A Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, had filed a suit before Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, seeking to remove the Arabic inscriptions on naira notes.
Omirhobo argued that the Arabic inscriptions on the naira notes portray Nigeria as an Islamic state, contrary to the country’s constitutional status of a secular state.
He contended that this violates sections 10 and 55 of the Nigerian constitution, which makes the country a secular state.
Section 10 of the constitution reads: “The government of the federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion.”
He prayed 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.”
He further prayed the court to order the CBN to replace the Arabic inscriptions with either English language, which is the country’s official language or any of Nigeria’s three main indigenous languages – Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo.
However, in a counter suit before the court, the CBN opposed the removal of the inscriptions saying it would cost a ‘colossal sum of money’ to discard the existing notes and print new ones without Ajami.
The apex bank said the Ajami on naira notes is not a symbol or mark of Islam but an inscription to aid non-English speakers who are literate in and use of Ajami for trade.
In the counter-affidavit filed by Abiola Lawal, the CBN argued: “Ajami inscriptions on some of the country’s currencies do not connote any religious statements or Arabian alignment.”
The central bank said contrary to Omirhobo’s claim, the Arabic inscriptions were not a threat to Nigeria’s secular status. It said:
“The inscriptions on the country’s currencies do not and at no time have they threatened the secular statehood of the nation or have they violated the constitution of Nigeria, as every design and inscription was finalised with the approval of the relevant government bodies.”
It explained that “Ajami inscriptions” on the naira notes dates back to the colonial era “and they do not imply that Arabic is an official language in Nigeria.”
The apex bank said: “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.”
It said 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.”
The judge, Justice Liman also heard a similar suit filed by Omirhobo against the Nigerian Army seeking the removal of Arabic inscriptions from its logo.
Like the CBN, the army has also opposed Omirhobo’s suit and urged the court to throw it out.
KanyiDaily recalls that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko-Muhammad had advocated for the amendment of Nigeria’s constitution, so that Sharia law will be taught in Nigerian universities in Arabic language.