BY: DESMOND AGBAMA
Every country in the world has its own legal tender or currency. Here in Nigeria the legal tender or currency is the naira and kobo, which are used to exchange for goods and services. The Central Bank of Nigeria is the apex bank in the country that controls and regulates the printing and circulation of the currency. Apart from the Nigerian flag or coat of arm, the naira also to a large extent represents our national identity. In other countries, such national currency is accorded the greatest respect just as the national flag or symbols. In developed countries it is a crime to abuse their currencies, and every citizen are compelled not only to respect the currency, but also handle it with utmost care.
However, here in Nigeria, the naira is neither respected nor handled with care, as it is commonly abused, mutilated or torn by Nigerians. The way and manner Nigerians handle the naira suggests that they don’t value it or have regard for it. Some squiz it, others write on it, while many people keep them in places not suitable for the naira, such as inside septic tanks, under the carpet, under the braziers, billow and so on. Worse still, Nigerians are very fond of spraying the naira at parties, and in the process mutilate and damage it.
Nowadays, it is very common to see Nigerians selling the naira at parties, a practice which is completely against the law. Over the years, the practice had gained wide acceptance and has portrayed the nation and her people in negative light. Perhaps, it is in realisation of this that President Mohammadu Buhari recently gave a presidential order for the law enforcement agencies to clamp down on all those involved in the illegal distribution and sales of the naira. The directive of Mr. President though coming late is nevertheless a welcome development.
Investigations revealed that those who sell the naira get their supply from both the central bank and the commercial banks. That explains why some denominations of the naira such as 20 naira, 50 naira, 100 naira and 200 naira are scarce in the banks, especially the new notes. Some bank workers who confided in the writer say those who sell the naira usually book in advance, with special commission for their bank agents.
Now that the Federal Government has decided to clamp down on the perpetrators of this illicit business, it should beam its searchlight not only on the sellers, but also on the official of the central bank as well as the commercial banks, because if there is no supply there would be no buyer. Furthermore, government should prohibit the spraying of the naira at parties, and should set up special monitoring task force, to monitor every party irrespective of who and where it is being organised. Anyone found culpable should be prosecuted according to the law.
Importantly, there should be increase in public enlightenment on how to handle the naira. The people should be educated on the dangers inherent in the bad handling of the naira. Nigerians should be made to understand that the naira is our national identity, which must not be abused. Nigerians should be made to know that it is very wrong and illegal to spray money at parties, instead they should embrace the use of envelop to present financial gift to celebrants. This no doubt is more civilized to do. Besides, it will save people from mutilating the naira and from unnecessary public embarrassment or danger. In the past many people have either be attacked by armed robbers or lost their lives after organising a party due to open display of naira rain.
We may as well ask ourselves why the pound, Dollar or Euro are not abused or mutilated. Some Nigerians learn how not to abuse the foreign currencies, but prefers to abuse the naira. This is unpatriotic and senseless.
That is the more reason why there should be strict enforcement of the Presidential order by those concerned, to begin to compel Nigerians to respect the naira and stop spraying it at parties.
The Federal Government should also direct the withdrawal and destruction of all mutilated currencies in circulation. The exercise should be strictly monitored to ensure that the mutilated currencies are actually destroyed, as reports in the past have indicated that mutilated currencies meant for destruction later found their way into circulation through some corrupt and fraudulent bank officials.