Dead on Arrival

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Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, CBN, governor
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, CBN, governor

The campaign against naira abuse by the Central Bank of Nigeria has lost steam as the number of illegal currency vendors continues to grow

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  | Aug. 12, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, appears to have lost the war to protect naira from abuse. This is reflected in the growing number of vendors involved in illegal sale of the naira in major towns and cities in Nigeria. The apex bank has found it difficult to arrest and convict any offender since the campaign began eight years ago. Over the years, the naira has been a subject of abuse ranging from mutilations, defacing and even outright sale in open markets. Often times, the currency are conspicuously displayed for sale in such unholy places as motor parks, party venues, event centres, among others.

Some of the hawkers claimed that their supply sources are the banks as well as the apex bank. One of them who hawks naira at Ikeja bus stop, Lagos, told Realnews that he gets any quantity of crisp naira notes from the banks as long as he is ready to pay the right fee. He said he gets supplies of N1000 pack of the new naira notes of any denomination at a fee of 50 naira, and sells to ever willing customers at N100 or N150.

This development explains why the currency sales have remained a brisk business especially in the commercial and metropolitan parts of Nigeria. Investigations by Realnews confirmed that the boom in the illegal business may be difficult to stop because naira spraying at parties and other event venues is gradually becoming part of our national culture. Sadly, the literates and illiterates in the society are guilty of the naira abuse.

Odion Unuakhe, a Lagos-based corporate lawyer, argued that the law prohibiting abuse of the Naira was dead on arrival. Even with the cashless policy of the CBN, the abuse of the national currency may still continue, he said. According to him, currency spraying at parties is done by both the rich and the poor in rural and urban areas. The lawyer asked: Who is to enforce the law? Is it the police that are equally guilty of the offence or the CBN governor himself? How many of the offenders have been be arrested and prosecuted? How can one prove the suspect is guilty as charged? Who will go to the party venue and sale spots to arrest the offender without risking his life?

However, Ugochukwu Okoroafor, director of corporate communication, CBN, said the CBN would soon embark on a massive campaign against abuse of the naira, saying that most Nigerians still abuse the currency. He said that the campaign is necessary to ensure that the government does not continue to spend huge sums of money in the reprinting of torn notes, but did not disclose what the campaign would cost the nation.

According to him, the campaign against the abuse of the naira would be complemented with the cashless policy. He said once the gradual migration from cash transaction to non-cash transaction is completed, the volume of cash in circulation would be reduced. This, he said, would make it possible for a few naira notes in circulation to be neat as pressure on their use would be reduced.

Okoroafor insisted that the cashless policy is the antidote to different forms of abuses which naira notes daily undergo in the hands of users. But the new order  would  make it possible for such alternative  non-cash payment options as plastic cards, visa cards credit/debit cards, electronic transfers internet banking and cheques to take over as  convenient  mode  of transactions.

The CBN under Chukwuma  Soludo, initiated a serious campaign in 2005 against the abuse of the currency. Part of the campaign was the upgrading the quality of papers used to print certain dominations of the naira notes. This resulted in the switch to polymers while the use of coins was equally promoted. This was geared towards making the currencies more durable and less abused by the general public. Equally, the public was enlightened on the inherent danger of tampering with the currency as the practice remains not only illegal but punishable under the CBN Act.

According to the CBN’s 2004 Act, “unless prohibited by the law relating to the control of exchange, the bank shall issue and redeem on demand at its head office, Nigerian currency against other currencies eligible for inclusion in the reserve of external assets.”

Specifically, sections 3 and 4 of the currency offences Act Cap C44 LFN 2004 provides thus, “if any  person  buys or sells or offers or attempts to buy  or sell, induce or attempts to induce  any other persons to buy or sell, offers or accepts to accept in payment of debt or otherwise, any note or coin at or for lower value other than the same imports,  he or she shall be guilty of  an offence and  on conviction, to imprisonment for a term of  five years or a fine of N1,000 or to  both imprisonment  and a fine.”

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