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Interview: Nigeria

Nigeria aims to beat forgers with new banknotes

Wyap91/Open access

Nigeria is to introduce new bank notes and coins next year. The aim is to reduce the number of forged banknotes and make large transactions easier. But will it hurt the poor?

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Replacing existing notes and coins in a nation of 150 million people is quite a challenge, says Central Bank of Nigeria governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Among the new notes to be introduced in March 2013 is one worth 5,000-naira (25 euros) which will be 10 times higher than the largest denomination currently in circulation. It is a move intended to make large transactions easier.

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“Instead of having receiving 100 notes when taking 20,000 naira from the ATM, with a 5,000 naira note means that same transaction would dispense 40 bills. That reduces the number of times the ATM needs replenishing,”  Lamido Sanusi told RFI.

Another reason why a new set of notes is being rolled out is to reduce the amount of counterfeiting.

“It’s been 12 years since we replaced our currency,” Lamudo Sanusi points out. “The technologies for printing notes has moved on, so we need to keep one step ahead of the counterfeiters.”

The new note will feature three women on the front for the first time in Nigeria 's history. Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Gambo Sawaba's portraits will appear on the note. In a country divided by religion and culture, it is perhaps no surprise the three women come from the three main regions of the country, Ekpo is from the east, Ransome-Kuti from the west and Sawaba is from the north.

“These women were chosen because of the role they played in Nigeria ’s struggle for independence,” Lamido Sanusi explains, “The represent moral fibre.”

Critics of the plan say it will speed up the devaluation of the currency and hurt the poor. However Lamido Sanusi says the Central Bank of Nigeria will replace the three smallest denomination bank notes - of five, 10 and 20 naira - with coins.

“We know that the one and two naira coins are no longer being used because it is no longer possible to buy things for that small amount of money,” says Lamido Sanusi.

The last time Nigeria replaced small denomination notes with coins in the 1980s, small traders raised prices to avoid receiving the coins.

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