Nigerians in the Diaspora have expressed concern about what to do with old naira notes in their possession.
Colin Udoh, a Nigerian who according to his Twitter profile lives in the US and is a former Super Eagles press officer, asked, “I have some old naira notes with me. So far, I haven’t seen or heard of any plans by central bank for folks in diaspora with old naira notes to exchange theirs. Am I missing something?”
Responding to Mr Udoh, Abike Dabira-Erewa, chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) asked, “do Nigerians in diaspora keep or spend Naira notes abroad? Am I missing something?”
In response, Mr Udoh explained that he always has naira notes for whenever he returns to Nigeria.
“I always carry some naira with me in case I need to pay for stuff. And on arrival, it’s a backup to pay for things like trolley, car rental, assistance, hotels, etc in case ATM fails,” Mr Udoh wrote.
Corroborating Mr Udoh, Osariemen, another user whose profile suggests he lives in the US, said it is an unspoken rule to keep naira notes for anyone who plans to return to Nigeria.
“I have Naira note here, trust me, you do not want to arrive Nigeria without it. Those airport people will milk you. It is an unspoken rule, keep Naira notes if you intend travelling back to Nigeria,” she said.
Shola Olushola added that “most Nigerians keep Naira with us so that during a visit home, there will be some cash to spend for one or 2 days before visiting BDC. So, it is not out of place if anyone asks for the central bank’s plan towards those in the diaspora.”
Also, Farooq Kperogi, a professor of journalism at Kennesaw State University in the US, said he takes back naira notes when he travels to Nigeria “so that when we have occasion to visit again we can have naira to spend at the airport for trolleys and to pay for taxis to our hotels or houses. I’m now resigned to the fact that the naira I have with me here is useless.”
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2023 unveiled new notes of the three highest denominations of the Nigerian currency: N200, N500 and N1,000.
The banking regulator initially set 31 January as the deadline for the use of the old notes but extended the deadline to 10 February after public outcry.
Onofiok Kings, an Abuja-based financial expert, said the rules must be implemented across the board.
“Typically, we do not expect Nigerians to keep so much Naira abroad as they should have changed it to the universal currency which is the United States dollar,” he said.
However, since the deadline has been shifted, NIDCOM should be called upon to either negotiate or liaise with the central bank to give a timeline and or a deadline for Nigerians in the diaspora to enable them to change their Naira to either the newly designed notes or any currency of their choosing.
“I believe that it is an issue worth considering. It is possible that a considerable amount of money are with such folks” Tope Fasua, an economist, said about the concerns raised by the diasporans.
He advised that a policy statement may be made for such people after the new deadline to approach their banks with such old currencies when they are in the country.
“It is a fact that such policies should have some elements of surprise. It is also a fact that in a country like Nigeria, the policy targets criminals – kidnappers, narcotics dealers, corrupt politicians and civil servants, money launderers and so on,” Mr Fasua said.
Diasporans are certainly not the target, he added and so it should be possible to have a provision for them.
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