Why Nigeria postponed the launch of eNaira

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently postponed the long-awaited launch of the eNaira, its digital currency slated to launch on October 1, 2021. 

In a statement attributed to the CBN’s Director of Communications, Osita Nwasinobi, the bank explained that the launch was postponed to prevent it from clashing with the lineup of events planned for the Independence Day celebration and assured Nigerians that there is no cause for alarm as the apex bank is working with its partners to ensure the digital currency works seamlessly. 

However, rumours have started to swirl as to how there could be other forces behind the postponement.

According to RipplesNigeria, a cease and desist letter was sent to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regarding the use of the name “eNaira for its soon to be launched digital currency. The notice titled Infringement of Trademark & Violation of Corporate Name cease and desist Notification to the Central Bank of Nigeria was signed by Olakule Agbebi Esq for Olakule Agbebi & Co . According to the Notification from the solicitor, his client  “ENAIRA PAYMENT SOLUTIONS LIMITED (RC 508500)” has been incorporated since 7th April 2004 registered in class 36 and class 42. It stated that the launch of the eNaira is a threat and shows willful infringement of his client’s trademark. The notices also added that his client is now exposed to damages, loss of business and loss of goodwill.

“For this reasons, our client has approached the Federal High Court in Suit No: FHC/AB/CS/113/2021 between ENAIRA PAYMENT SOLUTIONS LIMITED vs CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA to seek a restraining order including an order to restrain CBN from proceeding in the launch on 1st October 2021,”  the Notice stated.

The Notice added, “In the interim, the CBN is hereby warned to cease and desist from using or purporting to use the name eNaira for its product or in any way”.

Could this be the reason why the launch has been delayed? We are yet to confirm.

Additionally, according to Nairametrics, an unanticipated surge in visits on the website of the Central Bank’s eNaira initiative has led to the sudden postponement of the launch of the apex bank’s digital currency. The surge led to a recalibration of the number of potential users, which the bank now believes could be ten times more than earlier expected soon after the launch. The bank, therefore, decided to postpone the launch in order to recheck and retest the robustness, safety, scalability and security of the system.

The eNaira website reportedly recorded about 480,000 hits the first day it went live. The visits grew to over 1.7 million the next day and averaged over 2.8 million hits daily since then. Apart from attracting hits, the website has reportedly recorded a surge in usage with the time spent on the site generating the content of over 80 GB daily. Nairametrics understands this required that the apex bank conduct another stress test on its systems to ensure it is capable of withstanding a further surge in traffic when they go live.

The CBN seems to have learnt from the botched launch of Obamacare which was coincidentally launched on the 1st of October 2013. Back then, the website was unable to consistently handle 500 users at once in the testing phase, and tests failed with 2,000 users over a three-day period, according to a Reuters report at the time. Engineers conducted performance tests just before launch and the results pointed to capacity issues that could affect a smooth experience on the launch date. Yet they proceeded, embarrassing President Obama.

To sidestep a similar fate, Nigeria’s central bank decided to postpone the launch until they have assurances that their system has the right capacity to withstand a surge in visits.

Now, away from the rumours, the successful launch of Nigeria’s digital currency will make it the first country in Africa to roll out such an initiative.

The CBN believes this initiative will deepen financial inclusion, bringing tens of millions of Nigerians into the banking system. The initiative is also expected to help assess the supply and velocity of money, and test the transmission effect of government stimulus programs in the economy.

While there’s no confirmed connection between the postponement and these rumours, the CBN is yet to announce the new launch date for the eNiara.

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