Friday, 20 January 2017


Nigerians have asked the question of how did we get the name 'Naira' and 'Kobo' several times, prior to the establishment of the West African Currency Board, Nigeria had used various forms of money including cowries and manilas. Commodities were also used as a form of exchange known as barter, including mirror, match box, bottles, tobacco, gin and several others. 

On July 1st, 1959 the Central Bank of Nigeria issued the Nigerian currency notes in the denominations of Five (5) pounds, One (1) pound, Ten (10/-) Shillings, Five (5/-) shillings, which were withdrawn in 1965 and coins in the denominations of Two (2/-) shillings, three (3p) Pence One (1p) Penny and One half (1/2p) Penny. The coins were withdrawn in 1973.

In 1965 the Legal tender was changed to reflect the Nigerian Republican status. There were in the denominations of Five (£5) pounds, One (£1) pound, Ten (10/-) Shillings and Five (5/-) shillings with colour different from those of 1959. The coins in use were still that of the ones issued in 1959, Two (2/-) shillings, three (3p) Pence, One (1p) Penny and One half (1½p) Penny.

In 1968, Nigeria fought a civil war. In other to stem the misuse of the country’s currency notes during the period, Nigeria decided to change the currency notes issued in 1965 as a war strategy. The currency notes were in denominations of Five (£5) Pounds, One (£1) Pound, Ten (10/-) Shillings and Five (5/-) Shillings. The coins issued in 1959 were retained, Two (2/-) Shillings, Three (3p) Pence, One (1p) Penny and One half (½p) Penny.

On January 1st 1973, Nigeria made a great leap in changing to decimal currency. The decision to change to decimal currency followed the recommendations of the Decimal Currency Committee set up in 1962 which submitted its report in 1964. The change involved both the notes and coins. The major unit of currency which used to be One (£1) Pound no longer existed and the One (N1) Naira which was equivalent to Ten (10/-) Shillings became the major unit. The notes were in the denominations of Ten Naira (N10), Five Naira (N5), One Naira (N1) and Fifty Kobo (50k) while coins were Twenty Kobo (20k), Ten Kobo (10k), Five Kobo (5k), One Kobo (1K) and Half (½k) Kobo. The coins have the same dimension of 12 x 123 inches.

Nigerian currency on display at the CRIMMD Museum

Before now, Nigerians used penny and pounds, but interestingly the Yoruba and Hausa called it Kobo then. As at the time the decimal currency was introduced it was agreed that the name 'Kobo' which was already a familiar name was a better name to be adopted. The Chairman of the Decimal Currency Committee Mr Ahmed Talib and his committee members came up with the second denomination name 'NAIRA' after Nigeria. In a press conference held on October 7, 1971 to explain the introduction of the Naira Mr Ahmed Talib pointed out that the naira will be easily understood and that it will help in regards to international trade and tourism since it will be more easily understood by foreigners

Old Nigerian currency at the CRIMMD Museum

On February 11, 1977, Nigeria issued a currency note denomination of the value of Twenty (N20) Naira. The banknote was the first currency note to bear the portrait of a Nigerian citizen, the late Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed (1938-1976) who was assassinated but declared a national hero for his leadership qualities. The note was issued on the 1st anniversary of his assassination as a befitting tribute.

Sometime in 1976, at a Federal Executive Council Meeting the Commissioner of Finance then, Mr. A E Ekukinam had suggested the Nigerian currency should have a personality on it. Head of state General Murtala Ramat Muhammed said nothing, after the meeting he called Mr. Ekukinam aside and told him thus: My friend while the purpose is good, the idea will not be acceptable for us to put the face a living personality. The Commissioner accepted and few months later, Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed died and Gen Olusegun Obasanjo placed his face on the 20 Naira note.    

On July 2nd, 1979, new currency notes of three denominations, namely, (N1), (N5), and (N10) were introduced. These notes are of the same size i.e., 151 x 78 mm as the N20 note issued on the 11th of February, 1977. In order to facilitate identification, distinctive colours which are similar to those of the existing banknotes of the various denominations were used. The notes bear the portraits of three eminent Nigerians, who were declared national heroes on the 1st of October, 1978. The engravings on the back of the notes reflected cultural aspects of the country.
All the notes were withdrawn in 1984 and reissued in new colours, the format in which they exist till today, with the exception of the Fifty (50k) Kobo coin and N1 note , which were withdrawn on October 1991 and replaced with coins.

some old Nigerian money

In April 1984 all the denomination of notes with the exception of the 50 kobo note were reissued by merely interchanging their colours. The exercise was undertaken purely as a tactical measure by the military administration which took over power in December, 1983. It was intended to arrest the alarming rate of currency trafficking going on by the time. the coins were still those of 1973 issues.

In October 1991, a new currency note Fifty Naira (N50) was introduced and the One Naira (N1) and Fifty kobo (50k) were coined. A completely new coin range was issued as part of a major reform of the nations currency structure. The coins were in the following denominations. One Naira (N1), Fifty kobo (50k) twenty five kobo (25k), Ten kobo (10k) and one kobo (1k).
1991 issues with the inclusion of N100, N200, N1000 Naira notes form today's legal tender issue.

In February 2007, the new redesigned currency notes; Fifty Naira (N50), Twenty Naira (N20), Ten Naira (N10) and Five Naira (N5) were introduced. While the Two Naira (N2), One Naira (N1) and Fifty kobo (50k) were coined. A completely new coin range was issued as part of a major reform of the nations currency structure.  2007 issues with the inclusion of N100, N200, N500 & N1000 Naira notes form today's legal tender issue.

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