Naira abuse/mutilation: Is the EFCC right to arrest, prosecute celebrities?

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been engaging in the prosecution of Nigerians that abuse the Naira, especially celebrities. PAUL OKAH speaks with a cross-section of Nigerians on the issue.

EFCC doing well

I want to say that EFCC officials are doing a great job and are on the right track with regards to cubing the abuse of the Naira. The law on Naira abuse, as contained in the CBN Act 2007, may have been dormant, but the EFCC has now revived it. The mutilation of the Naira note is an offence. EFCC started intensifying efforts to restore the dignity of the Naira last year at the height of Naira scarcity, though the policy empowering them to do so has been in existence for decades. It is commonplace to go to events and see people being sprayed money. In fact, there is no social event worth its bidding that you don’t see people spraying money.

So, I can say that they have even started too late because the culture of spraying money at social events has been with us for as long as you can think of. However, no time is late. It takes taking a step or starting something for people to take note and learn lessons. I urge the EFCC officials not to relent. They should also go after those who are not celebrities so that it can be balanced because the feeling of Nigerians right now is that they are concentrating on celebrities, whereas many people are doing it on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, in the case of recently jailed cross dresser Bobrisky, it’s more like the government is tired of his bad influence on the young generation and decided to use the spreading of Naira to nail him. What people don’t understand is that Bobrisky pleaded guilty; hence the prison sentence without option of bail. On the other hand, celebrity barman, Cubana Chief Priest, pleaded not guilty; hence his N10 million bail. The EFCC should just keep it up for sanity to be restored.

…Khalid Musa, public affairs analyst

EFCC should prosecute corrupt politicians too

The government of the day should also channel its effort in prosecuting those who have looted and are still looting Nigeria’s taxpayers’ money and leave individuals, businessmen and business women alone. Even in the UK and USA their citizens are still spraying money at occasions, but I wonder why the government is always so hard on their citizens. Granted it’s an offence, it’s trivial compared to money stolen by politicians. The records are there and most of them are in the Senate drinking champagne with ease.

I pity those that have occasions during this period because they won’t make much profit. Someone might want to spray one million Naira, he will end up transferring N500, 000 to the celebrant. It’s obvious there would be many more arrests and prosecution, with hundreds of pieces of evidences littered across social media because this law predates all these offenses. EFCC officials are going to be so busy this period.

…Rita Kunle, scholar

EFCC on the right track

The arrest and prosecution of culprits is a clear attestation to the determination of the EFCC to restore ethical sanity to the use of the Naira. I recall urging the financial crimes fighting agency not to rest on its oars or make its campaign against abuse of the Naira an appearance of engagement rather than substance after it secured the conviction of Nigerian actress, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, in February of this year.

The arrest and prosecution of culprits will particularly serve as a watershed in the fight against spraying and marching on Naira notes in the name of socialising and gifting at social engagements. It’s still disconcerting that many Nigerians continue to routinely abuse the Naira notes at social engagements in the name of showing off their material status. This is disrespectful of the essence of the sovereignty of the Nigerian state.

The Naira is a legal tender, meant for economic transactions not to be thrown around and marched upon in shows of exhibitionism. The kind of value, either in transactions or social reverence and integrity we desire for the Naira must start with how we relate with it at both personal and social levels. On this note, let me remind those who may not know or those who have decided to ignore it that the so-called spraying of the Naira is outlawed by legislation. Though it is a commonplace spectacle in Nigeria, it is nothing, but a criminal act for which people are now being arrested and jailed like Oluwadarasimi and Bobrisky.

…Nze Chidi Duru, entrepreneur

A lot to prove by EFCC

The EFCC is resetting the brains of celebrities. This is how it’s supposed to be, not to be oppressing people with money up and down. That has led a lot of youth astray. If you have any gift to give a celebrant, put it in an envelope or send it to their bank account. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says we should teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.

So, this is actually a welcome development from the EFCC. The earlier we start learning manners and decorum the better. I have never seen an American person spray their dollars the way we spray our Naira. Let’s behave like humans, at events. If you have monetary gifts to present, then present it as a human being and leave.

Meanwhile, questions are going on in my legal head. Is what Cubana Chief Priest spraying in viral videos Naira notes or ordinary paper? This is because there is something being done in Aba. The person doing an occasion will print papers and prepare it as new naira mints and exchange it with original naira notes from invitees, then the invitees will go and spread the printed “fake” papers. So, the prosecution will need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that what Cubana sprayed were Naira notes and not papers which he uses to create Facebook contents.

Prosecution will also need to come with the exhibits, samples collected from the scene of the alleged offence. That piece of legislation need to be tested. Meanwhile, I am against the abuse of naira notes and support every government effort to stop it. The mere fact that a person had persisted in illegality does not confer legality on the illegality. An illegality remains so, irrespective of how long it had been practiced. (The law sometimes sleeps, but they never die). The fact that a law has not been enforced for so long does not change its status as a law.

…Michael Gbenga, legal practitioner

All eyes on EFCC

Prosecution by the EFCC should be across board. It shouldn’t be a selective fight. Some content creators are also on this table. So, all eyes are on the EFCC. If truly EFCC is ready to do this work, they should first go and expand all the prisons nationwide because many people are guilty of this crime. Just imagine how disrespectful they have become towards a national legal tender. Your patriotism and fiscal discipline starts from how you respect a nation’s currency. It’s a form of immaturity and public hooliganism that needs to be urgently put under control.

No one will come and help you give value to your own currency except yourself. That’s exactly how it should be. Let the trial begin slowly and slowly until everyone gets tired. It’s not a bad idea to call people in for questioning or even outright arrest in respect of naira abuse (in functions or parties) but it should cut across board. We’ve seen a lot of celebrities abuse the naira in parties, both in time past and recently, yet, no arrest was carried out on them.

In saner countries, currencies are handled with respect. Unfortunately is that, even foreigners who can’t spray monies in parties in their countries, would come to Nigeria and our so-called celebrities would ask them to spray money and even make it their foot-mat. Is it that EFCC does not see such events? If it’s a law, then nobody should be spared after all, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

…Agatha Chima, social commentator