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REWIND: 50 years ago CBN introduced the naira – N10 was the highest denomination



On January 1, 1973, Nigeria gave birth to a new legal tender and its name was called the naira.

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Breaking ties with the pound, the country launched a new currency that would still hold its own five decades later.

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The Nigerian Naira, like other currencies, has evolved from a ‘main’ to a ‘redesign‘.

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Central Bank of Nigeria

The launch of the renamed coin followed the government’s decision to switch from metric to decimal, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The CBN said the decision also stemmed from the need to adopt a truly national currency and replace the imperial system inherited from the British colonial administration.


Pounds and shillings were changed to naira and kobo and four banknote denominations were issued, comprising 50 kobo, N1, N5 and N10.

Duethe main unit of currency which used to be 1 pound ceased to exist and the N1, which was equal to ten shillings, became the main unit.

Also, the minor unit was called a kobo, one hundred of which made up N1.


According to a Punch report, the term ‘naira’ was coined by Obafemi Awolowo, during the military regime. Awolowo was federal finance commissioner (now called finance minister) from 1967 to 1971.

Speaking in the interview, Tokunbo, one of Awolowo’s sons, said: “He just took the name Nigeria and turned it into a naira. That’s what he told us and that’s how he came to the name ‘naira’ and it was when he was federal finance commissioner”.

Yakubu Gowon

However, the naira was introduced under the administration of Yakubu Gowon, the former head of state of Nigeria.


According to CBN, the N20 note was introduced on February 11, 1977 as the highest denomination at the time as a result of the growing economy, preference for cash transactions, and the need for convenience.

Murtala Muhammed

The banknote was the first in Nigeria to bear the portrait of a prominent Nigerian citizen, Murtala Muhammed, a former head of state.

“The note was issued on the first anniversary of his assassination as a fitting tribute to Nigeria’s most illustrious son,” the main bank said.

The N50 banknote denomination was added in 1991.

N500 and N1

In addition, in response to the expansion of economic activities and to facilitate an efficient payment system, N100, N200, N500 and N1,000 notes were introduced in December 1999, November 2000, April 2001 and October 2005. , respectively.


On July 2, 1979, new banknotes of three denominations were introduced: N1, N5 and N10.

“These notes were the same size, i.e. 151 x 78mm, as the ₦20 note issued on February 11, 1977,” CBN said.

“To facilitate identification, distinctive colors were used for the different denominations.”

In April 1984, the colors of all banknotes in circulation, with the exception of the 50 kobo note, were changed to stop the currency traffic that was prevalent at the time.

In 1991, the 50 kobo and the N1 were redesigned into coins.

N10 and N5

On February 28, 2007, as part of the economic reforms, the N20 was issued for the first time on a polymer substrate, while the N50, N10 and N5 banknotes—as well as the N1 and 50 kobo coins—were reissued in new designs, and the N2 coin was introduced.

N10 and N5

On September 30, 2009, the redesigned N50, N10 and N5 banknotes were converted to polymer substrate following the success of the N20 (polymer) banknote. Therefore, all lower denomination banknotes were now printed on the polymer substrate.

Subsequently, the CBN, as part of its contribution to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence and 100 years of its existence as a nation, issued the N50 commemorative polymer banknote on 29 September 2010; and the N100 commemorative note of December 19, 2014, respectively.


Godwin Emefiele

On October 26, 2022, Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, announced the plan to redesign the naira to control the money supply and help security agencies tackle illicit financial flows.

N500 and N1000

On November 23, the new N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes were launched.

The reaction to the redesign of the coin was not without its backlash, as banks began dispensing the redesigned notes on December 15, 2022.

Godwin Emefiele

On December 8, Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, said that banks had received the new notes and that “it would be circular”, but TheCable had reported that some commercial banks were in limited supply of the new notes.


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