Just when I thought I had seen it all with the Naira notes flying and making breath-taking and jaw-dropping stunts at a funeral in Oba, then came popular cross-dresser Bobrisky, who decided to make another shade of ‘doings’ recently in Lagos on the occasion to mark her… I mean, his 30th birthday anniversary. Once again, the Naira flew at different coordinates from the spraying hands of guests and well-wishers at the venue, finding their ways to the ground while everyone danced on them. One begins to wonder; can the event at Bobrisky’s birthday party ever come close to the outlandish socialite funeral we all witnessed in Oba? Anyways, the crux of the matter isn’t about social events competition, but it is about how the Naira – Nigeria’s legal tender, is being abused, evidenced by its spraying during social functions. To this end, this essay examines the nuances associated with this practice, taking greater consideration on the place of stakeholders like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Police in fighting the illicit practice. Are these stakeholders toothless bulldogs in this fight?
In the meantime, a toothless bulldog will bark, look tough, fierce and intimidating. It will charge at you but will take no further action. It isn’t going to bite because it has no teeth. Such could be the case with the apex bank and the Police since the CBN Act of 2007 was introduced to fight the spraying of the Naira during social functions. A statement by a former CBN spokesperson, Isaac Okoroafor once read; “If a celebrant is dancing and you spray him/her, you may go to jail from the party venue, because the law enforcement agents will be there, waiting to arrest you. The law enforcement agencies must catch offenders and take them to court. Our (CBN) collaboration with the Police will intensify as we move to implement the mobile court for offenders. ”
Interestingly, the recent funeral of the mother of Obinna Iyiegbu, a Nigerian business magnate and philanthropist, popularly called Obi Cubana in Afor Uzo, Oba, in Idemili South of Anambra state was teeming with police officers including the now embattled Deputy Commissioner of Police and leader of the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team, Abba Kyari. For Kyari, he claimed he attended the burial to honour a brother and good friend. However, while you’d think other police officers too numerous to mention were there to apprehend guests who flouted the CBN’s jail warnings by spraying the naira, the policemen were seen guarding and guiding moneybags while they sprayed and hurled wads of Naira note in the air in a lavish and ostentatious show of wealth. This glamorous funeral typifies what we see every day on television and social media. Wedding receptions, naming ceremonies, birthday and house warming parties of the high and the mighty are characterized by scenes where naira notes are being sprayed. A visit to these social functions would also reveal the hawking of mint notes. This is so, because, newly printed money looks more appealing to be sprayed.
What you should know
Improper handling of the Naira does not only involve spraying them. Other unwholesome practices against the Naira comprise writing on it, squeezing, stapling, tearing, soiling and/or mutilating the Naira . These abuses constitute an offence, punishable by law. Section 21(1) of the CBN Act 2007 states, that any person who tampers with any legal tender, coin, or note issued by the CBN is guilty of an offence. The offence also includes selling, buying, and squeezing of the Naira. These offences are punishable with six-month imprisonment or N50, 000 (fifty thousand naira) fine or both upon conviction . Sub-section 3 of the Act (as amended) reveals that “spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank (CBN) during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse.” The same Act in Section 5(i) goes further to capture ‘Matching’ to include spreading, scattering, or littering of any surface with any Naira notes or coins and stepping thereon, regardless of the value, volume, occasion or intent. In section 5(ii) ‘Spraying’ includes adorning, decorating, or spraying anything or any person or any part of any person or the person of another with Naira notes or coins or sprinkling or sticking of Naira notes or coins similarly regardless of the amount, occasion or the intent .
The improper handling of the Naira reduces the longevity of the banknotes. It also involves a lot of money to replace defaced or mutilated ones by the apex bank. When the Naira is being sprayed during occasions, people step on them leading to its mutilation.
