Paper Money

Dropped inscription on Nigerian note controversial

The Dec. 13, 2015, issue of the New Yorker contained an article by Caelainn Hogan, “The Language of Nigerian Money,” that called attention to a 2014 controversy over a Nigerian bank note design and the religious wars always close to the surface in Africa’s most populous and diverse nations.

The controversy concerned the 100-naira note issued to commemorate the centennial of the combination of the Northern (Muslim) and Southern (Christian) Protectorates of the British colony on Jan. 1, 1914. In the past, the denomination appeared in Arabic; English, the country’s official language; the three other constitutionally recognized languages, which all use the Roman alphabet; and in numbers. The fact that the Arabic version was removed, as it had been on lower denomination notes earlier, caused dispute along Muslim-Christian lines. 

The situation took on a more incendiary tone when a Muslim rights organization claimed that a Jewish or Illuminati 666 symbol replaced it (note: the “illuminati” accusation is the same one that some connect to the back of the U.S. $1 Federal Reserve note). The symbol they were referring to is an optically variable magnetic ink security device on the note’s face composed of two color-changing squares merged into one with a slave bracelet in the center that serves as a symbol Nigeria’s monetary history.

The note was introduced by former president Goodluck Jonathan, an evangelical from the nation’s south. The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north, has avoided getting involved in the dispute. This has not prevented the Muslim rights group from demanding this past October that the Arabic script be reinstated. It called the removal “an act of hostility taken to spite Muslims.”

The entire article is found here.

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