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Court okays eNaira rollout as CBN postpones launch

By Geoff Iyatse
01 October 2021   |   3:10 am
Despite subsisting litigation over its patent right, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has given a go-ahead for the eNaira launch.

Despite subsisting litigation over its patent right, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has given a go-ahead for the eNaira launch.

ENaira Payment Solutions Limited brought the case (FHC/ABJ/CS/113/2021), against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over a claim of trademark infringement.

The hearing came up yesterday, at the Federal High Court 8 presided over by Justice Taiwo Abayomi Taiwo.

The defendant’s counselled by D. D. Dodo (SAN) urged the court to strike out the plaintiff’s motion seeking to restrain the launch of the central bank digital currency (CBDC), otherwise known as eNaira, considering its significance to the national economy.

The court was not disposed to striking out the motion but held that the launch of the digital currency could go ahead in the interest of the country, especially as the plaintiff could be adequately compensated.

The matter was adjourned to October 11, 2021, for further hearing.

Meanwhile, the Director of Corporate Communications of the Central Bank, Osita Nwanisobi, said yesterday that the planned unveiling today has been deferred due to other key activities lined up to commemorate the country’s 61st Independence Anniversary.

Speaking with media in Abuja, Nwanisobi explained that the CBN decided to postpone the launch, which had been initially planned to coincide with the Independence anniversary in deference to the mood of national rededication to the collective dream of one Nigeria.

He said the CBN and other partners were working round the clock to ensure a seamless process that will be for the overall benefit of the customer, particularly those in the rural areas and the unbanked population.

Highlighting the benefits of the eNaira, Nwanisobi stressed that Nigerians would be able to carry out peer-to-peer transfers to another person’s eNaira wallet as well as pay for goods and services at selected merchants. He added that the eNaira would also help reduce the use of cash and ensure the stability of the Nigerian economy.

On the readiness of banks and other financial institutions in the financial ecosystem for the launch of the eNaira, he reiterated that it was a journey and that banks customers were expected to commence transactions on the day of the launch.

Nwanisobi also noted that the CBN was mindful of concerns expressed about the eNaira, being among the first CBDCs in the world. According to him, the Bank had put a structure in place to promptly address any issue that might arise from the pilot implementation of the digital currency.

Olakunle Agbebi & Co, solicitors to ENaira Payment Solutions, had insisted that the trade name, ENaira, was incorporated on April 7, 2004, and it remained a valid and existing legal entity has complied with the statutory requirements as regards the filing of its annual returns and the payment of company income tax since then.

“Our client is the holder of the Trademark ‘ENaira’ registered in Class 36 and Class 42. It has come to our client’s notice that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced the planning launching of a financial under what it termed its Central Bank Digital Currency to be known as ‘eNaira’.

“This action amounts to a threat to willfully infringe on our client’s trademark. It will also amount to a violation of its corporate name i.e. ENaira Payment Solutions Ltd. The ramifications of this illegal act of the CBN are extensive.

“Importantly, the potential this has to deceive the general public into believing that this product emanated from our client’s company is real and the consequences for our client are grave. The potential to expose our client to all manner of damage, loss of business and loss of goodwill is also very real.”

The notice was issued shortly after the digital money website went live. The digital version of the country’s currency was earlier scheduled for unveiling today but the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed that Independence Day activities could result in a shift of the unveiling timeline.