Dirty money in circulation
By Oshineye Victor Oshisada
Money is the medium of exchange and store of value. People describe it variously as bank notes, currency notes or simply “money”. But for the purpose of this piece, the description as “money” is chosen for prompt and lucid understanding of man and woman in the street. Bank note is the paper money that is issued by a Bank. The issue of notes in most countries is either entirely confined to or subject to strict control by the Central Bank. Currency is another name for money. A country’s own currency is that for internal transactions. Foreign currency is the money of other countries. In this country, the currency that is in circulation is “Naira”.
The poor appearance of our “naira” is the focus of this writer. For a long time now, our naira has been badly mutilated, smelling nauseatingly and in shreds, to the extent of using sellotape to stick together the pieces. In these appalling appearances, people whose lot it is to spend the money have their re-actions. Why not? To every action, there is a re-action. “Nigerian currencies are Legal tender.” By legal tender, it is meant, the forms of money which a creditor is legally obliged to accept in the settlement of a debt. For the reason of “inflation” coins have vanished from circulation for many years. If anybody holds coins in possession, it merely serves as a family heirloom for future generations. Therefore, by the expression, “legal tender”, it is the argument by concerned citizens. The currency is paid for services and purchases of all sorts. Prospective buyers are right to argue: “This money though tattered, it is the legal tender today.” The producers of the services or commodities on their parts, shall contend with a note of finality. “It may be a legal tender. But nobody shall collect sellotaped naira notes in this market or area. Give me better money.”
The buyers shall insist that the bad Naira notes must be accepted by the sellers on the premise: “It was given to me by a Nigerian. Besides, I carry no other notes with me.” In the course of these continual and fruitless arguments, three possibilities may emerge-the seller may not part with the commodity. This does not enhance good trade and economic growth. Both the sellers and the buyers are at losses. The products may remain unsold. The buyers may lose the desired utility that is derivable from the commodity. A scuffle may eventuate between the buyer and the seller. These are not beneficial to the society.
Therefore, the Federal Government, through its Central Bank, must opt for the plausibility of regularly printing fresh currency notes for people’s commercial transactions. This writer considers clean money to be one of the economic mirrors of a country. If the notes are clean, it shows that the economy is good; if it is dirty as it is now, it demonstrates that our economy is seriously sick, requiring surgical operation. By the way, if I may inquire: “Are our Federal Ministers not in receipts of these dirty notes? Are the members of the National Assembly blind to the abysmal conditions of these dirty notes? Is it not a shame to the Federal Finance Minister to find in circulation absolutely wretched Naira notes?” These dirty Naira notes are a disgrace to the nation. Some years ago, Nigerians were condemning tattered national flags flying in public places. Today, we are criticizing mutilated Naira Notes. It seems that our leaders are in love with things that are in tatterdemalions. It is a pity!
Why are the conditions of our Naira so revolting? This writer can ascribe some reasons for these. People are in the habit of rejecting these notes. But quite often, I point it out to them: “When it was in mint form, the same people made it dirty as it is now, because of the wrong style that it is handled. Invariably, rough handling contributes to the filthy appearance of our money”. For example, the market women and the bus conductors are guilty of this. It is typical of the market mummies to stock decent notes inside their brassieres, corsets and corse-lettes for keeps in the course of their trades. In that process, body perspiration moistens the naira notes. Likewise, some young men tuck naira notes inside their pairs of socks, and even their pants ostensibly for security, but in reality they are vandalized. To worsen it, some write their names and address on the notes, thinking that in course of time, the money shall return to them after a certain period of circulation. Also, some superstitious folks nip the edges of the notes believing that no spirit shall steal them from their possessions. Further, the quality of the materials used to produce our naira notes are inferior. In 2015, many of these notes that were printed and sent into circulations have today peeled off as the inscriptions are deleted and illegible. The N50, N100 and N200 denominations are the victims of this vandalisation sparing N500 and N1000 the blushes. Moreover, the Federal Government’s habitual tardiness in re-printing the notes renders them defaced and lose their original artistic beauty. That is the aesthetics. It costs money to mint and print money. Therefore very significantly, the perennial delay in passing the Annual Budget by the National Assembly may possibly contribute to the Federal Finance Ministry’s prevailing predicament. Lastly, in this country, there is too much pressure on cash, with less emphases on bank cheques for transactions. In my considered opinion, I believe that it is because of the predominantly illiteracy level which results to lack of confidence in cheque transactions. In other words, people more often than not, rely on the uses of cash and less on cheques. This creates the mutilation and filthiness on the lower denominations of naira notes.
With a pang of nostalgia, this writer remembers the colonial Nigeria era, to Tafawa Balewa administration when Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was the Finance Minister, Nigerians were enjoying clean bank notes, compared with the present. At the introduction of new notes, a song was composed: “Okotie-Eboh ko owo tuntun de; aiye ndara bowa o e”, meaning, “Festus Okotie-Eboh has issued fresh and new currency notes; the country is assuming better economic era” Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was a colourful politician in his days. He had the peculiarity of buoyancy in appearance and equally demonstrative in his gait that at any social milieu, the wrapper round his waist would be flowing behind him with the trailing tail held on by two youngsters. In the like manner, the currency notes, produced for circulation by his Ministry, were typically spick-and-span and undefaced. Today the exercise has detracted from what obtained in the days of yore. This writer is authoritatively informed that some banks are rejecting the mutilated money. The Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, must prove equal to the task of furnishing Nigerians with clean Naira notes, about which the quantities in different denominations cause inadequate balances (that is, change) for buyers and sellers.
From the foregoing submissions, what is clear writer is advocating is that Nigerians deserve clean Naira notes, instead of the present sellotaped “rags” that pass for money.
Oshisada, a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.