Opinion: Let’s talk about communicable diseases and dirty notes

by Adenekan John

Are you a Nigerian resident not locked away from the everyday realities on the streets? Do you transact with the naira notes, especially the lower denominations? Well, depending on your financial class, you might have come across a worrying trend in the lower denominations of the Nigerian currency notes lately. These days, they are mostly dirty, mutilated, defaced and even capable of making an allergic fellow puke.

To say the Nigerian currency is in an intensive care unit, battling for survival against the stronger currencies of the world is no news. Yes! The swansong of economists in our clime today is that the Nigerian economy is in recession. It is also known that the current face values on our Naira notes are way below the marketplace value. So, one wonders now whether the bad state of our currency notes is an attempt at a bad joke by our currency regulators to depict the breakdown of our exchange system.

Last week, at the height of the irritation, I protested bitterly to a cabman who gave me a dirty, plastered one hundred naira note as my balance. He retorted unfazed: “Oga you just enter town? Na so all the hundred naira notes be nowadays”. To convince me, he brought out more notes of the same nature. I had to leave the money with him in annoyance. That was my umpteenth experience in the past few days!

If you move a lot around like me from city to city, you would have noticed the dearth of clean naira notes. From the cabman to the provision stores at the corner shops, from the pepper seller to your barber, from the newspaper vendor to the traffic traders, at religious gatherings where offerings are made or even from banking halls and automated teller machines, the stories are the same.

In raising this concern, there are many dimensions to be considered. The aesthetic appeal of our medium of exchange; the economic implications of untenable notes and most importantly; the public health risks that such despicable naira notes carry.

Instructively, Nigeria has had to face the challenges of fast-spreading epidemics such as Ebola, meningitis etc. in recent times. Some of these diseases are communicable via mere body contacts. Millions of Nigerian masses daily rely on cash exchanges for goods and services. Our currency notes pass through thousands of hands in its life-cycle and handlers can inadvertently pass germs and all other unhygienic bodies around the populace.

As public health practitioners continue its advocacy on the importance of handwashing and other hygienic practices, our currency regulators, the Central Bank of Nigeria must also redouble efforts to sensitise the masses on the proper handling of the naira and also promptly withdraw dirty, defaced, and mutilated naira notes in circulation.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Adenekan John is Public Affairs Commentator and can be reached via [email protected]

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