The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to order the arrest of the controversial Onitsha-based maverick religious centre operator, the self-proclaimed Prophet Chukwuemeka Ohanaemere also known as ODUMEJE, “for his serial abuses of the Nigerian Naira and other denominations during his public ceremonies at his location in Onitsha.”
HURIWA in a statement on Sunday expressed consternation that “despite the wanton and arbitrary disrespect and outright abuses of the Nigerian Naira and other denominations during religious rituals organised at the worship centre operated by the self-proclaimed Prophet ODUMEJE in the Anambra State commercial capital of Onitsha, which are usually transmitted live globally and aired on all social media platforms and watched by millions of viewers, the National institution charged with ensuring that the Naira is treated with courtesy, respect, veneration and admiration being the Central Bank of Nigeria has failed to take concrete and verifiable steps to arrest and prosecute Prophet Chukwumeka Ohanaemere.”
HURIWA said it has resolved to write officially to the Minister of Finance, the CBN Governor and President Muhammadu Buhari “to implore them to stand up and defend the Naira and stop the global defacing of the Naira that takes place often and even telecast live globally to a an international audience just as these activities of throwing the Naira and other currencies on the floor of the worship centre owned and operated by Prophet ODUMEJE has contributed significantly to bringing global opprobrium to our national currency and has seriously indicted the FEDERALGOVERNMENT of Nigeria as unwilling to defend the Naira even when the Constitution recognises that the law must not be the respecter of person or authority.”
HURIWA stated: “We have watched with disappointments as this self professed prophet Odumuje kept abusing and defacing the national currency and both The Police and the Central Bank of Nigeria have failed for many months to stamp their authorities and prosecute these serial abusers of the national currency. We recall that in 2018 the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) organised a “CBN FAIR” in Calabar where it used the opportunity to create awareness and sensitise the public on the “appropriate use” of the Naira, Nigeria’s legal tender notes.
“CBN, also “cautioned Nigerians against abusing the Naira notes, warning that anyone caught would risk six months imprisonment or pay a fine of N50,000.
“HURIWA aggrees with an observer who wrote that the unwholesome practice of hawking, spraying of, dancing and matching on notes at social events significantly fuel the abuse and degradation of the notes.
“HURIWA similarly endorses the position canvassed that the effect of these is that within a short time of issuance of mint notes by the CBN, the notes become an eye-sore and if not quickly withdrawn and reprinted, a national disgrace and embarrassment ensue.
HURIWA recalled that according to Section 21(3) of CBN Act 2007 “spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank (CBN) during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under Sub-section 1 of this section.”
“The same body of law, in Section 5 (i) went further to affirm as follows: “Matching” to include “spreading, scattering or littering of any surface with any Naira notes or coins and stepping thereon, regardless of the value, volume, occasion or intent” while in 5(ii) “Spraying” includes adorning, decorating or spraying anything or any person or any part of any person or the person of another with Naira notes or coins or sprinkling or sticking of Naira notes or coins in a similar manner regardless of the amount, occasion or the intent. Specifically, In Section 21(4), it is also a punishable offence for “any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in the Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank.”
HURIWA in the statement canvassing that steps be taken to stop the sensational abuses of the Naira by Prophet ODUMEJE recalled that the stated offences above are punishable under Sub-section 21(1) which provides, among other things that, a person “shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine not less than N50,000 or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
HURIWA said: “We ask the CBN to ensure that the legal provisions that should have protected the Naira notes from abuse which are today being observed more in the breach than in compliance should be reversed. It is true as observed recently by a patriotic citizen that quite disappointingly, CBN and the security agencies have had their eyes glue-closed while the nation and its inhabitants suffer from preventable abuses of the national currency. Just as we reaffirm and reecho the fact as stated by an observer that as it were, the law against abuse of Naira has been in place for over a decade, yet the CBN is still at the stage of “awareness creation” and “sensitisation” of the citizens whereas religious houses are openly celebrating the abuses of the National currency which is a legal tender that ought to be respected by the citizens and everyone in Nigeria. This unfortunate trend of inertia and inaction by the CBN should be changed immediately. What other better way to do this than to use the Onitsha based religious comedian and self acclaimed prophet Mr. ODUMEJE as an example for others to stop abusing the Naira?