Tackling Persistent Rejection Of N5, N10 And N50 Paper Notes
Nwaorgu Faustinus Chilee
The polymer notes were introduced into the banking system and economy of Nigeria last year for what it is believed to be its merit: durability, cheap to produce because materials used to print them are sourced locally, light to carry and tough to tear among other values. Their introduction has caused problems in some quarters as some are hell bent on accepting them rather than the N5, N10 and N50 paper notes.
Last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) informed the general public of the change from the N5, N10 and N50 paper notes to the polymer notes. The apex bank then, gave 31 March, 2010 as the deadline to mop up the N5, N10 and N50 paper notes from the economy. However, this was not to be as the users of the paper notes start rejecting them before their terminal date, March 31 this year. The rejection of the paper notes trigger off fight, braw or clash in many parts of Nigeria, especially among commercial drivers and their passengers, petty traders and their customers, fueling station attendants and consumers of petroleum products etc.
Fortunately enough, and in a bid to nip in the bud the rejection of the paper notes, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) came to the rescue of the users of the legal tender by postponing sine die the terminal date of the paper notes and urged the general public to continue to use them for transactions. The supreme bank also informed that anybody that rejects the paper notes have committed a criminal offense.
Regrettably, since the latest announcement, some have stick to their guns by refusing to accept the paper notes even as the CBN has postponed their expiration date ad-infinitum and nobody has been brought to book so far for violating the directive. Something must really be wrong in the media strategy adopted by the apex bank or does it mean that too many people are unaware of the recent announcement and instruction from the bank not to reject the paper notes? If, the latter is the case, then there may be some factors responsible, either they are unaware of the latest instruction to use notes which may have been caused as a result of lack of power supply to switch on their radio and television to listen to news, or they are to busy pursuing economic activities so as to make both ends meet.
This then means they are not adequately informed about the indefinite shift in the terminal date of the notes, and the need to continue to accept them until they are gradually out of use. Some may be waiting for a punitive action to be taken against those who are rejecting paper notes before they can comply with the banker's bank order. Some Nigerians are so stubborn that the language they understand is “force or punishment”. My humble suggestion is that the violators of this order ought to be arrested, detained and charged to court to serve as a deterrent to others who might nurse the idea of rejecting the notes. The court proceedings of those arrested and arraigned should be broadcast to Nigerians and also captured in newspapers, magazines and web based media sites.
Since the aim of the ad-infinitum deferment in the terminal date of the paper notes has been defeated as people continue to reject them I suggest for following steps to taken if feasible.
A new media approach should be adopted in conjunction with the mass media. It is important to not that majority of rural dwellers are not literate compared to their urban counter parts. Most people who live in the rural areas do not have access to light, television, radio or newspapers and magazines to enable them know what the policies or programmes of the government are. In this case, the traditional means of communication through the town crier should be adopted to inform the populace of the postponement. Youth leaders in rural and urban areas, opinion leaders, leaders of market women, pastors and reverend fathers, sheiks, imams leaders of Nigeria Teachers Association etc should be encouraged by the appropriate authority to reach out to their members, brethren etc, on the need to continue to accept the paper notes. Such announcement could be made in church, mosque among other places.
Finally, and if possible I will advice the apex bank to mandate some staff of the 25 banks to position themselves in strategic places such as the market, bus stops, motor parks, federal and state secretariats etc with the new polymer notes in exchange of the paper notes. As the bank staff execute this job, adequate security should be provided. If the above sincere suggestions could be followed to the last letter, the cases of persistent rejection of the paper notes which did cause free for all in some parts of Nigeria will be nipped in the bud.
Nwaorgu faustinus Chilee writes in from Igboetche, Port Harcourt, Rivers State