As experts warn of inherent dangers in dirty Naira notes, the recent resolve by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to prosecute anyone caught abusing the currency has once again raised the necessity for the banking public to embrace digital payment system.
An official of the Currency Operation Department of the apex bank, Mr. Samuel Shuaibu, recently warned that the Naira has suffered too much abuse from the public, noting that “today, we find some people spraying the naira in occasions, soiling it, writing on it, squeezing it while others are hawking it.”
He then hinted that the CBN spent a lot of money printing the naira notes. “We urge Nigerians to respect the naira and value it. Anyone caught abusing the naira will risk a jail term of six months or a fine of N50,000,” he warned.
Incessant abuses, according to experts, can turn any currency into a breeding ground for germs. ‘Even if all the money on someone has led a relatively family friendly existence up to a point, it could still be teeming with bacteria that can make one sick’, they noted. ‘Growing body of research suggests that cash is filthy. Paper money can harbour thousands of microbes from every environment it touches—whether that’s someone’s fingers, a waiter’s apron, a vending machine or the dark area under someone’s pillow or mattress,’ they warned!
For instance, in a 2017 study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found hundreds of species of microorganisms in currency notes. The most abundant were ones that cause acne, bacteria that cause stomach ulcers, staph infections and plenty of other skin bacteria. They also identified , microbes from mouths, vaginal bacteria and fecal matter as well as DNA from pets and viruses. The former is likely due to the licking of fingers to separate new notes; the next two due to people not washing their hands after using the toilet.
Cash is also often streaked with drugs. In a study of 10 one-dollar bills from cities across the USA, nearly 80 per cent of them had traces of cocaine.
All of that may sound unsavoury, but it’s hardly surprising, given how cash gets around. Currency notes get traded constantly, and depending on the denomination, they can stay in circulation for five to 15 years. “A lot of people aren’t washing their hands, and they’re at a restaurant and money is going back and forth,” says Susan Whittier, a microbiologist at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center.
Another research has shown that some bank notes contain pathogens like Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella and staphylococcus aureus, which can lead to serious illness. Although many viruses and bacteria die off once they’ve been on a surface for 48 hours, paper money is said to be capable of transporting a live flu virus for up to 17 days!. Other findings declare that paper money may be a contributing factor in the spread of pneumonia during the harmattan. In addition to spreading colds and flu, currency notes have also been shown to harbour antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
For these reasons, cashiers who regularly handle money may want to consider wearing gloves for the duration of their shift just to be safe.
To avoid getting sick from handling money, the general rule is that you should wash your hands often. Use soap and water as hot as you can stand it and lather for as long as it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday” in your head.
Although a similar study also recovered traces of DNA on ATM keypads, reflecting the foods people ate in different neighborhoods, but the ATM and other e-payment channels are still considered safer than cash. This is major reason bank customers are advised to take to digital payment.
Aside this, digital transaction is known for speed, ease, reliability and security. That is why e-payment continues to spiral upward across the country.
According to Mr Dipo Fatokun, the Director, Banking and Payments System Department of CBN, electronic payment can be broken down into many types including retail and wholesale.
“When you talk of retail payment, you talk of payments that involve individuals mostly; consumers, personal payments and so on. And the channels that are used for such payments are NIBSS Instant Payment (NIP), ATM, and NIBSS Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT). NEFT can be used for bulk transactions, that is, from single individual to many recipients. Usually, you find out that many corporate organisations use NEFT to make such payments, either for staff salaries, contractors or vendors, while NIP, usually one to one, is very popular among individuals to make donations, instant payments and those working for you that you need to pay immediately. In addition, there is also limit on what you can transfer on NIP. It is N5million limit for individual, and for corporates, it is N10 million limit. For NEFT, you can go as high as N100 million. Anything above N100million has to go through the wholesale channels called Real Time Gross Settlement Systems (RTGS) for bulk or large value payments,” he explained.
Fatokun added that the ATM channel accounts for the highest volume of electronic transactions in Nigeria, while the NIP accounts for the highest value of transactions annually. This is because the ATM is usually the e-payment channel that new and lower value account holders always interface with, while corporates and upwardly mobile middle class customers make transfers using NIP.
“Cards have been the fastest growing payments instrument since 2010. Debit cards accounted for the highest share 45.7 per cent of global e-payment transactions and were also the fastest growing at 12.8 per cent of payment instrument in 2014. In the past, it used to be credit card,” Fatokun stated.
Explaining the advantages of card technologies, an online platform, us.nxygen.com, states that accepting cards boost sales and increases cash flow. “Card transactions are deposited directly into your account, no need to head to the bank. As a general rule, a reputable processor should have your funds deposited within 24 – 48 hours after settling out. Merchants who are ‘cash-only’ seem foreign and ancient in this new card-centric worldview,” it adds.