The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the security agencies are mapping out strategies to deal with Nigerians who take it upon themselves to abuse and misuse the country’s legal tender – the Naira. And we say it’s about time after the shameful display at a party in Anambra state not too long ago. Any country’s currency is rightly regarded as one of that country’s revered symbols just like the national flag.
Consistently, Nigerians habitually deface the naira with impunity. Curiously, almost everyone else is guilty of this unpatriotic culture, including the business and political elite who seem to be above the law.
Regardless of the efforts of the monetary authorities to curb this practice, it goes on as if it doesn’t matter. But it does matter because the mutilation and careless handling of naira notes is a serious infraction whichever way one looks at it. The implications are quite obvious. Currency notes that are poorly handled get defaced and as people do not like worn-out money, they reject them when they are given. At social gatherings, wads of naira notes are thrown in the air and the people just trample on them. In some cases, they get torn as the scramble goes on.
Elsewhere in civilised climes, spraying the national currency in such despicable manner is enough to attract the attention of the taxman. But if the security agencies do not care why should the tax people. And the reason is simple. Most of those who indulge in this condemnable pastime believe they can do it and get away with it. And they do get away with it.
There have also been cases where people mishandle the naira, deface it, hawk it like peanuts at parties and reject the currency in some instances. It should be stated that, contrary to the practice of these unpatriotic persons, it is neither cultural nor moral, for people to disrespect the currency which citizens survive on as a means of exchange for goods and services.
The level of the abuse is unimaginable. And this has some cost implication on the economy. The poor handling of naira notes by Nigerians generally leads to a large stack of mutilated or dirty notes which have to be constantly replaced. The CBN had threatened to prosecute abusers of the naira severally, but no one has ever been prosecuted or jailed for the abuse.
“We spend a lot of money printing these bank notes. If we print a N500 and issue it to you on Friday, on a Saturday you might probably take it to a wedding for spraying… by Monday, it is already old and mutilated. It is so unfortunate,’’ the apex bank lamented recently.
This is why we consider the CBN’s latest move to prosecute abusers of the naira as a welcome development. The Apex Bank should invoke Section 21(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 (As amended). The Act stipulates that “Spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under the law by fines or imprisonment or both.”
At the burial of the mother of Obi Cubana, the rich and elite flagrantly and ‘gloriously’ abused the naira to the cheering of Nigerians, including government officials and law enforcement officers. For days, that reckless show of new wealth was the trending story in the country in both traditional and social media. The same was the case at the wedding of the son of a top government functionary. At that particularly wedding hosted by an official of government who should know better, it was a ‘naira rain’ that can only be compared to the episode in Anambra State. Nobody condemned these shameful behaviours at these two events.
There is also the health implication of the poor handling of the naira. The filthy notes in circulation predispose people to many health risks, including upper and lower respiratory tract infections, conjunctivitis, protozoa infections and allergies because such currencies can carry germs that make people feel unwell due to handling. The current challenges in the nation’s health sector are too enormous for the relevant authorities to continue to turn a blind eye to this menace.
We call on the CBN to sustain the current effort to curb the abuse of the naira. There is already an existing law to tackle the issue, so all that is required on the part of the apex bank is the courage to follow this to the letter. The Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies should arrest and prosecute anyone found abusing the naira. No one should be seen to be above the law in this renewed fight against the abuse of the naira.
We also call on Nigerians, particularly those who engage in the abuse of the naira at social functions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals, to desist from disrespecting the naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies. The naira is our legal tender and symbol of our national pride. Let us respect it and handle it with care.