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How CBN negligence emboldens Naira abusers in social gatherings

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FAILURE of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enforce the 2007 Act of the bank has continued to embolden the abusers of the naira in social gatherings.

In July, the internet was washed with footage of how the naira alongside other currencies like the dollar was abused at the burial ceremony of the mother of the Chairman of Cubana Group Obi Iyiegbu, popularly known as Obi Cubana.

Several videos went viral that show celebrities, business people and politicians spray money indiscriminately during a concert held after the interment of the deceased.

In one of the videos, Obi Cubana displayed his football skills while one of the guests threw wads of cash at him.

The event was held at Oba, a town in the Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.

The 46-year-old literally turned bales of naira to round leather as he kicked and chested it. Veteran actor and a trained lawyer, Kanayo O. Kanayo, amongst scores of celebrities were also seen spraying mint notes on Obi Cubana who relished the tuneful rhythm seeping from the background.

More interesting to note is the fact that the burial ceremony was also well attended by police officers and other security operatives, including a well-known and suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police and former leader of the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team, Abba Kyari, who stated that he attended the burial to honour a good friend

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Nigerians, who were hoping to see some punitive measures from either the CBN or law enforcement agencies were all disappointed as the apex bank and security agencies traded blame and responsibilities on who should prosecute eminent personalities at the event.

According to Section 21 of the CBN Act, 2007, a person who tampers with a coin or note issued by the apex bank risks imprisonment for a term not less than six months or a fine not less than N50,000 or to both.

Section 21(3) of the Act defines “spraying of, dancing or matching on the naira or any note issued by the CBN during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute abuse and defacing of the naira or such note and shall be punishable under sub-section one of the section.

It further includes “Matching” in Section 5(i) of the Act as “spreading, scattering or littering of any surface with any naira notes or coins and stepping thereon, regardless of the value, volume, occasion or intent” while in 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 in a similar manner regardless of the amount, occasion or the intent.”

The Act in Section 21(4), sanctions any person who hawks, sells or otherwise trades in the naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank in public places.

As Nigerians and the country continue to bear the consequences of abusing the naira in social gatherings, the CBN in typical of most Nigerian government’s agencies only issues sporadic reminders of what awaits offenders.

“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,” CBN Former Spokesperson Isaac Okorafor said in a warning statement in 2018.

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According to him, the law enforcement agencies must catch offenders and take them to court.

Okorafor added that the CBN had concluded the decision to establish mobile courts to prosecute those abusing the naira notes, noting that security agencies particularly the police operatives and officials of the Ministry of Justice would be involved in monitoring the use of the naira at the event venues to ensure that the CBN order is enforced nationwide.

He warned that Nigerians who violated the naira anti-spray law were at risk of a six-month jail term or a fine of N50,000.

The CBN through its Assistant Director at the Currency Operations Department, Aladeen Badajo reiterated this warning during a sensitization program in June this year.

The law against abuse of the naira has been in place for over a decade, yet the CBN is still at the stage of “awareness creation” and “sensitisation” of the citizens. No Nigerian has been prosecuted for abusing the country’s legal tender, which should be a symbol of respect and pride.

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