News / Africa

Nigerian Currency Controversy: Do Bigger Bills Make Fatter Pockets?

A man walks past a promotional banner showing a photograph of a pile of Nigerian naira along a road in Lagos November 24, 2010.A man walks past a promotional banner showing a photograph of a pile of Nigerian naira along a road in Lagos November 24, 2010.
x
A man walks past a promotional banner showing a photograph of a pile of Nigerian naira along a road in Lagos November 24, 2010.
A man walks past a promotional banner showing a photograph of a pile of Nigerian naira along a road in Lagos November 24, 2010.
Heather Murdock
Last summer the Nigerian Central Bank announced plans to introduce new currency worth five times the value of the current largest bill.  The move set off a torrent of controversy with critics saying it would allow corrupt officials to line their pockets with five times more money.  Now the currency has been shelved and lawmakers are reviewing the powers of the central bank.  

When they first announced the new currency, a 5,000 Naira note, worth about $30, it seemed like an innocuous story.  Economists said it was a good idea.  It would save money in printing and storing cash and promote a more modern economy. 

After the announcement, Ugo Okoroafor, a bank spokesperson, held press conferences and took interviews, enthusiastically introducing the public to the new money.

“Let’s not look at Nigeria now.  We are moving into a society where there will be vending machines.  There are parking meters that are coming up.  The rail lines are coming back to life.  These are areas where coins are very important," he said. 

Transparency International, Sub-Saharan Africa regionTransparency International, Sub-Saharan Africa region
x
Transparency International, Sub-Saharan Africa region
Transparency International, Sub-Saharan Africa region
What was initially a rumble from people who didn’t like the idea quickly turned into a roar. Lawmakers and political analysts said if money was worth more, crooked officials could haul away more simply because it was less bulky. 

Wole Olaoye has been a journalist in Nigeria for almost four decades. He sits on the editorial board of one national newspaper and writes columns for another.  He was and remains an outspoken critic of the new currency. 

"If you have a 5,000 Naira bill, the politician is going to dance because he’s going to be happy. It’s going to make it easy for him to carry his bribes around, either bribes that he’s giving people or bribes that he’s receiving.  And we don’t kid ourselves that this doesn’t happen.  It happens on a daily basis," he said. 
 
Olaoye calls corruption "a way of life" in Nigeria that can be found everywhere from street cops to high-level officials.  Earlier this year, lawmakers issued a report showing that $6.8 billion worth of Nigerian public funds had been stolen by oil moguls and officials between 2009 and 2011.

As a result of the currency controversy, the National Assembly held a hearing and declared it would investigate the matter, even though the bank by law had sole authority to update the currency.

In late September, President Goodluck Jonathan told the bank to halt the currency plan and, amid other controversies, lawmakers are now looking into ways to reduce the authority of the Central Bank. 

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid