As the Central Bank of Nigeria,CBN, steps up campaign to rid the economy of dirty Naira notes, its direct disbursement of new banknotes to marketers, merchants, shopping malls, supermarkets, tollgates, among others, has been put under the surveillance of mystery shopper.
Mystery shopper, also known as mystery consumer or secret shopper, according to Wikipedia, is a tool used externally by market research companies, watchdog organizations, or internally by companies themselves, to measure quality of service, compliance with regulation or to gather specific information about products and services.
According to its Director of Currency Operations,Mrs. Priscilla Eleje, the approach is to guard against possible abuse or diversion and curtail the scarcity of the lower naira denominations due to hoarding and sale by unscrupulous people.
Eleje, who disclosed this at the Tejuosho Ultra-modern Market in Lagos on Friday during a public enlightenment on its direct intervention on the lower denomination banknotes, warned: “Any beneficiary found to violate the procedure would be delisted”.
Already, the apex bank has earmarked more than N1.9 billion, made up of different lower denominations, for disbursement to over 20 different merchants, supermarkets, toll gates, big eateries and other cash users across the country.
Eleje explained that one of the key objectives of the CBN, as enshrined in the CBN Act 2007 (section 1), is the issuance and management of legal tender in Nigeria.
“But in recent time, the bank has observed the inadequate circulation of the lower denomination banknotes and difficulties encountered by economic agents despite huge volume of banknotes injected into circulation on annual basis,” she lamented.
She added that CBN ‘recognizes the important role markets play in economic growth, hence the need to ensure accessibility to lower denominations to carry out legitimate economic transactions.
‘It was in recognition of this that the management of CBN approved the direct disbursement of N200, N100, N50, N20, N10 and N5 denominations to economic agents,’ she stated.
Mrs Eleje explained that the framework for disbursing these denominations stipulates that it would be made through the respective commercial bank of the beneficiaries, while the beneficiaries should ensure that their accounts are funded before any withdrawal could be made on their behalf.
These banks, on their part, are expected to include the demands of their merchants and market associations in their request to CBN when making normal withdrawal or deposit. However, she said the new banknotes are to be delivered to the association at no extra cost.
Her words: “Therefore, market associations are not expected to add any cost to their members. In order to guard against possible abuse or diversion of these banknotes, the bank has developed a monitoring framework to ensure the judicious utilization of the funds disbursed.
“The exercise consists of on the spot-checks to the premises of the beneficiaries after the receipt of disbursement as well as mystery shopper approach to shops, markets and toll gates and any beneficiary found to violate the procedure would be delisted.
Eleje explained that when the objective of the intervention is met, it would principally ease accessibility and address the scarcity of these denominations in circulation.
She added: “May I use this opportunity to urge you to handle the Nigerian banknotes properly.
“It is a criminal offence to abuse the Naira which is punishable under the CBN Act 2007 by six months imprisonment or a fine of N50,000 or both when convicted of the sale, spraying or mutilating the banknotes. It is also a criminal offence to counterfeit the Naira , which attracts five-year imprisonment without an option of fine.”
The disbursement which started in Abuja had been extended to Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Onitsha, Ibadan, Yola, Gombe, Katsina, Jos, Port-Harcourt, Minna and Umuahia in Abia state.
On his part, the CBN Lagos Branch Controller, Mr James Iyari, urged the traders not to continue to recycle dirty or mutilated Naira notes but return such to their banks.
Iyari also warned them against selling or hoarding the Naira , saying it is an economic sabotage.
Speaking on behalf of the traders, the market Leader of Tejoshuo Model Market, Alhaja Titilayo Noyimot, appreciated the CBN for making lower denominations available to traders in Lagos markets.
Alhaja Noyimot, who noted that the challenge of getting the lower denomination notes has become an albatross for the petty traders to do business at the market.
Thanking the apex for making Tejuoso the first market in Lagos to benefit from the initiative, she noted that the new notes would make it possible for the traders to attract more customers.
She then urged the CBN to make the gesture a regular exercise.