Nigeria has had a couple of currencies from the pre-colonial times till now.
A lot of currencies have come and gone, with only eight currencies and three coins in existence.
Nigeria has eight currency notes — N1000, N500, N200, N100, N50, N20, N10 and N5 — and three currency coins — N2, N1 and 50k — which fulfil all these criteria.
Before 1700-1900s/ Pre- Colonial Era
In this era, the very common currency was the Trade-by-barter system using farm produce and livestock like goats, cows, sheep.
Due to the advent of slave trade and invasion of Europeans, Manillas, which are pieces of copper in horseshoe shaped form, were introduced as a slave trade currency.
Before bank notes and coins were introduced into the economy, the oldest known forms of currency in African parts was cowries.
40 Cowries formed a “String”; 50 Strings made a “head” and 10 heads comprised a “bag”. In Lagos, in 1865, one bag of 20,000 shells was exchanged for one or two English Pounds, according to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Early 1900’s ( Colonial Era)
The British West African Currency Board was constituted in 1912 to control the supply of currency to the British West African Colonies.
At this time, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia used these currencies. Cowries, being the main currency at the time proved to be much of a competitor to the paper money introduced by the British but by the 1920s, their use had finally gone out.
Eventually in 1918, the 2/- ,10/- and 20 shillings was issued by the West African Currency Board.
These notes were however, withdrawn in 1923 because it was poorly received. But in 1928, it was reintroduced with a better quality print.
There was a very high demand of the notes, so the board kept issuing new notes, with a new five pound note in 1954.
1959/ Central Bank Of Nigeria Was Established
In this year, the Central Bank of Nigeria was established as Independence was looming.
CBN issued Nigerian currency notes in the denominations of Five (5) pounds, One (1) pound, Ten (10/-) Shillings, Five (5/-) shillings and coins in the denominations of Two (2/-) shillings, three (3p) Pence One (1p) Penny and One half (1/2p) Penny.
The denominations of Five pounds, One pound, Ten Shillings and Five shillings were reissued in different colours from those of 1959.
The difference in the notes were the illustrations behind, but the notes had the same pictures infront.
Due to Nigeria fighting a civil war, new notes were issued to help with the misuse of the country’s currency notes during that period.
The currency notes were in denominations of Five (5) Pounds, One (1) Pound, Ten (10/-) Shillings and Five (5/-) Shillings.
On January 1, 1973, Nigeria took a major step in changing its own decimal currency with both notes and coins being affected.
One (1) Naira was equivalent to Ten (10/-) Shillings. The notes were in the denominations of Ten Naira (10), Five Naira (5), One Naira (1) and Fifty Kobo (50k) while coins were Twenty Kobo (20k), Ten Kobo (10k), Five Kobo (5k), One Kobo (1k) and Half (1/2k) Kobo.
The Twenty (20) Naira note was issued as the highest denomination and the first currency to bear the portrait of a Nigerian citizen, the late Head of State. General Murtala Ramat Muhammed (1938-1976) was assassinated and to mark the 1st anniversary of Gen. Muhammad’s assassination the note was issued as a tribute.
As declared on October 1, 1978, on 2nd July, 1979, all the other notes of Ten Naira (10), Five Naira (5), One Naira (1) were introduced to reflect portraits of national heroes — Alvan Ikoku, Sir Tafawa Balewa and Sir Herbert Macaulay.
Following the military administration which took over power in December, 1983, all the notes were withdrawn and reissued in interchanged colours, except the 50 kobo note in April 1984, to arrest the alarming rate of currency trafficking going on at the time.
In October, 1991, the One Naira (1) and Fifty kobo (50k) were withdrawn and coined and the Fifty Naira (50) note was introduced as the highest denomination.
Coins were in the following denominations. One Naira (1), Fifty kobo (50k) Twenty five kobo (25k), Ten kobo (10k) and One kobo (1k). Half kobo and five kobo were withdrawn in this year.
On December 1, 1999, the Hundred (100) Naira note was introduced as as one of the new generation notes of the Nigerian currency system.
The note had a portrait of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, former Premier of Western Region, while at the back was the picture of Zuma Rock – a major landmark in Niger State in the Northern part of the Federation.
On November 1, 2000 the Two Hundred(200) Naira note was issued with the portrait of Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the first Premier of Northern Nigeria, and had the same back picture as the 100 Naira note.
On April 4, 2001, the Five Hundred (500) naira note was issued with a portrait of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the back of the note is the picture of an offshore oil-rig.
On October, 12, 2005, the One Thousand (1000) Naira notes was released with a portrait of Alhaji Aliyu Mai Bornu and Dr. Clement Isong — who were the first and second indigenous Governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and at the back of the note is the picture of CBN’s corporate Head Office in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.
It is currently the highest denomination in circulation.
In this year, the one (1k) kobo, ten (10k) kobo and twenty-five (25k) kobo coins were ushered off the market.
While in February, 2007, currency notes in the denominations of Fifty Naira (50), Twenty Naira (20), Ten Naira (10) and Five Naira (5) were introduced in Polymer form.
The One Naira (1) and Fifty kobo (50k) coins were also redesigned, while a new Two (2) Naira coin was introduced, and by May, the old notes were fully withdrawn.