The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has suspended the launch of e-Naira, its digital currency, even as a Federal High Court in Abuja has adjourned, till October 11, further hearing on a suit challenging the bank’s right to use the e-naira brand.
eNaira Payment Solutions Limited is suing the CBN for trademark infringement over the use of the name “eNaira.”
The CBN had earlier scheduled the launch of eNaira for October 1 – Nigeria’s Independence Day. But its spokesman, Osita Nwanisobi, announced in Abuja the shift in events hours before the scheduled rollout.
Nwanisobi said the shift is to allow other events slated for the country’s 61st independence anniversary to take place. No new date has been announced for the launch yet.
On 30 August 2021 the CBN announced the appointment of Bitt Inc as technical partner for the eNaira Project. Bitt Inc is a provider of Blockchain based payments platform based in Barbados (founded in 2013). The CBN has since announced plans to acquire a majority stake in Bitts which is expected to be be locally incorporated under Nigeria laws.
Some legal experts have blamed the CBN for not conducting due diligence on the eNaira trademark before it unveiled its digital currency plans.
“The bank could have saved itself this embarrassment if it had conducted a proper due diligence and ensure no one has copyright powers over ‘eNaira,” said one lawyer in Lagos.
Another lawyer proffered that the matter of distinction or invention would only have become an issue “if and only if’ additional clarifications were sought before the trademark was issued. But the arguments here is that a trademark was in fact issued. Further details of the legitimacy or otherwise will come to light as the court documentation is reviewed.”
For many other lawyers, what is irksome is that a limited liability company was allowed to be registered with the name ‘naira.’
As one lawyer put it: “That a limited liability company was allowed to be registered with the name naira (again this is based on papers presented by the company’s lawyers) and finally that the federal government was not aware of this company till the claim was presented in court speaks volumes for their level of due diligence before the launch of the eNaira.”