no plan to extend February 10th 2023 deadline. However, former President Buhari on the 3rd of February 2023 pleaded with Nigerians to give him 7 days to resolve the naira swap crisis.
On the 8th of February 2023, the Supreme Court vide an ex parte order restrained the CBN and former President Buhari from enforcing the February 10th 2023 deadline of the currency redesigned policy following an application brought by the States. Regrettably, Buhari and the CBN Governor flagrantly flouted the ruling of the apex Court in gross violation of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended).
“By February 13, 2023, ten days after, Buhari remained silent on how he intends to address the cash scarcity ravaging the Country after promising Nigerians. Meanwhile, on the 14th of February 2023, CBN insisted on the February 10th deadline for the old currency notes validity despite the pending Court order.
“In February 16th 2023, former President Buhari addressed Nigerians in live television broadcast on the Naira scarcity and approved the use of the old N200 notes till April 10th 2023 instead of complying with the pending Court order. Accordingly, on the 21st of February 2023, three Nigerian State governments initiated contempt proceedings against Godwin Emefiele and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice who was representing Buhari in the Court for flouting the Supreme Court Order. The former President used the instruments of State powers to suppress the judicial process, while continuing with his anti-people’s policy which has subjected Nigerians to beaming end.
“The former President of Nigeria on the 2nd of March 2023 apologized to Nigerians over the Naira Redesign Policy having acknowledged the adverse effects of the policy but refused to reverse the Policy in compliance with the Court Order. On the 3rd of March 2023, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its judgement held that the old N200, N500 and N1000 naira notes remained legal tender until December 31st 2023. However, the former President and the CBN refused to obey the judgement until the 7th of March 2023. This gross abuse of state power made ten (10) Nigerian State governments to file contempt charges against the Federal Government and the CBN on the 11th of March, 2023 over the latter’s non-compliance with the Supreme Court judgement on the Naira Redesign Policy.”
“VIOLENT PROTESTS AS A RESULT OF THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF THE POLICY
“While the back and forth moves on the Naira Redesign Policy and deadlines lasted, violent protests erupted across several parts of the Country as the cash scarcity hit Nigerians hard. The hardship was further exacerbated by the increase in the prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) as well as the scarcity of the product at the same time.
Consequently, between the months of February and March 2023, residents of Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, Abeokuta the capital of Ogun State amongst other States, took to the streets to protest the lingering petrol and cash scarcity.
“One person was killed during a face-off between the protesters and the Nigerian Police officers while the unrest in Ibadan lingered. Another person was reportedly shot by the Nigerian Police in the city of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
An official of the Lagos State University (LASU) slumped and died while waiting in a long queue to withdraw money at a bank on the institution’s main campus in Ojo, Lagos.
“On the 2nd of February 2023 a bank customer died after queuing at a generation bank in Agbor, a town in Delta State of Nigeria. Also on the 11th of March 2023, a radio presenter with Fresh FM in the city of Ibadan slumped and died while trekking to work after a futile effort to withdraw cash from the bank. People spent five to six hours to stand in a queue in the banks just to withdraw may be two thousand naira notes which cannot even buy goods with the lowest prices in the market due to the rising inflation.
In a similar vein, violent protests continued across the Country at the same period. Some commercial banks were destroyed in Edo, Ogun, Delta, Lagos, etc States while the protests lasted due to the Naira scarcity.
“The Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE) said that the Nigerian economy lost an estimated N20 trillion to the Policy during the naira scarcity. Former President Buhari and the CBN Governor later admitted that the policy was initiated to curb vote buying at the General Elections held on 25th of February and 18th of March 2023.
“The CBN Governor explained that the decision was reached due to persisting concerns with the management of currency in circulation — particularly those outside the banking system.
Five months later, Nigerians have been directed to go back to using the old notes side by side with the new notes till December 31st 2023 but even at that the new Naira notes are not in circulation. It means the CBN Governor and former President Buhari deliberately initiated this policy to inflict an untold hardship on Nigerians just because of their interest in the general elections.
The action of the duo of Mr. Godwin Emefiele and former President Buhari has flagrantly violated the fundamental rights of Nigerians entrenched in international laws. The act constituted crime against humanity as provided under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We therefore, request you to carry out a holistic investigation of the crime in order to try them once they’re found culpable.
“Many Nigerians are still suffering and yet to recover from the adverse effects of the inimical currency swap policy. Even hospitals recorded so many deaths because people could not have access to their monies in the banks to fund treatments. If your office intervenes in this matter, it will serve as deterrent to other leaders of nations from the member countries from trampling on the rights of their nationals in initiating policies. We’re ready to provide all necessary information for the investigation and possible prosecution of the culprits,” the group added.