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Mutilation of Currency Notes in Nigeria: What is Position of the Law?

Mutilation of Currency Notes in Nigeria: What is Position of the Law?

Mutilation of Currency Notes in Nigeria: What is Position of the Law?

By Sani Abdullahi


Some months ago, a series of clips started to make the rounds online of the socialite at Eniola Ajao’s Ajakaju movie premiere. In the videos, Bobrisky, a popular Nigerian crossdresser Idris Olanrewaju Okuneye was seen spraying cash on the dance floor and flaunting wads of naira notes. Subsequently, he got arrested and that has remained a trending topic after he was picked up by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). However, he was arrested over currency mutilation and abuse of the Naira.

To provide a clear understanding, this article will commence by explaining the concept of currency mutilation.


According to wikipedia, currency mutilation is a term used by the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) to describe currency which is damaged to the point where it is difficult to determine the value of the currency, or where it is not clear that at least half of the note is present. Common causes of damage are fire, water damage, chemicals, explosives, damage caused by animals (including consumption of the currency) or damage from extended burying of the currency.

This can also be as banknotes which are merely very dirty, or very worn out, but where the value is clear, are not considered mutilated and can be either spent as normal or traded in at any bank, from where they will eventually be processed out of circulation.


This has been however expounded by Nigeria currency, which is popularly know as Naira; Naira is therefore the official currency of Nigeria, which replaced the pound in 1973; the principal denomination of the currency, equal to 100 kobo.

Ending of November, 2023, the apex bank which is popularly known as the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN) published a bulletin titled “CLEAN BANKNOTE”, in the bulletin, it exposed how naira can be considered as mutilated.

“currency banknote shall be considered mutilated when it is partially or permanently damaged by fire, flood, soaked, dyed, torn or destroyed by insects and other natural disasters and is clearly more than one half of the size of the original note. It may or may not require special examination to determine its value.

  1. Torn parts of banknotes are joined together with adhesive tape in a manner which tries to preserve as nearly as possible the original design and size of the note; or
  2. The original size of the note has been reduced/lost through wear and tear or has been otherwise torn, damaged, defaced or perforated through action of insects, chemicals or other causes; or
  3. It is scorched or burnt to such an extent that although recognizable as such, it has become frail and brittle as to render further handling thereof impossible without disintegration or breaking; or
  4. It is split edgewise; or
  5. It has lost all the signatures inscribed thereon.”

Currency banknotes and coins considered mutilated shall not be re-circulated nor deposited/exchanged, but may be presented or forwarded, for determination of their redemption/exchange value.

Note that all applications for replacement of mutilated banknotes shall be treated at the Bank’s discretion, in accordance with section 22(2) of the CBN Act 2007. The Bank shall determine whether it shall process and replace the application or not, and request for further documents from the applicants as it deems fit.


A popular line of argument since Hon. Justice Abimbola Awogboro handed out a six-month jail term to Idris Okuneye for Naira mutilation, is that the cross-dressing artist ran afoul of an existing law. The law is still the law, those enamored with this argument have been saying. True, we have a law against Naira mutilation. But laws can be bad or misguided, and there are too many examples of bad laws in history to delay us here. The dangerous aspects of some laws may not be evident until the laws are enforced or until when law enforcement and judicial officers push a particular interpretation.

However, to me, I disregard this argument, because last year, May 31, 2022, the Lagos Zonal Command of the EFCC secured the conviction and sentencing of one Li Lei Lei, a Chinese national, to 24 months imprisonment for mutilating the Nigerian currency. He was convicted by Hon. Justice I. Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos— this has gone viral all over Nigeria.

Infact, this is not the first time a celebrity is facing the hand of the law on this issue, FRN V PASCAL OKECHUKWU popularly known as Cuban Chief priest, which Hon. Justice kehinde ogundare granted him bail with the sum of 10 million naira, more so it was a 3 count charge and he pleaded not guilty.

In 2023, actress and entrepreneur Simi Gold was sentence to six months imprisonment or an option of #300, 000 fine for the same offence, spraying and stepping on Naira notes at a social event held in Lagos.

Therefore, the popular maxim “Ignorantia Juris Non Excusa” which can be express as “Ignorance of the Law is no excuse” it means that an individual being ignorant of a law, does not constitute a valid point of defense if he breaks the law. So therefore citizens have the obligations to familiarize themselves with the Laws of the Land.

