Criminally minded Nigerians have wasted no time trying to work the the government’s latest monetary policy to their advantage. Last November, the Central Bank launched a redesigning of the 200, 500 and one thousand naira notes. Deposit banks began issuing them second week of December. But almost immediately, counterfeits were already in people’s hands. In a video, gone viral, a man was heard saying his wife, who operated a Point of Sale (PoS) machine, had been given a fake new 1,000 naira note. He displayed the genuine and counterfeit for viewers to spot the difference.
President Muhammadu Buhari in November unveiled the new notes, the three highest denominations of the national currency. CBN governor Godwin Emefiele, during the unveiling, said the introduction of new notes was a deliberate step taken by the government to check corruption and counterfeiting of the notes.
The CBN is, by law (Sections 17, 18 and 19 of the CBN Act), responsible for the issuance of naira notes. It is against the law for any individual or establishment, outside the CBN, to print money or be in possession of counterfeit notes. “If you are caught and convicted of a counterfeiting crime, you may face up to five (5) years imprisonment with no option of fine (Section 20),” the CBN said in a circular on its website last week.
The CBN said the new naira notes were protected by a number of security features “to enable easy recognition of genuine ones”. The distinguishing features, which can be recognized by touch and visibility, are the raised print, the security thread and the watermark. Others, such as the portrait, lettering and the denominational numerals on the obverse and reverse of the notes, are embossed.
“The raised prints provide the tactility, while the security thread, which ordinarily, looks broken but is not when held up against light, has “CBN” in small lettering printed on both sides of the notes,” said the apex bank. “The notes are also protected against photocopying. There are also features which are visible under ultraviolet light. For example, the serial number on each banknote is black, but turns green under ultraviolet light.”
The CBN’s Banknote Fitness Standards also provides the general public with “clear, acceptable criteria” for determining the quality of banknotes in circulation. It shows the stages of degradation by soiling, limpness and thus defines the acceptable threshold for fit notes in circulation. The fitness criteria include the durability and functionality of security features on the notes, structure and durability, and quality, that is, print and appearance of notes.
The Clean Note Policy was instituted by the CBN in a bid to improve the physical appearance and lifespan of the banknotes in circulation. The concept of Clean Note Policy requires that the production, issuance of new banknotes and recirculation by the DMBs/CPCs must conform to the predetermined standards. It also aims at ensuring that the quality of banknotes in circulation must be in good condition to allow for processing and acceptability by the public.
These are welcome elaborate steps the CBN has taken to ensure the integrity of the national currency. However, clearly, it has not reckoned with the disingenuousness of criminals to find a way to break through the cordon. That they have done, regrettably. Regrettably again, the CBN can do little to stop counterfeiters. But the banking public can help by being vigilant.
Secondly, we encourage all and sundry to embrace e-commerce. Cash transactions should be minimized to reduce the risk of falling into the hands of fraudsters. This way, their number will be kept small and manageable.