By Chukwuma Umeorah

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued a strict warning to abusers and sellers of the nation’s currency to desist from the ugly and unlawful act or face prosecution.

The Director of Corporate Communication, CBN, Osita Nwanisobi disclosed this in a statement noting that the activities of persons who sell the newly distributed bank notes and those who flagrantly abuse the legal tender by hurling wads of Naira notes in the air and stamping on the currency at social functions had caused great concern and it was going to be dealt with strictly.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 21(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 (As amended) stipulates that ‘spraying of, dancing or matching on the naira or any note issued by the bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the naira or such note and shall be punishable under the law by fines or imprisonment or both.”

“Similarly, Section 21(4) states that ‘It shall also be an offence punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in the Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank.”

The apex bank expressed its readiness to collaborate with the Nigeria Police (NPF), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to prosecute any individual or cooperate entity that is culpable.

“We, therefore, warn Nigerians, particularly those at social functions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals, to desist from disrespecting the Naira or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies.”

Meanwhile, CBN has directed deposit money banks (DMBs) to commence the payment of the redesigned Naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000. The directive was given to address the challenge of long queues at the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and to better distribute the new notes across the country while easing the pain of many Nigerians.

“The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has directed DMBs to commence the payment of the redesigned Naira notes over the counter. We also admonish members of the public to embrace and adopt other payment channels for their transactions. The Naira is our legal tender and symbol of national pride. Therefore, let us respect it and handle it with care,” he said.