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Spraying money in Nigeria: Waste or reallocation?

When notes grow wings, you can tell that a gathering of celebrants is close by; loud music, dancing, drinking, youthful gyration, and joyful screaming in the highest audible notes can be heard. In all, Nigerians love to party.

Popular events like weddings, death ceremonies of aged family members or friends, birthdays, naming ceremonies, convocation or matriculation ceremonies, and house-warming parties and so on are usually flooded with guests whose celebration is never complete without spraying cash in an arrogant display of either wealth or affection for the celebrant.

One may begin to wonder how necessary the ritual of spraying hard-earned currency is during festivities.

Ace juju musician, King Sunny Ade, has made it clear that currency splashing is a cultural and traditional pre-set inherent in every African demeanour. During a press conference in Lagos, the respected entertainer explained how older generations sprayed cowries during traditional events and how this attitude had become part and parcel of the African man.

To him, money spraying has come to stay, and anyone who does not like it should better close his eyes.

It is, therefore, not surprising to find that money spraying during parties has been an art among the living since the 1900s. In countries like Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico, pinning, dropping, tapping or wrapping money during weddings and other traditional rites were popular among those who joyfully paid for a dance with the new bride or those who simply chose to appreciate the newly wedded family or the entertainers during those functions.

In Nigeria, throwing money around during special occasions is a highlight during these events, but the rationale behind this behavioural culture has sparked interests along asymmetric lines.

Some expressions lean towards a pro-nationalist argument in disfavour of the spraying trend on one side of the divide. On this side, the government also sternly frowns at the culture that deems wasteful, unpatriotic and lacks economic merit.

On this note, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in April 2006, filed an Executive Bill to the National Assembly, which sought to check the abuse of the national currency. This bill later became the CBN Act of 2006, and it proposes a six-month jail term or a fee of not less than N50,000 or both as punishment for defaulters of currency abuse.

The CBN hopes that by the Act and its clean notes policy, banknotes’ physical appearance and lifespan in circulation will be spared. Accordingly, the Nigerian government identifies spraying, writing on the note, stapling with pins or other materials, tearing, soiling by trampling or dancing upon, selling, mutilation and rejection of the naira as punishable offences by law.

Also, the government and other supporters of the currency abuse ban identify using the currency as notepads, ear and nail cleaners, squeezing the currency, and wrapping the notes as abusive ways of handling the naira. Of all these, the most irritating way to handle the currency has been spraying and trampling during festivities. On this, the CBN and other law enforcement bodies have vowed to bring defaulters to book.

The second strand of argument about currency use, especially as it concerns spraying the naira, lies within some socio-economic concerns. Several individuals feel it is necessary to maintain the freedom of expression while spending one’s hard-earned money. “If you earned it, then, spend it anyhow”, many believe.

And true to this, there seems to be no law (as of now) that compels people to spend their monies in certain ways. It is believed that humans derive maximum satisfaction or utility from not just spending alone but how they spend. They believe in the social attraction and gratification they get when people hail them while they yet spray. This feeling, some would say, is indescribable.

Furthermore, it is also held that money spraying serves a re-allocative or redistributive purpose; when the economically affluent individuals spray cash, the poor and needy are usually around to pick them up.

During the recent burial ceremony of his mom, Obinna Iyiegbu, also known as Obi Cubana, a notable Nigerian entrepreneur, several wads of cash in local and foreign currency poured down like a long-awaited rain. The affluent ceremony also occasioned money sprayers in bundles of clean, crisp currencies. Onlookers, some participants and bouncers were seeing scrambling for felled cash as it littered the ground like a pack of rubbish.

Several individuals, doubtless, went home with monies they never worked for, nor could they ever make in a single day if they worked for it. Some argue this is a form of redistribution, and they believe it is necessary, sometimes, to keep some dry hands wet.

In a popular Instagram post, a needy individual posted N11,000 in N200 units he picked off the floor in Oba, Anambra State, where the Obi Cubana’s mom was buried.

In all, the argument about the indecency and wastefulness versus the social gratification cum economic opportunities surrounding the culture of currency spraying during fun times still prevails. This dispute, it appears, may still linger for long since enforcing the law in Nigeria is just one piece of the cake. Acceptance of existing laws by citizens is another piece that should be properly internalised.

So, my friend, will you be picking up cash or spraying it in your next fun outing?

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