Nigeria’s culture wars target the country’s currency

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Nigerian currency of denominations N1,000, N500 and N200 has Ajami (Arabic script in non-Arabic language). Some argue that this is not secular, while others say that it is the only way that a part of the population can understand what is written.

Nigeria’s colonial past still affects life decades later. Nigeria has three main ethnic groups, the Hausa-Fulani in the north, the Yoruba in the west, and the Igbo in the east. It became an independent federal republic on October 1, 1960 after being a British colony in the 19th century, its current formation was shaped by the British by combining the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1914.

While the official language of the country is English, local ethnic languages ​​are also widely spoken. The current problem with Nigerian banknotes stems from the belief that any Arabic script is an indicator of Islam, while the country is supposed to support freedom of religion, with large populations of Christians in the south and Muslims in the north. .

Recently, a lawyer for Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, has demanded that the country’s central bank (BCN) remove the Arabic script from the naira banknotes. The Arabic script, in the Hausa language, denotes the monetary value of money.

According to
NairametricsChief Malcolm Omirhobo, who filed the lawsuit with Judge Mohammed Liman, argues that “having Arabic inscriptions in the naira notes portrays Nigeria as an Islamic state, contrary to the country’s constitutional status of a secular state.”

However, in a New Yorker
Article Since December 2015, Musa S. Muhammad, an archivist from the city of Kaduna, has told Caelainn Hogan that he believes that “this is politics between the South and the North.” The letters on the coin, he tells him, are as secular in origin as the Roman alphabet used in modern Bibles. “Any non-Arabic language written in Arabic we call Ajami,” he says. “They feel that this is religious, but it is not.”

The Ajami script, that is, the non-Arabic language written in Arabic script, is also used in some other African countries. Nairametrics He says. According to the BBC these include, “among others, Swahili in East Africa, Tamashek, the language of the Tuareg in North and West Africa, and Nigerian languages ​​such as Kanuri, Nupe, Yoruba, Fulfulde and Hausa.” It predates the arrival of Western colonizers and Christian missionaries and thus the Latin alphabet in Nigeria.

Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, who, according to Nairametrics, says he does not know what the Arabic inscriptions mean, has asked the court to order the CBN to replace them with the country’s official language, English, or any of the three main indigenous languages. from Nigeria: Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo.

The problem with doing it, however, is that there is a population in Nigeria that has not had a Western education and only knows Arabic letters. Mannir Dan Ali, writing for him BBC, notes “Ajami’s writing on each naira note is for the benefit of tens of millions of Hausa speakers, who can only read and write in that script, which is taught in schools across the north. These people could go to court to argue that their own rights are being infringed if Ajami’s registration is removed. “

the New Yorker This article was written a year after a new 100 naira bill was introduced in Nigeria, which proved controversial because it replaced Ajami with Latin letters. According to the article, “Some Christians supported the measure as a step towards de-Islamization of Nigeria, while many Muslims called it Islamophobic.”

According to the BBC, the controversy goes back even further: “The line started a decade ago when, to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th anniversary, the 50 naira note was redesigned. Four years later, on the occasion of the centenary of the creation of the country, the 100 naira were also updated ”.

According to the Cable, “Currently, there is an Ajami script on notes N1,000, N500 and N200”.

the Cable explains that “the argument against the Arabic inscription in the naira notes is that it is a violation of articles 10 and 55 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution says: ‘The government of a federation or a state shall not adopt any religion as a state religion.’

“The idea is that Arabic and Islam are the same, and this has led to accusations that the Arabic ‘symbol’ in the naira connotes religion and promotes Islamization. However, section 55 specifies that the affairs of the country must be conducted in English, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa ”.

the Cable concludes that: “Since the Ajami script is in the Hausa language and is not a symbol of Islam or any religion, many will argue that no laws have been violated.”

Source: TRT World


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