How the term “Naira” became Nigeria’s official currency – The term Naira was coined by Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he was the Federal Commissioner for Finance between 1967 and 1971.
Naira is the official currency of Nigeria. We use Naira every day to do almost everything but a lot of people don’t seem to know much about it.
If you have ever wondered how this term became the system of money that became generally accepted in Nigeria and when we started using it, then this piece is written to tell you something about the currency you spend every day.
On Monday, January 1, 1973, the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced a new money system.
Before then, the official currency was the Nigerian Pounds which was introduced in 1907 while the minor unit of the currency was Shillings.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, 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.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo coined the currency name- Naira in 1973 (Nigeria Monitor)
Meanwhile, prior to the introduction of the new currency in 1973, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the Federal Commissioner for Finance between 1967 and 1971.
And as the Finance Minister, Awolowo took it upon himself to come up with a new name for the new currency as the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon had reportedly announced in March 1971, that Nigeria would change to decimal currency on January 1, 1973.
When asked how Awolowo arrived at the term NAIRA, his daughter, Tokunbo Awolowo in an interview with the Punch said her father collapsed the name of the country and arrive at the term Naira.
”He just took the name of Nigeria and collapsed it to Naira. That’s what he told us and that was how he arrived at the name ‘Naira’ and that was when he was the Federal Commissioner for Finance” she said.
The N100 denomination was introduced in December 1999 bearing the portrait of Chief of Obafemi Awolowo.
However, as of 1973, one Naira was the major currency unit in the country.
Four years after the introduction of Naira, a new banknote denomination of the value of 20 Naira was issued on Friday, February 11, 1977, and as a result, N20 became the first Nigerian currency bearing the portrait of a Nigerian citizen, General Murtala Ramat Muhammad.
Interestingly, 26 years after Naira became the official currency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, another denomination of the value of N100 was introduced with the portrait of Chief Obafemi Awolowo precisely in December 1999.
And in a bid to facilitate an efficient payment system, the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced N200, N500 and N1000 notes in November 2000, April 2001 and October 2005 respectively.