The position of the law is very clear about the question of considering naira mutilation as offense.

In order to stem the mutilation of Naira is constantly subjected to, increase the active life of Naira notes and promote confidence in their usage as a medium of exchange, certain actions of the use of currency notes have been criminalized and appropriate sanctions imposed. The criminalization and imposition of sanctions for abuse of currency notes is an offense in many countries like Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Nigeria, etc.

Breaking this law can lead to detention or a fine. According to this law, even writing words on a banknote can be punished. Singapore’s Currency Act states that any person who mutilates, destroys, defaces, or causes any change (to diminish value/utility of) currency note or coin is fined up to $2,000.

Section 20 and 21 of the Nigeria CBN Act, 2007 criminalized certain actions against currency notes and imposed punishment for them:

Mutilation: A person who tampers with a coin or note issued by the bank is guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine, not less than #50, 000 or both such fine and imprisonment.

A coin or note shall be deemed to have been tampered with if the coin or note has been impaired, diminished, or lightened otherwise than by fair wear and tear or has been defaced by stumping, engraving, mutilating, piercing, stapling, writing, tearing, soiling, squeezing or any other form of deliberate and wilful abuse whether the coin or note has or has not been thereby diminished or lightened.


The Federal High Court shall exercise jurisdiction to try offenders of this Act. Section 251 (3) provides: “The Federal High Court shall also have and exercise jurisdiction and powers in respect of criminal causes and matters in respect of which jurisdiction is conferred by subsection (1)(d) of this section.” The rationale behind the federal high court exercising jurisdiction is because the subject matter of the offenses bothers on legal tender.


A combined reading of Section 31, 32 (2) and 66 (1) of Police Act, 2020, the police are empowered to investigate, arrest and prosecute offenders of our laws. Notwithstanding the powers of the Police Officers who are lawyers to prosecute offenders, the Attorney General of the Federation, those in his ministry and the Central Bank are also empowered to prosecute offenders of the CBN Act.

NOTE; The Powers of the EFCC to Investigate and Prosecute Offenses Under the CBN Act, Including: Mutilation Of Naira, Naira Abuse; Spraying of Naira (Notes); Etc.

Months ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was the commission who was in charge to investigated and prosecuted Bob Risky to court, and ranging for the last upper month till today, the members of the public still argue about where EFCC has the liberty to do so or not— the position of the law is very clear regarding to the issue.

To that extent, the EFCC indeed has the statutory powers to investigate and prosecute such crimes and or offenses under the Central Bank Act, especially section 21 of the CBN Act (but not restricted to this section 21 of the CBN Act in the present circumstances), including: mutilation of naira, naira abuse; spraying of naira; etc.


Section 1(c) of the EFCC Act, 2004: Part I— Establishment Of The Economy And Financial Crimes Commission, ETC1: Section 1(2) (c) ‘is the designated Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in Nigeria, which is charged with the responsibility of synchronizing the various institutions involved in the fight against money laundering and enforcement of all laws dealing with economic and financial crimes in Nigeria’.

Section 6. PART II: Function Of The Commission, Section 6: The Commission shall be responsible for (a) the enforcement and the due administration of the provisions of this Act; (b) the investigation of all financial crimes, including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scams, etc.

Section 7, sub 7: (1) The Commission has power to – (a) cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed any offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes;(b) cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income;(2) The Commission is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of – (a) the Money Laundering Act 2003; 2003 13;(b) the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 1995; (c) the Failed Banks and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act 1994, as amended;(d) The Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991, as amended; and (e) Miscellaneous Offences Act (f) Any other law or regulations relating to economic and financial crimes, including the Criminal code of penal code.

Either individually or in a group or organized manner thereby violating existing legislation governing the economic activities of government and its administration and include any form of fraud, mutilation of naira, narcotic drug trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement, bribery, looting and any form of corrupt malpractices e.t.c.

Therefore, the provisions of the EFCC including section 46 of the EFCC Act does not limit the powers of the EFCC in those regards. Furthermore, in the present discourse, the provisions of the CBN Act cannot be read in isolation but must be read along with the provisions of the EFCC Act in determining whether the EFCC actually has the powers to investigate and prosecute crimes under the CBN Act including crimes relating to mutilation of naira.

About the Author



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