The Central Bank of Nigeria says the e-naira which is set to be launched on October 1, 2021, is a legal tender equal to the value of the naira and thus must be accepted as a form of payment by all merchants and business outlets.

The CBN Director, Payment System Management, Mr. Musa Jimoh, said this during an interview on the ‘Business Morning’ programme on Channels Television on Monday.

Jimoh said, “Today, anywhere you present naira to pay, compulsorily it must be accepted because that is our fiat currency. So, the same way naira is accepted that you can’t reject it, is the same way e-naira must be accepted. Anywhere in this country where e-naira is presented, it must be accepted. So, merchants must accept e-naira as a means of payment.”

He advised Nigerians to open e-naira wallets which could be downloaded on their phones from October 1, adding that CBN bears all liabilities.

“The liability of the e-naira money is directly on CBN which is similar to the cash you hold. The liability of the cash you hold today rests with the CBN. So, it gives Nigerians the opportunity to bank with CBN,” Jimoh said.

On whether Nigeria was ripe for the e-naira due to the technological challenges in the country, Jimoh said he didn’t expect it to be a major problem.

He added, “E-naira is a journey. We don’t expect that on October 1, all business merchants in Nigeria will accept it. We don’t even expect that come October 1, all Nigerians will have e-naira. It is a journey. It will continue to grow.

“Remember there was a time in this country when you had to practically beg business outlets, merchants and others to accept POS transactions. But we have come to a point where traders now beg for POS terminals.”

The CBN director added that e-naira comes with many benefits and would save the cost of printing more notes.

“Today the cost of producing the naira and coins is very high. It costs money to print naira in this country. Now, the minting of e-naira is electronic so it reduces cost,” Jimoh stated.

He added that charges of transferring funds would be lower for those using the e-naira.

On why the CBN chose a foreign firm instead of a Financial Technology company in Nigeria, Jimoh said it had to do with capacity.

He said Bitt Inc which will handle the project, had done similar projects for other countries and already had the capacity and experience.

Jimoh added that the company would be registered and managed in part by Nigerians while the technological aspect would be handled by the foreign arm.

The CBN director stated, “The CBN digital currency is not what every country has implemented. We are blazing the trail in Africa. Nigeria is the only country in Africa that is doing it. And so many advanced countries are not doing it. You can only talk of China and the Bahamas that have tried to do something serious on central bank digital currency.

“So, the technology is not everywhere you need to be very sure. You cannot use Nigeria as a testing ground and say oh if it works, well, if it doesn’t work. You have to use entities that have actually done it, that are sure of it.

“What we did is to partner with an entity that has done it, that has that experience because we know that eventually the system is going to run in Nigeria. So, we also want to domicile some responsibilities here. So, the arrangement is such that you are going to have a Nigerian incorporated company, Bitt Nigeria, which will basically be running the system.”

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