Currencies of Nigeria, From Past to Present

Currencies of Nigeria, From Past to Present

  • Currencies in Nigeria, from past to present include: the Naira and Kobo. The Nigerian Pound, Shilling and Pence. Cowries, Manila, beads, bottles, salt, copper rod, gold and clothes.

The title of the post says it all but I am not just talking about the currency Nigeria is using at the moment but rather the focus is on all of the currencies the country has ever used. We shall try in digging up some trade facts as well, from the pre-colonial period.

This is a journey that must take us into the past. Like the past involving the colonial era that is responsible for the current Nigerian structure as we have it today.The banking industry as we know it today is a product of the British as early as the 1890’s.

It should be a common knowledge that the currency of Nigeria is the naira. And that is where this post is starting from.

The Nigerian Naira. 1973 to present

The Nigerian currency is the Naira. The subdivision of the Naira, kobo , is named by a derivation of the English ” copper .”  And it was introduced on 1 January 1973, replacing the pound at a rate of 2 naira = 1 pound.

Making the country, the last former British colony to abandon the £sd currency system in favour of the decimal currency system.

In 1973, coins were introduced in denominations of ½, 1, 5, 10 and 25 kobo, with the ½ and 1 kobo in bronze and the higher denominations in cupro-nickel.

On January 1, 1973, the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced notes for 50 kobo, 1, 5, 10 and 20 naira.

On 11th February 1977, a new banknote with the value of twenty naira (₦20) was issued. It was the highest denomination introduced at the time as a result of the growth of the economy.

he banknote was the first in Nigeria to bear the portrait of a prominent Nigerian citizen, the late Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed (1938-1976) who was the torch bearer of the Nigerian Revolution in July, 1975. 

In 1991, 50 naira notes were issued, followed by 100 naira in 1999, 200 naira in 2000, 500 naira in 2001 and 1000 naira on October 12, 2005.

The main feature on the 1000 Naira note, is the engraved portraits of Alhaji Aliyu Mai-Bornu and Dr Clement Isong , former governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria in front.

The naira for the first time in 2019, featured the signature of a woman. Priscilla Ekwere Eleje , the Director of Currency operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the time. 2

The Nigerian Pound. 1907 to 1973.

Currencies of Nigeria

One of the currencies of Nigeria, is the the Nigerian pound that was used between 1907 to 1973.

From 1912 to 1959, the West African Currency Board (WACB) issued the first set of banknotes and coins in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Gambia. The highest banknote denomination was one pound, while the one shilling coin was the highest coin denomination.

On 1st July, 1959 the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued Nigerian currency banknotes, while the WACB-issued banknotes and coins were withdrawn. It was not until 1st July, 1962 that the currency was changed to reflect the country’s republican status. The banknotes which bore the inscription, ’FEDERATION OF NIGERIA‘, now had, ‘FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA’, inscribed at the top. The notes were again changed in 1968 following the misuse of the currency banknotes during the civil war.

The first major currency issue in Nigeria was undertaken sequel to the colonial ordinance of 1880 which introduced the Shillings and Pence as the legal tender currency in British West Africa. The units of coins managed by the Bank of England were one shilling, one penny, 1/2 penny and 1/10 penny and were distributed by a private bank, the Bank for British West Africa(which is the first bank in Nigeria) till 1912.

Pre-Colonial Times

During the pre-colonial era, different cultures used a variety of items as means of exchange. These included cowries, manilas, beads, bottles and salt amongst others and they all fall inside the “currencies of Nigeria” bracket.

Marion Johnson’s pioneering work on the gold mithqal and cowrie shell, for example, has documented the spread of a common currency over much of West Africa, throughout an area encompassed by Lake Chad in the east, the upper reaches of the Senegambia in the west, the southern Sahara in the north, and the region between the Volta basin and the Niger Delta in the south.

The study of other currencies, including the copper rod standard of the Cross River basin in Nigeria and Cameroons, and the cloth money of the Senegambia, has demonstrated the importance of other standards besides cowries and gold, so that it is now known that virtually all of precolonial West Africa had economies sufficiently developed to require the use of circulating mediums of exchange and units of account. 3

During the precolonial period there was already direct contact with Europeans who operate in port cities such as Bonny as well as indirect contact though the purchase of European goods through trade. 4

Since 1480, pre-colonial contact with European traders created tremendous economic activity on the coast of the pre-colonial Nigerian, Benin, and Togo coastlines and especially in the Bights of Benin and Biafra.

The first exports to European traders consisted of pepper, ivory, cloth, and slaves, exchanged mostly for gold with Portuguese traders beginning in 1480.

The export economy in pre-colonial Nigeria began to be dominated by “human cargo,” or enslaved people, when the Dutch began to dominant trading relationships in the 17th century and the British in the 18th century.

The above mentioned narratives supports the fact that Nigeria has used several currencies. Starting from pre-colonial times. And because they were once the legal tender in our not so distant past, they form part of whatever is referred to as currencies of Nigeria.

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