Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has asked the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, 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.
HURIWA accuses the self-acclaimed prophet of serial abuses of the Nigerian Naira and other currencies during his public ceremonies at his location in Onitsha.
HURIWA expressed consternation that despite the wanton and arbitrary disrespect and outright abuse of the Nigerian Naira and other currencies during religious rituals which are usually transmitted live globally and aired on all social media platforms and watched by millions of viewers, the CBN has failed to take concrete and verifiable steps to arrest and prosecute the prophet.
The rights group said it has resolved to write officially to the Honourable Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari to implore them to stand up and defend the Naira.
Huriwa has asked the authorities to stop the global defacing of the Naira which is often telecast globally, showing the acclaimed prophet throwing the Naira and other currencies on the floor of his Worship centre.
HURIWA noted that Odumeje, who also calls himself many other different names such as ‘the liquid metal,’ and ‘Indarbosky,’ has contributed significantly to bringing global opprobrium “to our national currency and has seriously indicted the Federal Government as unwilling to defend the Naira even when the constitution recognises that the law is no respecter of person or authority. “
The group, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said “We have watched with disappointments as this self-professed prophet Odumuje keeps 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 agrees 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 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 ensues.
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 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 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 added, “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?”
HURIWA said it has decided to approach President Muhammadu Buhari to charge him to compel all relevant agencies of government to begin the strict enforcement of the law.
“HURIWA recalls that the Central Bank of Nigeria had recently warned Nigerians against abusing the naira notes. The apex bank said that anyone caught abusing the naira would be prosecuted and if convicted the person risked six months in jail and a fine of N50, 000.
“An official of the Currency Operation Department of the CBN in Abuja, Mr. Samuel Shuaibu, disclosed this in Calabar, Cross River State, during the commencement of a ‘CBN Fair’ to sensitise campaign for residents in the state on the appropriate use of the naira”.
HURIWA, has, therefore, asked the CBN to take action rather than continue in propaganda and the impression that the bank is working to protect the integrity of the national currency.