The Legal Battle: Enwegbara vs. Emefiele - A Story of Intellectual Property and Corporate Conflict.

By Basil Odilim Enwegbara

The conflict between Odilim Basil Enwegbara and Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele originated as early as 2014, specifically when President Goodluck Jonathan announced Mr. Emefiele as the prospective Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to succeed Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the dismissed governor appointed by Jonathan's predecessor.

Enwegbara, a notable associate of Mustafa Chike-Obi, a distinguished mathematician, Stanford University MBA, and seasoned Wall Street banker, expressed surprise that, rather than Chike-Obi, Mr. Jonathan appointed an obscure commercial banker to the critical role of Nigeria's chief banker.

Following a thorough investigation and profiling of Emefiele, instead of directly petitioning the President for reconsideration, Enwegbara chose to draft a critical memorandum to the then-Senate President, David Mark, urging against Emefiele's screening and confirmation. This memo, subsequently published in numerous newspapers, attracted Emefiele's attention. Despite Emefiele's efforts to dissuade Enwegbara from continuing his campaign to impede confirmation, Enwegbara persisted, rebuffing appeals from Emefiele's associates.

Upon Emefiele's confirmation, he utilized the full authority of his position as CBN governor to engage in conflict with Enwegbara. The intensity of the conflict escalated following President Buhari's assumption of office. Enwegbara, who had access to President Buhari through his nephew, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, not only authored another memorandum demanding Emefiele's immediate removal but also, during a meeting with Buhari's Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari in February 2016, emphasized Emefiele's dismissal as a precondition for his cooperation in implementing an economic agenda for the country.

During the aforementioned meeting, Enwegbara advocated for measures to safeguard Nigeria's national currency, proposing a transition from paper currency to digital currency to curtail financial influence in elections. Enwegbara also outlined his proposed Naira Redesign and a cashless policy, along with his eNaira fintech solution to facilitate the digitization of financial transactions. Mr. Kyari assured Enwegbara that he would bring these proposals to the President's attention and the economic team.

However, due to Enwegbara's unwavering stance on Emefiele's dismissal, the government distanced itself from him, implementing proposals without his involvement. Additionally, Enwegbara's eNaira project and his proposed Equity Investment Bank of Nigeria were co-opted and renamed by Emefiele's CBN and other government entities.

Enwegbara's company, Odilimenvir, was also denied access to COVID-19 funds by Emefiele's CBN amid the ongoing conflict. Despite Odilimenvir's recognition for treating COVID-19 patients and receiving approvals from NAFDAC and the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, the company was excluded from grant disbursements. Enwegbara learned from Emefiele's aides that his exclusion stemmed from his persistent calls for Emefiele's dismissal, which exacerbated his economic and financial challenges.

Enwegbara was warned by Emefiele's aides that the conflict would escalate further, indicating that Emefiele was not finished with him. However, with plans to relocate to the U.S., Enwegbara dismissed their warnings, focusing on his preparations. Despite Emefiele's subsequent announcement of the eNaira as the CBN's digital currency, Enwegbara remained undeterred.

In preparation for his move to the U.S., Enwegbara began trademark filings, including eNaira, Oyobanking, African Investment Forum, African Institute of Technology, and Equity Investment Bank of Africa. Consequently, Emefiele engaged the services of White and Case, a prominent American law firm, to challenge Enwegbara in the U.S., alleging ownership of the eNaira trademark.

Despite these legal challenges, Enwegbara remains steadfast in his pursuit of justice, contending that the USPTO has not exercised the expected level of fairness. Meanwhile, Emefiele's tenure at the CBN ended amid allegations of forgery and corruption, tarnishing the institution's reputation.

Enwegbara continues to persevere in reclaiming his intellectual property rights, despite resistance from various quarters, including the USPTO's reluctance to grant his company the eNaira mark.