The noun phrase, ‘status quo,’ has become a major bone of contention among political gladiators in Nigeria of late, especially in the wake of the February 8 ruling of the Supreme Court which asked both parties in the dispute over the new Naira denominations introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, with the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari, to return to the status quo, pending determination of the substantive suit on February 15. Ever since then, there has been intense public debate as to what the status quo mentioned by the Supreme Court actually refers to.
Three states of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara had on February 6, approached the Supreme Court to halt the implementation of the newly introduced N1, 000, N500, and N200 denominations of the currency by the CBN. On February 15 when the apex Court was to give a verdict, more states had filed to be joined in the suit either as plaintiffs or as defendants, which prompted the Supreme Court to defer judgment till February 22, just three days before commencement of the general election on February 25.
The Latin stātus quō ante (“the way things were before”), derived possibly from stātus quō ante bellum (“the way things were before the war) is usually cited by the law courts to order parties in a dispute seeking court’s adjudication to return to the state of things as they were before the emergence of the disputed matter, or to return to a preexisting state of affairs. Status quo ante, also literally means “the status before”, referring to the state of affairs that existed previously.
In the sociological sense, the status quo refers to the current state of social structure and/or values. With regard to policy debate, it means how conditions are, contrasted with a possible change. For example: “The countries are now trying to maintain the status quo with regard to their nuclear arsenals.” To maintain the status quo could also mean to keep things the way they presently are.
Following the confusion in respect of the correct position on the phrase, our newsroom, just as in many political circles out there, have been abuzz with hot debates in trying to deconstruct what the status quo in this context really means. Some argued that status quo is the pre existing state of affairs before the CBN introduced the new Naira, while others insisted it was the way things were after the introduction of the new Naira by the CBN. The positions canvassed by some states like Kaduna and Jigawa, who have ordered citizens to continue to use the old Naira notes as legal tender, were buoyed by their conviction that the status quo referred to by the Supreme Court meant to return to the state of affairs before the advent of the new Naira policy. Conversely, the insistence of the CBN and the FG to stand by the new notes is not unconnected to their belief in the status quo as the state of affairs before the litigation by the governors at the Supreme Court. In other words, their status quo means a return to the new notes. This has been the bone of contention which has continuously pitched the FG against some states and their governors.
At our own end, we have been curious in locating the correct position of status quo in this context. We believe that the subject is not just tangential, but is inextricably interwoven, and integral to the core of the Supreme Court order. The opinions of legal experts can also be instrumental in locating the contextual status quo.
We believe that if all parties in the dispute can come to a common understanding, and indeed agreement as to the correct position of the status quo, it will help to douse the tension, and address the growing confusion as to what the status quo in this matter truly is.