Arabic inscriptions on naira notes doesn’t threaten Nigeria’s secular status- CBN tells court

The Central Bank of Nigeria has said that the Arabic inscriptions on some naira notes does not in any way threaten the secular status of the country.

The apex court stated this in a countersuit filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos.

A Nigerian lawyer, Malcolm Omirhobo, had approached the court for an order instructing the apex bank to remove the Arabic inscriptions on naira notes.In his suit filed before Justice Mohammed Liman, Omirhobo argued that having Arabic inscriptions on the naira notes portrays Nigeria as an Islamic state which is contrary to the country’s constitutional status of a secular state. According to him, he doesn’t know what the Arabic inscriptions mean and wants it to be replaced with either the English language, which is the country’s official language, or any of Nigeria’s three main indigenous languages – Hausa, Yoruba, or Igbo.

He wants the court to restrain the CBN from “further approving, printing and issuing naira notes with Arabic inscriptions, bearing in mind that Nigeria is a secular state.”

However, in a counter-suit filed before the court by its counsel Abiola Lawal, the CBN argued that “the Ajami inscriptions on some of the country’s currencies do not connote any religious statements or Arabian alignment.”

The CBN explained that the “Ajami inscriptions” on the naira notes dated back to the colonial era “and they do not imply that Arabic is an official language in Nigeria.

“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 finalised 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.” the CBN’s court paper read

The bank argued that removing the Arabic inscriptions from the naira notes ”would cost the tax-paying Nigerians and the Federal Government colossal sum of money to discard the existing naira notes and print new ones in satisfaction of the plaintiff.”

Omirhobo has also filed a similar lawsuit before Justice Liman, seeking the removal of Arabic inscriptions from the logo of the Nigerian Army.

Hearing of the suit is scheduled for Tuesday, November 10.

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