This practice doesn’t speak well of us as a nation. It should be recalled that the Naira is an integral element of our national identity. Others include the national anthem and the national flag. A careful examination of the ways these elements are held reflects how Nigerians see the concept of National Identity and pride. Do we, therefore, hold the Naira as a totemic symbol that inspires some level of pride? I guess the answer is not in the affirmative. Rather, we would treat foreign currencies like the Dollar and Pound Sterling carefully. We like to keep them in a decent place in our wallets and bags – treating them as though they are newlywed brides. But for the Naira, we treat with disdain and indignity.
How then did we get here?
While many think this practice has to do with the nose-diving confidence in the exchange value of the Naira against other currencies, this essay opines that the practice results from a culture of indiscipline, impunity and disrespect for our laws. If we have a situation where laws are obeyed and enforced, people will listen and sit up. A visit to our traffic junctions, petrol stations, and airports reveal all manner of bedlam; but crossing over the borders of Nigeria into other developed nations, you see the same people who flout laws in Nigeria doing things right like joining queues. Why? Because in those climes, once you break the law, irrespective of your social status, you will be penalized.
The major challenge we thus have in Nigeria is not a dearth of appropriate laws; the bane lies in implementation. Sadly, most of those guilty of this infraction are politicians, the rich, and those at society’s upper echelon. This is why implementing relevant sections of the CBN Act to curtail the spraying of the Naira remains a herculean task. The CBN as a financial regulator or the Police has therefore made itself into a toothless bulldog that is never going to bite at offenders and get them prosecuted. Since 2007 that the law against the spraying of the Naira has been in place, reported cases of arrests have mostly been about those hawking the Naira, not those spraying it . One wonders when enforcement would commence if, after more than a decade, the CBN and the Police are yet to hit the ground running with prosecutions.
Conclusion and way forward
What the country needs now is deliberate enforcement of Section 21(1) of the CBN Act. But enforcement of the law is not for the CBN alone. Law enforcement agents should rise to the occasion and perform their statutory roles to save the Naira from lingering abuse.
Relevant sections of the CBN Act should be strengthened to deal with officials of regulatory bodies, banking and finance sector operators, and law enforcement agencies who organize social functions where the Naira is being sprayed and abused. This will punish them due to the bad example they set.
In the meantime, because of the poor financial literacy level in the country, awareness campaigns on the need to treat the Naira with utmost dignity should be encouraged in different indigenous languages. The CBN can compel various commercial banks to sponsor radio and television jingles in this regard. Organizing essay competitions to proffer pragmatic ways to curb this practice won’t be a bad awareness idea at all by the apex bank.
Also, if raiding occasions where guests and celebrants spray and dance on the Naira would lead to a possible shut down of the event, men of the police force can begin to collaborate with men of the Press while they cover social events. Video footage of these events can then be used to trace offenders and get them arrested. Meanwhile, when arrests are made, they must be publicized to serve as a deterrent for others.
Notwithstanding, the CBN shouldn’t shy away from identifying and truncating the network of cartels that have hijacked mint notes meant to be withdrawn over bank counters and from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Commercial bank managers who aid and abet such cartels should be made to resign and blacklisted. In a related development, hawkers of mint naira notes at social events must be rounded up and prosecuted. It is only when these hawkers are apprehended that spraying of the Naira at these social gatherings can be reduced.
In all, unless the CBN and the Police show strong commitment and will to implement relevant sections of the law meant to fight the spraying of the Naira not minding who the culprits are, they may just remain a toothless bulldog that will continue to bark but will take no further action because it cannot bite.
References https://nairametrics.com/2021/07/19/obi-cubana-what-cbn-policy-says-about-the-consequences-of-spraying-money/ (accessed on September 1, 2021, @15:00 hrs)
 https://www.cbn.gov.ng/Currency/cleanpolicy.asp (accessed on September 5, 2021, @17:00 hrs.)
 https://www.sunnewsonline.com/cbn-and-the-campaign-against-naira-abuse/ (accessed on September 3, 2021, @15:00 hrs)
 https://guardian.ng/opinion/jail-term-forabusers-of-naira-notes/ (accessed on September 1, 2021, @14:00 hrs)
Chukwuemeka Oluka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a research enthusiast and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu and can be reached via “firstname.lastname@example.org”