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By VO Nwadike Esq, Principal Counsel Pristine & Sage Attorneys

The tradition of spraying naira notes at social gatherings in Nigeria has recently come under scrutiny, with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) initiating crackdowns on this practice.


Section 21 (1) of the Central Bank Act (CBN) Act 2007 provides that a person who tampers the Naira note is guilty of an offence and liable to conviction for a term not less than 6 (six) months or a fine not less than N50,000.00k (fifty thousand naira) or both the fine and imprisonment. S. 21 (2) further provides that the Naira is deemed to have tampered if it has defaced or willfully abused. For the avoidance of doubt S. 21(3) states that spraying of and dancing on the Naira during social occasion or otherwise shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira.

Despite the clear provisions of the CBN Act 200, skepticism persists regarding the EFCC’s prioritization of naira mutilation cases over more pressing issues like political corruption and embezzlement. This situation underscores the clash between legal mandates and cultural norms, leading to accusations of improper prosecutorial discretion. When societal practices seemingly contradict the law, enforcement becomes complex, as evidenced by the dearth of prosecutions for offenses like bigamy in Nigeria.


Nonetheless, the jurisdiction of the EFCC to prosecute the offence of mutilation of Naira can be subjected to legal scrutiny. The EFCC is a creation of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004, which set up a national anti-graft agency charged with the responsibility of enforcement of all economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. In the landmark case of Dr Joseph Nwobike (SAN) v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (SC/CR/161/2020), the Nigerian Supreme Court was compelled to consider the ambit of the prosecutorial powers of the EFCC.

After due appraisal of the provisions of the United State Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), vis-a-vis Section 46 of the said EFCC Act, the Supreme Court opined that the prosecutorial powers granted to the EFCC over economic and financial crimes was not open-ended but limited strictly to instances where the conduct was committed with the objective of earning wealth. In that case, the Supreme Court came to the irresistible conclusion that the offence of ‘attempt to pervert the course of justice’ which the Appellant was convicted for, where it has not been shown that it was committed with the objective of earning wealth, was outside the remit of the EFCC to prosecute.

In view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Nwobike’s, the case can be strenuously made that the EFCC lacks the jurisdictional powers to prosecute the offence of spraying of naira notes under S.21 of the CBN Act, being conduct not committed with the purpose of illicitly acquiring wealth.

It is imperative for agencies like the EFCC to strictly adhere to their legal mandates and jurisdictional boundaries when prosecuting crimes. This ensures fairness, legality, and accountability in their actions, preserving the integrity of the justice system.

In conclusion, while the EFCC plays a crucial role in combating economic and financial crimes, its jurisdiction must be exercised judiciously and in accordance with the law. By prioritizing cases that align with its statutory mandate, the EFCC can maintain public confidence and uphold the principles of justice and fairness.

VO Nwadike Esq.
Principal Counsel
Pristine & Sage Attorneys

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