The Central Bank of Nigeria has said no to a lawsuit seeking to have the Ajami (Arabic) inscriptions on Naira notes remove.
The apex bank had said it would cost Nigeria a lot of money to abandon the existing notes because of Arabic inscriptions and print new ones without it.
The central bank argued that the Ajami is not a mark of Islam or its symbol but an inscription to aid non-English speakers who are literate in and use Ajami for trade.
Chief Malcom Omirhobo, a Lagos-based lawyer who filed the suit against the central bank, had argued that having Arabic inscription on the nation’s currency portray Nigeria as an Islamic nation, which is contrary to the constitutional status of a secular state.
Omirhobo stated that this violates sections 10 and 55 of the nation’s constitution that stated that a government of the federal or a state shall not adopt any religion.
Section 10 reads: “The government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion.”
He, therefore, prayed that the court stops the CBN from “further approving, printing and issuing naira notes with Arabic inscriptions, bearing in mind that Nigeria is a secular state.”
He also prayed that the court mandates the apex bank to replace the inscriptions with either English language, the nation’s official language or any of Nigeria’s three main languages, Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo.
In its counter-affidavit, Abiola Lawal, counsel to the central bank, argued that “the Ajami inscriptions on some of the country’s currencies do not connote any religious statements or Arabian alignment.”
He maintained that the Arabic inscriptions were not a threat to Nigeria’s secular status.
He 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.”
Further explained “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.”
CBN added that removing the Ajami inscriptions “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.”