AN EXAMINATION OF THE SUPREME COURT ORIGINAL JURISDICTION; DOES THE SUPREME COURT HAS THE POWER TO RESTRAIN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FROM ENFORCING THE FEBRUARY 10TH DEADLINE ON THE USE OF OLD NOTES?
Written by Greatness Eyonsa (Faculty Of Law, University Of Calabar)
Yesterday, the supreme Court gave an order, restraining the CBN from enforcing February 10th deadline for the use of old N200, N500, N1000 naira notes. As much as this judgement has invited a legal brouhaha in the Nigerian legal space, it is critical to examine whether or not the supreme Court has the Original Jurisdiction to give such order.
Firstly, it is apposite to state that the Supreme Court or any court does not have the power to restrain an agency from carrying out it’s functions, but when the legality of the actions of such agency established by law is put to question, the court will have the jurisdiction to hear same.
The powers conferred on the Supreme Court to hear and determine any matter in it’s original Jurisdiction in Nigeria is well established in Section 6(5)(a), Section 232 of the Constitution as well as Section 1(1)(a),(b), &(c) of the Supreme Court Additional Original Jurisdiction Act. The purport of those Sections is that the supreme Court, in exercising it’s original Jurisdiction, shall, to the exclusion of any other court hear disputes between the Federation and a State or Between States; the obvious preoccupation is that the Supreme Court can hear matters between the “Federation” (as a sovereign entity) and a State, or between two States.
For instance, like the issue of 13% derivative paid to oil producing states by the Federation, possibilities of increasing it based on the oil production for each state. Such a dispute arising (as it has arisen in the past), will be an issue between the Federation and a State or States of the Federation. That will invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
On Whether the Supreme Court has the original Jurisdiction to Restrain CBN from enforcing 10th February deadline for the use of Old naira notes?
The law is settled beyond any peradventure of doubt that whereby a matter or an application involves a federal Agency and a State, the supreme Court does not have the Jurisdiction to entertain such suits. See the case of A.G Lagos State V. A.G Federation (2014) 9 NWLR (PT. 1412)217; A.G Rivers State & Ors V. A.G Federation (2018) LPELR-45944 (SC).
It is visible to the blind that the application filed by learned counsel at the Supreme Court was Against the CBN/FGN and not the Federation as a sovereign entity, hence, it is submitted that the supreme Court lacks the original Jurisdiction to Restrain FG from enforcing February 10th deadline for the use of old Naira notes.
In my view, the court with the appropriate Jurisdiction to entertain such Application Is the Federal High Court in line with Section 251 (1)(a), (b), (q) of the Constitution and not the Supreme Court.