…Warns against counterfeiting, hoarding
Uche Usim, Abuja
In response to traders’ cries over acute shortage of lower denomination currency notes, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday, kicked off an exercise aimed at flooding the market with N100, N50, N20, N10 and N5 notes. But the apex bank also warned against hoarding and cloning of the notes as anyone caught in the act would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Speaking at a sensitisation programme on Tuesday at the Wuse market in Abuja, the Director, Currency Operations of CBN, Mrs. Priscilla Eleje, said the apex bank was unhappy that lower denomination naira notes were in short supply, promising to tackle the challenge headlong.
She also warned those who hoard the lower denomination naira notes for the purpose of profiteering from the resale to jettison the idea as they risked prosecution when caught.
She said: “We spend money to print money every year. But we don’t see the money in the market. So, we called the market unions and banks to a meeting in our office on how to resolve that.
“We are here to inform you that we have started giving money to you traders through your associations and the banks. We will monitor the disbursements and spending. No more sales of lower denomination currency at pei dei market. The police is on the lookout and will arrest and prosecute offenders. We will give the money to the association via the commercial banks.
“All you need to do is take your higher denomination currencies to your association and exchange with lower denomination currency equivalent. It’s not like the money is free. It’s just an exchange and we want it to be available to you people to do your business with ease. So, please let us know if you can’t access it. We want to ensure you trade seamlessly,” she said.
On possible counterfeiting of the currency, Eleje described it as a complete economic loss, stressing the main loser is the holder.
“Counterfeit money is an economic loss. Don’t collect it and don’t spend it. The loss is on you. That’s the law. However, we have machines with special in-built features to detect fake or counterfeited notes. It’s a big crime and we are dealing with it.
“The banks have been directed to return the counterfeited currency to us so that we study it to see the security features that are being counterfeited. So we try to know which features are probably vulnerable and so we improve on those going forward.
“We have reports of banks issuing counterfeit money. We are also monitoring banks issuing money that are mutilated. Report such banks to CBN and you will get a redress,” she advised.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Wuse Market Association, Raphael Okorie, hailed the apex bank for the prompt intervention with the lower denomination shortage nightmare and numerous supports given to the Nigerian business community. He said the CBN has done a lot in a short time in helping traders grow. “It is the first time in history that CBN is coming to interact directly with traders to feel their pulse and know where it hurts them.
“In a short time, all the issues raised will be tackled by CBN. Small denomination currency shortage is often a hiccup to business. We are talking of denominations like N100, N50, N20, etc. It brings about friction between the trader and the customer and even between traders,” he said.