By Bassey Udo
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has secured a temporary reprieve over the controversy surrounding its planned roll out of its digital currency, eNaira, as the Federal High Court, Abuja, ruled on Friday that the launch can proceed in the national interest.
During the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja last month, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, confirmed the official launch of the digital currency was scheduled for October 1 to give Africa her first digital money in operation.
However, days prior to the planned launch, ENaira Payment Solutions Limited saved the CBN a litigation notice accusing the bank of trademark infringement on the name “eNaira.”
In the notice titled: “Infringement of Trademark & Violation of Corporate Name Cease and Desist Notification to the Central Bank of Nigeria”, counsel to the company, Olakule Agbebi Esq of Olakule Agbebi & Co ., accused the CBN of infringement on the property right of his client.
Agbebi said the CBN could not go ahead with the launch under the trade name, eNaira, as his client, since April 7, 2004, already registered the trade mark with relevant government agency in classes 36 and 42.
The lawyer pointed out that any attempt to go ahead with the launch of eNaira would not only threaten the interest of his client, but would also show CBN resolve to willfully infringe on its trademark.
The notice also warned that the company would not hesitate to pursue a legal case against the CBN to claim damages, loss of business and goodwill that it would suffer if the roll out of eNaira was not halted.
Consequently, the company, in Suit No: FHC/AB/CS/113/2021 between ENAIRA PAYMENT SOLUTIONS LIMITED vs CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA before the Federal High Court, Abuja sought an order to restrain CBN from proceeding in the launch on 1st October 2021.
In its reaction, the CBN announced the postponement of the planned roll out till further notice.
The Court presided by Justice Taiwo Abayomi Taiwo said considering the importance of the central bank digital currency (CBDC), he was compelled to listen to the plea by the defendants’ counsel, led by D. D. Dodo, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), for the court to dismiss the motion to halt the planned launch of the digital currency.
Although he said the court was not inclined to dismiss the motion, but decided to rule that the unveiling of the digital currency may proceed on national interest, particularly because ENaira Payment Solutions Limited may be adequately compensated.
The case was however adjourned till Monday, October 11,2021 for further hearing.
The case by ENaira Payment Solutions Limited may be one of the many litigations that may be coming from companies over alleged trademark infringement.
Shortly after the announcement by the CBN of its decision to postpone the eNaira roll out, another businessman, Odilim Enwegbara, who is the Chairman/CEO of Pan Africa Development Corporation, also threatened another suit against the apex bank.
“We’re watching the CBN and its so-called e-Naira, where Oyobanking digital technology has been infringed.
“We shall wait for them even in the U.S. and should they ever kick-start it, my U.S. and Nigerian lawyers will institute the biggest lawsuit against them, of course, not less that $50bn lawsuits in New York,” Enwegbara warned.
Asked to expatiate how the CBN is infringing on his company’s right to use eNaira, when Naira, as the name of the Nigerian national currency, sid not to any individual, Enwegbara responded: “It’s a long story. When we’re ready, we’ll let you know. But my lawyers in New York, Hammersmiths, are looking are the infringed patent.”