The trademark patent right of the naira notes in circulation is owned by non-Nigerians, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has revealed.
The apex bank yesterday cited this as one of the reasons it wants to redesign the naira notes. According to the director of corporate communications of the CBN, Mr Ugochukwu Okoroafor, “it was quite shocking to us when we discovered that the patent rights of some of our notes are owned by non-Nigerians.”
Okoroafor, who spoke with financial journalists in Lagos yesterday, said it is not right or safe for a sovereign state such as Nigeria to have the patent right of its legal tender owned by a foreigner. “It is dangerous for us as a nation because they can hold us at the neck with it,” he stated.
He however noted that the patent rights of the new designs of the naira would be owned fully by Nigerians, adding that this was one of the crucial reasons the CBN wants to restructure the naira.
Okoroafor also debunked reports that the apex bank would be spending N40 billion in the printing of the controversial N5,000 notes as well as that of the redesigned notes. According to him, “it is an absolute lie and it is quite outrageous.”
Stating that people who are making such claims should check their facts correctly, he said “the CBN does not hide how much it spends on note printing annually. It is there in our annual reports, so people who are making such outrageous claims should go and check our annual report which is a public document.”
He said due to the false information that is being proliferated, the CBN had decided to publish the amount it has been spending on note printing as well as what it would spend in printing the new currencies.
He further stated that, rather, the apex bank would be saving N7 billion from the printing of notes annually through its “Project Cure”, as it is cheaper to print, store and transport larger bills.
Defending the introduction of the N5,000 note, he said it is meant to serve big transactions, noting that it is not meant for everyday or minor transactions. He also reiterated that it would in no way increase inflation rate in the country as more money would not be injected into the system.
He stressed that the market forces would determine its use, citing the American $1,000 and $10,000 notes which he said are used only for special transactions.
Mazi Okechukwu Unegbu, former president, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, said it is not the standard practice to have the patents of national currency held by foreigners. It is because Nigeria lacks the technology and trained personnel to manage its own printing. It is dangerous because if we have to get it back we will pay heavily.
However, he said, it was not enough reason to justify the currency restructure and printing of N5,000 note. “CBN should have first come out with policy to make coins acceptable such as increasing their values before considering its current policy which in itself is contradictory of other policies of the CBN.”