Temilade got into a heated argument with a bus conductor after he gave her 100 Naira note as change for the 200 Naira she gave to him.

The bus conductor may not be the best at mathematics but he sure knows his numbers when it comes to money matters.

The bone of contention was not the amount, but the physical condition of the note given to Temilade – It was looking like something from the tombstone of an Egytian Mummy.

The note as it is said in local parlance has seen ‘better days’.

Temilade just did not understand why the bus conductor would give her a tattered N100 note after she gave her a relatively neat N200 note.

One Bad Note Too Many

There is growing public concern over the widespread circulation of dirty and mutilated naira notes in the country. Almost all denominations of the naira currently in circulation have a large percentage of torn or dirty elements. 

When customers approach banks to exchange these notes, such requests are usually turned down by most commercial banks.

Temilade’s plight is what most Nigerians go through on daily basis.  From the woman selling roasted plantain at the roadside to the commercial bus conductor and the attendant at the gas station.

Who's to blame?

Most commercial banks are guilty of dispensing bad naira notes over their counters.

The report that the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] charges commercial banks that return dirty and mutilated naira notes in exchange for new ones may have worsened the scarcity of new and clean notes. 

A bank official who spoke to Bounce News, said CBN charges 5 percent of the total amount of dirty notes tendered by a commercial bank in exchange for new ones.

Another bank officer blamed the scarcity of new naira notes on CBN’s failure to print them as often as required. 

He said, "The cost of printing new notes is sometimes higher than the notes the CBN wants to produce. There are specifications for the naira notes, so the CBN looks at the cost implication of printing. The entire process is even subject to the approval of the president."

However, CBN’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications Isaac Okoroafor said, “It is not true. We have been printing lower dominations of naira notes.

"A combination of currency abuse and the fact that N100 notes have high velocity of circulation all contribute to the fast wear and tear of lower naira notes.”

Commercial banks’ excuse that they use new naira notes to load into Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) is responsible for their scarcity is not tenable. 

If as they say dirty and torn naira notes cause ATMs to malfunction, the same bad notes have become a source of altercation between traders and customers. 

Traders who reject bad notes from customers are left with their goods unsold as customers are at liberty to buy goods from other shop owners.

Bad notes are therefore as challenging to transactions among individuals as they are to ATMs. 

Racketeering?

Most commercial banks are accused of hoarding new notes for sale to bankers’ agents who in turn vend the notes for a profit. 

A bundle of new N100 naira notes which totals N10,000 is sold by vendors for N11,000, usually to people who are going to owambe

A bundle of new N200 new naira notes which is N20,000 is sold for N22,000. A syndicate consisting of bank staff and their agents seems to be behind this illegal marketing. 

Section 21(4) of the CBN Act of 2007 makes it a punishable offence for any person to hawk, sell or trade in naira notes, coins or any other issued by the apex bank.

The Central Bank of Nigeria also warned Nigerians against abusing the naira notes.

The apex bank said that anyone caught abusing the naira would be prosecuted and if convicted the person risked six months in jail pr N50,000 fine.

But it seems the problem of the dirty naira notes in circulation is not really the way it is handled by customers but more of a systemic issue.

The CBN should crack down on this trading in new naira notes and print enough new notes that will sufficiently replace mutilated ones.

But like every other challenge in Nigeria, common sense hardly prevails.

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