The Naira, Nigeria’s long-standing legal tender, has certainly seen better days.
Since the 2010s, the Naira has experienced a steady decline in value – paling in comparison with the US Dollar and the British Pound due to devaluation and other factors.
Consequently, local businesses and citizens alike have made drastic adjustments to cope with the rough economic terrain. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing local recession worsened this state of affairs.
Many Nigerians continue to tow the line of cryptocurrency, saving in dollars, and emigration at large. Meanwhile, the monetary policies and related directives of the federal government to fix the numerous economic loopholes haven’t been encouraging .
New, But Old: The Naira Paradox
On Wednesday, November 23, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari formally brought the redesigned N200, N500, and N1000 notes into the light.
The Central Bank earlier announced the move in October 2022. This marked the first Naira redesign since November 2014, when the former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, unveiled a redesign of the N100 note as part of Nigeria’s centenary celebrations.
According to the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, mass currency hoarding and the corresponding shortage in the vaults of commercial banks is a major reason behind the redesign.
Noble intentions notwithstanding, Nigerians generally decried and derided the move.
As many citizens observed on social media, the move was needless since the base designs remained the same – save for colour changes. Ironically, the independent redesign attempts by some graphic designers seeking to prove a point were also met with criticism. One may thus conclude on the surface that the federal government was better off letting sleeping dogs lie.
However, some observers have theorised that the redesign move has a political undertone that serves the electorate’s best interests.
A New Dispensation Beckons
On Thursday, December 8, 2022, Mr. Godwin Emefiele disclosed to reporters that commercial banks around the country obtained the new notes the previous day. He reiterated that banks would begin the issue of the new notes on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
While the issue began as scheduled, low supply impeded the process. Some Nigerians also took to social media with pictures of irregular-shaped notes dispensed by ATMs.
The Last Minute Rush—and Extension
The Central Bank Governor equally noted earlier that the old notes would remain valid as legal tender until Tuesday, January 31, 2022.
The finality of this deadline has resulted in packed banking halls, with customers making attempts to pay in their old notes before withdrawing the scarce new notes. POS agents have also encountered difficulties in this period.
However, on Sunday, January 29, 2022, the Central Bank released a statement, indicating the extension of the January 31, 2023 deadline to February 10, 2023.
The statement further disclosed that there would be a seven-day grace period between February 10 and February 17, 2023, during which citizens can still deposit their old notes.