In February 28, 2007, Nigerians were greeted with joy as CBN heralded the introduction of polymer banknotes of lower denominations to replace 5 to 50 naira paper banknotes, although, the introduction of 5, 10 and 50 naira paper note into polymer were delayed till the late 2009. Nigerians were consigned into the state of euphoric mood as their beloved country was placed at par with other technological conscious countries which have earlier embraced polymer banknotes. The polymer banknote is associated with many positive advantages and the principal among them is its life span. The average life span of the polymer banknote is 5 years compare to 1 year that of paper note. Although, polymer banknote was three times more costly to produce than paper note but when you place its average life span of 5 years into consideration you have to concur that it is 2 times more cost effective than paper banknotes.
The country that pioneered polymer banknote technology was Australia. It was introduced in 1988 with introduction of 10 Australian dollar paper note into polymer and was followed by New-Zealand which introduce polymer in 1999. This was catalyzed as a consequence of widespread reported cases of forgery and counterfeit of Australian paper notes. Polymer notes are made from special protective coating of non-porous polymer which strengthens its durability and this also renders its counterfeit practical impossible. It is environmental friendly as it can be easily disposed and recycled into plastic product. In 1999, Romania became the first European country to join the polymer note back- wagon and third in the world. In 2003, Zambia became the first African country to adopt polymer note in place of paper notes when it issued 500 kwacha and 1000 kwacha polymer. Canada, Vietnam and so many other countries in the world have embraced the emerging technology of polymer. Many countries and organizations have open testified the numerous benefits of polymer banknote. In 2008, CBN made a very strong case for polymer banknote prior to its introduction; they showcased a sophistry of a higher degree as a struggle to outwit the critics enraged. CBN said that their research finding tilts towards Polymer superiority over paper notes. The inherent benefits of the proposed polymer are carefully itemized by CBN and it appears very irresistible. Nigerians happily welcome CBN sacrosanct policy and was introduced and launched in 1st October 2007. Ever since the introduction in 2007 till 2013, the polymer notes have ever enjoyed the acceptability of every Nigerian.
Polymer banknotes of lower denominations have been in circulation for over six year and have enjoyed high level of public acceptability. Expectations were high among Nigerians that CBN next level of action is on the offing which will be formally introduction of higher denominations paper into polymers. This dream was dashed as CBN has announced policy reversal of polymer notes of lower currency denomination back into paper. This rattling news comes as a rude shock to well-meaning Nigerians and has been generating controversies ever since then. CBN in the announcement made by its Deputy Governor Mr. Tunde Lemo said inter alia that “This is a hot environment and the prospect of the polymer notes lasting longer with all their features intact was not working as we had thought when the use of polymer notes was adopted. We later discovered that the environmental impact of the destruction of polymer notes is not good for our environment. We won’t want to do open air burning,” I considered the reasons for this policy reversal not cogent enough and can be taken to be too flimsy. On the point one, he said that polymer notes wizen when exposed to heat. On the point two, he made case for environmental unfriendliness of polymer. These reasons are unconvincing; if polymer notes shrivel and fade when it comes in touch with heat then paper banknotes pucker, stain and tear when wet. Presently, every waste product is being recycled and put in other uses. Polymer plastic products are not an exception as they can easily be recycled and be converted into other useful products. This is in tandem with the actions of polymer embraced countries. Among the two, polymer lasts longer and it is more environmental friendly than paper notes. Mr. Lemo, allude that the planned switch over to paper notes ‘’does not have cost implications ‘’ since the polymer in circulation will not be destroyed but the next naira money to be printed will be in paper. Mr. Lemo failed to unwrap the cost implications of printing naira paper notes that have life span of one year to that of polymer notes that can last as long as five year. Even though polymer notes are three times more expensive to produce but can last more and this made it more cost effective in every logical analysis.
Mr. Lemo summarized by saying ‘’The apex bank decided to discontinue with the printing of polymer notes because the printing firm- Securency –partly owned by Reserve Bank of Australia, and which was contracted in 2006 to produce the notes was recently indicted over its activities in many parts of the world. .. Having been blacklisted for allegedly offering bribes in some countries, CBN decided that Securency is not an institution to rely upon’’ this is the only valid and reasonably reason among all the reasons brought about by CBN in relation to polymer reversal. CBN should have told Nigerians the true reasons underlying their actions. Average Nigerian abhors corruption and will happily support any policy against this odious menace. CBN owes Nigerians the truth and the truth must be told at all time to repose the public confidence and trust. Securency, having been indicted on the allegation of corruption and sharp practices is automatically ineligible to handle Nigeria currency and any contract it has with CBN and Nigeria should be cancel forthwith. International best practices must be used on the issue concerning naira currency. Further research should be conducted by CBN concerning the Polymer note to ascertain the validity of the issues against naira polymer. More competent firm should take over the printing of naira polymer incase the issues against naira polymer are unfounded. Nigerians are exhausted of the frequent cases of CBN policy somersault and their only wish is to have a stabilized economic and monetary system which only CBN can avail. CBN cannot afford to fail the yarning and expectations of Nigerians. CBN should acquiescent themselves with proper research to forestall try and error method which has become the modus operandi of the organization in the past.
Akusoba Christopher Chigozie