Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, has dragged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and others before the Federal High Court, Abuja, over the inscription of Arabic language on Naira notes. Other respondents in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/3/2020 are the federal government, Nigerian president and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
The plaintiff is praying the court to declare as unlawful, the provisions of section 53(1) of the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA), CAP B3, LFN, 2004, which absolves the government and CBN of any legal action in connection to exercising their mandate of printing, issuing, supplying and circulating Naira notes bearing Arabic inscriptions as legal tender for a circular state that has English as its official language and thereby robbing the courts of jurisdiction to entertain such case.
He wants the court to declare that by virtue of section 6(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the court has the jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff’s action for the interpretation of sections 10 and 55 of the 1999 Constitution as they relate to the powers of the defendants to issue legal tender with Arabic inscriptions.
The plaintiff also wants the court to declare that the constitution is supreme and a binding force on all the defendants by virtue of section 1(1).“Section 53(1) of the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act, CAP B3, LFN, which oust the jurisdiction of the court to entertain this suit is inconsistent with the provisions of section 6(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which gives the plaintiff right to access the court for the interpretation of the Constitution and therefore, by virtue of section 1(3) and 315 (3) of the Constitution, null and void to the extent of the inconsistency”, he prayed.He added that by the true letters and spirit of section 55 of the 1999 constitution, Nigeria’s official language is English as well as Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba in special circumstances.
The plaintiff therefore asked the court to annul section 53(1) of BOFIA for being inconsistent with the provisions of section 6(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution. He also prayed for an order of court, restraining the defendants from further violating section 10 and 55 of the Constitution through the act of adorning Nigerian currency with Arabic inscriptions; an order restraining 1st and 2nd defendants from further approving such printing on Naira notes as well as an order mandating them to expunge the Arabic inscriptions and replace them with their translated meaning in Nigeria’s official languages.
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