9 August 2017

Nigeria: Assessing CBN's Public Enlightenment On Naira Notes Protection

Seeing the Naira note and coins as the symbol of pride and nationhood, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has unrelenting enlightened the public of its relevant to our day-to-day transactions.

Recently, the apex bank embarked on public sensitization in three states that include Aba and Umuahia both in Abia state, Abeokuta in Ogun State and Lagos, aimed at reaching out to the majority of Nigerians.

The public sensitisation program further highlights offence to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in Naira notes, coins or any other notes issued by the CBN and warning against counterfeiting the Naira.

As the value of Naira currency against other foreign exchange continued declined so has its condition despite CBN's consistently sensitisation program across the country.

Wallets and purses are not used by the majority of citizens. Specifically, market women do not fold money regularly as Bus Conductors and Drivers in major cities crumple and squeeze notes on a daily basis.

In Nigeria markets the bacteria, sweat and moisture accumulated by notes being kept in the ample cleavages of market women contributes in no small measure to the problem.

The CBN highlighted that demerit of unclean currency notes in terms of social and economic costs such as spreading of diseases and high cost of printing banknotes on frequent basis.

Imagine the Naira notes are properly handled, apex bank will save more money to be channeled into the real sector of the nation's economy like Agriculture, Power, among others.

In June, the CBN said it spent about N192 billion on Naira management between 2005 and 2010.

According to Assistant Director, Currency Operations Department of the apex bank, Benedict Maduagwu, the whopping sum was spent on managing the naira in five years.

Maduagwu, at an event in Lagos said the huge cost of currency management in the country has increased in recent times.

His words, "CBN is promoting the cashless policy because we discovered that the way currency is being handled and abused could cause some diseases.

"So the efforts in the cashless policy and also the public sensitisation is to tell people how to handle our naira, how to carry clean naira; these are all aimed at reducing the huge cost of currency management."

According to him, there are interventions under the CBN, which are promoting the wellbeing and also diversifying the economy like the Anchor Borrowers Scheme.

He explained, "We have N220 billion MSME intervention scheme and about 60 per cent of it is reserved for women. We also have it for the crippled, we also have the youth development empowerment programme, which has to do with corps members that have served. They can access it and have N3 million as part of efforts to reduce unemployment in the country."

CBN over the years has reiterated that patriotic Nigerians, young or old are expected to respect Naira currency the same way national flag is respected and handle it with pride

Naira as a mirror of our country and that, the quality of the Naira reflects the kind of people we are, both in character and values.

The provision of section 21 of the CBN Act of 2007 (as amended) is still effective as CBN is collaborating with the police to ensure that the Nigerian currencies are not abused and it has yielded fruitful results as most notable shops in major cities have been shut down.

The apex bank continued to reiterate that it is still a crime to hawk or sell mint notes in the country with a penalty of N50,000 fine or six months imprisonment or both

The CBN Act 2007 also stipulates that the offence of counterfeiting now attracts five year jail term upon conviction, while refusal to accept the Naira as a means of payment for goods and services attracts six months imprisonment or N50,000 fine.

The CBN is the sole issuer of legal tender currency in Nigeria. It regulates the volume of money supply in the economy in order to ensure monetary and price stability.

The Currency structure by CBN comprises three coin denominations: (50 kobo, 2 Naira and 1 Naira) and eight note denominations; 5 Naira, 10 Naira, 20 Naira, 50 Naira, 100 Naira, 200 Naira, 500 Naira and 1000 Naira)

Each Naira note and coins own special print features that deterred counterfeiters from creating one. On each Naira note is watermark, the eagle is replaced with CBN logo and letters "CBN" in a vertical format which can be seen more clearly when the notes are held up against light.

Also, on the N20 note, there is an oval-shaped, green coloured area in the lower part of the window. When the note is tilted, the colour changes from green to gold.

The CBN over the years continued to makechange the Naira notes in a move to them more secure, make them last longer in circulation and look cleaner, reduce the cost of replacing dirty notes and smaller in size and would easily fit into wallets.

Alternative Channels as Future of Banking

In a move to reduce Naira in circulation, the CBN has realized that Nigerians need a Cashless society where transactions happen electronically as online activities continue to grow rapidly.

The alternative electronic channels by CBN was designed at reducing (not eliminating) the amount of physical cash (coins and notes) circulating in the economy, and encouraging more electronic-based transactions (payments for goods, services, transfers, among others.)

Cash policy by CBN was introduced to drive development and modernization of payment system in line vision 2020 goal of being amongst the top 20 economies by the year 2020.

It was also introduced to reduce the cost of banking services (including cost of credit) and drive financial inclusion by providing more efficient transaction options and greater reach.

Today, the number of people handling cash has been on the decrease as emphasis continues to shift to electronic payment services. Electronic payments and online financial services are turning the banking system and regulators on their heads.

Electronic payment refers to technological systems that enables bank customers perform financial transactions electronically.

A sound payment system infrastructure, where banks and their customers can transact business with confidence and convenience, trust and timeliness, underpins many of the reforms.

That is why in Nigeria, CBN efforts over the years aimed at creating a robust financial system framework through several reform initiatives targeted at fostering stability and restoring confidence in the system.

About 10 years ago, the CBN launched the Payment Systems Vision 2020, which identified series of recommendations to increase the resilience of the payment system infrastructure in order to encourage the usage of electronic payment methods.

Indeed, the economic benefits of migrating from cash-dominated environment to an electronic payment market are unquestionable.

Often, the CBN has been running targeted stakeholder engagement sessions for key groups that will be most impacted by the cash, with the objective of creating awareness and providing an opportunity for stakeholders to raise issues and get on the spot clarifications.

These stakeholders include markets, associations, professional bodies, religious bodies etc. These stakeholder sessions have run nationwide while the media campaign continued.

For example, The CBN in April announced the immediate suspension of the implementation of the Cashless Nigeria Policy in 30 states of the federation. This came exactly 21 days after the CBN commenced the nationwide implementation of the cashless policy on April 1, 2017.

In a circular signed by the Director, Banking and Payment System, CBN, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, the regulatory agency ordered Deposit Money Banks to revert to the old charges and refund customers who had been debited for withdrawing and making cash deposits above the limits allowed under the policy.

The CBN had earlier announced new charges on deposits and withdrawals above a threshold of N500,000 for individuals and N3million for corporate organisations.

The bank had fixed 1.5 per cent and two per cent for deposits above N500,000 and N1million in the individual category.

Fatokun, however said the implementation of the policy would remain in Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Abia, Anambra and Rivers states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

A source had hinted that CBN intend to consult with stakeholders across the affected states before fully implementing the policy.

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