The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expressed serious opposition to a lawsuit before a Federal High Court in Lagos seeking the removal of Arabic inscriptions on naira notes.
It all began when Malcolm Omirhobo, a Lagos-based lawyer, opined that the Arabic words portrayed Nigeria as an Islamic country, which the Nigerian Constitution stipulates against.
According to him, the constitution provides that no religion will be recognized as an official religion, but the naira note carries Islamic print.
Omirhobo said: “Nigeria is a multi-religious state, and Section 10 of the Constitution reads, the government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion.”
To this effect, he hauled the CBN to court to put a stop to approving, printing and issuing of the naira notes with the Islamic words.
In the same vein, Omirhobo demanded that the court order CBN to use one of Nigeria’s three main indigenous languages; Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo.
While defending the decision to Justice Mohammed Liman, CBN explained why the change would be too expensive. He said that stopping the circulation, changing the naira notes or printing new naira notes would come at an extra cost to the Nigerian government.
CBN said, “The change of currency or editing the naira note would cost the country a “colossal sum of money.”
The central bank further ruled out all claims that the Arabic statement on the naira notes portray Nigeria as an Islamic country.
The Apex body maintained that the Ajami inscription has been a part of Nigeria since the colonial era, and do not imply Arabic is an official language in Nigeria.
CBN continued: “The inscriptions on the country’s currencies do not and at no time have they threatened the secular statehood of the nation, nor have they violated the Constitution of Nigeria, as every design and inscription was finalized with the approval of the relevant government bodies.
“The naira notes retained the inscriptions with Ajami since 1973 when the name of the Nigerian currency was changed to naira from pounds.
“The Ajami was inscribed on the country’s currency by the colonialists to aid those without Western education in certain parts of the country, who, back then, constituted a larger part of the populace.
“The Ajami is not a symbol or mark of Islam but an inscription to aid the populace uneducated in Western education in ease of trade.”