Trade has always been a fundamental part of every society since no man is an island unto himself. Once upon a time, trade was carried out by simply exchanging the items, that’s how we had the term: ‘trade-by-barter’. As society developed, there was need to set units of value to make trading easier. This brought cowries and manilas on board as money.
The last time you held ₦200, did you stop to wonder when did Nigeria start using naira and kobo? It all started in 1912, when our former colonial masters through the West African Currency Board began issuing currency notes in Nigeria. The board issued Pounds sterling (£), Shilling (s) and Pence (d).
About 13 years after independence, on 1 January, 1973 under the General Yakubu Gowon military regime, Nigeria’s own indigenous currency was issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria while the Pounds sterling issued by the West African Currency Board was withdrawn. The new currency had a Naira and kobo divisions, with ₦ as sign for naira, ‘k’ as sign for kobo and NGN as code. 100 kobo made one naira (₦1).
As at the time Nigeria withdrew the West African Currency Board notes, most of the their colonial countries had already ditched the Board’s notes in their countries as a sign of independence and autonomy. Then the exchange rate of naira (₦) to pounds (£) was two naira (₦2) to one pound (£1).
The then newly released legal tender came in notes and coins. There was ₦1 note, while 1/2k, 1k, 5k, 10k and 25k were coins. Although all these have since phased out.
The desire for an indigenous currency was born out of the need for full scale independence from the control of former colonial masters. The government didn’t act alone, several requests were made for contributions from the public on the name to be given to the indigenous currency. Out of several suggestions including ‘Nira’, the ‘Naira’ and ‘kobo’ were eventually selected.
Pictures of nationalists known to have spearheaded revolutions for the country’s independence were put on the coins and notes. Since then, the denominations have gone up, the highest currently being ₦1000.