By Evelyn Usman
LAGOS—Twelve Naira notes vendors have been arrested in a joint raid by officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Operatives of Lagos State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, SCIID, Yaba.
Mint Naira notes in different denominations were recovered from the vendors, all women, who were arrested at event centres and bus stops in different parts of the state.
Parading the suspects before newsmen weekend, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in-charge of SCIID, Salami Bolaji, described their action as an offence which contravenes the CBN Act, 2007.
He said: “We are clamping down on those abusing our currency. It is an offence to sell Naira notes at weddings or any gathering. It contravenes the CBN Act. We arrested six suspects the previous weekend, while six others were arrested today (weekend).
“We recovered N35,500 from the former, while N465,000 was recovered from those arrested last week. They would be charged to court as soon as possible.
The arrested new Naira notes vendors.
“Investigation is ongoing to reveal how these suspects came about these new currencies. We are going to get to the root of it because the offence is punishable by N50,000 fine, or six months imprisonment or both.
“No good country will allow its currency to be abused in anyway. That is what we are guarding against. CBN is out to enforce the law and we will give them the necessary backings.”
Warnings for banks staff, patrons
A member of staff of CBN, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that connivance with members of staff of the apex bank as well as those in the Deposit Money Banks, DMB, could not be ruled out.
He threatened that any bank staff, whether of CBN or any of the commercial banks, found to be fuelling the illegal trade, would be arrested.
To checkmate the illicit trade, he further threatened that celebrants at events, where mint Naira notes were sold, would be arrested alongside the vendors.
He said: “We know that these are not the real targets. If they do not get the mint notes, they won’t be able to sell. So our main targets are commercial banks and even our staff, who release these money to these vendors. Once these suspects confess and mention their names, we would go after them.
“We are also going to start arresting Nigerians who organise events and allow those selling Naira notes in their venues. Already, we have started arresting people who spray money at social events. Sanity must return to our system and our currency must be respected.”
The suspects speak
However, when approached, the suspects— Fausat Jimoh, Bisoye Oyegbile, Balikis Ajadi, Bisola Amoru, Abidemi Oladejo and Ajoke Suraj— refused to disclose identities of those who sold the mint notes to them.
They simply stated that it was their source of livelihood, revealing that N150 was charged on every N1,000 mint exchanged with old notes. But the charges differ according to the area and the personality of patrons.
In high brow areas and events organised by social bigwigs, N200 and above is charged on N1,000 mint Naira notes. One of them claimed that N37,500 was collected from her when she was arrested at Alagbado area of the state.
According to her, “Abdulahi supplies the mints to me. I charge N200 for every N1,000. I do not know where he works. He usually brought them to me. But some of my colleagues get theirs from banks.
“If I knew it was illegal to sell new Naira notes, I would have run away when I saw the police coming. I was not going to party venues to sell; I stayed at the bus stop where people come to meet me. Now that I know that it is illegal, I will quit the business.”
On her part, Abidemi Oladejo denied having anything to do with the sale of new notes.
She said: “I don’t sell Naira notes. I sell cooked rice at Oshodi Bus Stop, near a woman that sells Naira notes.
“A friend, who came to visit me, was also arrested. The police should investigate and clear us from this mess.”