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Monday, April 15, 2024

Nigerians and the Money-Spraying Culture: An Abuse or Waste? – By Matthew Ma

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“Given the current economic climate that our country is experiencing, it is vital that we take a more cautious approach when it comes to handling our currency. We must be mindful of our spending habits to avoid exacerbating the inflation rate. While it may be tempting to indulge in extravagant events and parties, doing so can have severe and long-lasting consequences. Such behavior could cause social unrest, leading to disorder and instability, which would ultimately harm our society and economy in the long term.”

 

The cultural practice of throwing or spraying money during public gatherings or festivities referred to as “money-spraying culture,” has been observed in various regions of the world. While some view this practice as a display of prosperity and success, it is also associated with luxury. Yet, others view it as a form of exploitation or degradation, particularly in societies where economic inequality is a prominent issue. The debate on this topic continues, with divergent perspectives on whether it constitutes a harmless custom or a detrimental display of extravagance and waste. Some policy analysts have argued that money-spraying is an integral part of cultural celebrations and social events, representing generosity and the spirit of giving. They believe that it is a way to share one’s wealth with others in the community. Opponents, however, view it as a frivolous and insensitive act that reinforces negative social stereotypes and economic inequality. They contend that it is an irresponsible and wasteful practice that benefits only a select few. Although the topic is still under discussion, the practice of money-spraying continues to face widespread criticism in various regions across the globe. Today, the topic has caught the attention of academics, decision-makers, and the general public alike. Hence, given its complex effects on society and culture, there is a need to explore its far-reaching consequences.

 

Determining the origin of the money-spraying tradition requires a bit of research. The custom is believed to have originated in Poland, where, in the early 1900s, wedding attendees of all genders had the opportunity to dance with the bride or groom for a fee. However, there were certain restrictions, which only permitted women to dance with the groom, while men could only dance with the bride. This led to long queues of guests waiting for their turn to dance. In order to manage the crowds and ensure that the payments were collected efficiently, the maid of honor or best man was appointed to collect the fees and obtain permission from the bride or groom to dance. This role was considered an important responsibility, and those who performed it were often chosen for their trustworthiness and reliability. Besides Poland, there are various other countries where money-spraying is a common custom, albeit with some variations. For example, in Ukraine, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, and numerous Slavic nations, it’s customary to sprinkle money on special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. Depending on the region and cultural traditions, the amount of money and the spraying method may differ. In some countries, coins are thrown or tossed into the air, while in others, banknotes are scattered on the ground. In some cultures, the amount of money sprayed depends on the age or position of the person being celebrated, while in others, it is a fixed amount. In some regions, the money is sprayed by the guests, while in others, it is done by the celebrant. Despite the variations, the underlying principle of the custom remains consistent, which is to show appreciation and gratitude to the person or people being celebrated. It is a way of extending good wishes and blessings to them, and it symbolizes the hope that they will be prosperous and fortunate in life.

The tradition of money-spraying in Nigeria has a rich history rooted in Yoruba music. Yoruba culture is celebrated through praise poetry and oriki, which have influenced modern Owambe culture. Money-spraying is closely associated with juju music, a popular Yoruba music style that originated from talking drums and percussion instruments. Juju music played a vital role in the rise of Nigerian music on the global stage. Despite facing challenges during World War II due to low disposable income and fewer luxury events, juju music continued to evolve. In the 1950s and 1960s, highlife became the preferred genre among southern Nigerian elites, dominated by Rex Lawson, Bobby Benson, and Victor Olaiya. This era marked a shift in performance style, incorporating dynamic dancers to engage the audience, unlike the previous seated performances. Various Juju styles, such as sowambe, sabada, and agidigbo, gained popularity. In line with Yoruba customs, Juju musicians also praised esteemed members of their audience, who reciprocated by showering the performers with banknotes as a gesture of appreciation for their artistry. Juju’s emergence as the dominant genre in Southern Nigeria during the 1970s owes to three key factors: the departure of highlife musicians from eastern Nigeria during the civil war, the growth of a middle class due to the oil boom, and the introduction of new instruments such as pedal steel guitars at a time when jazz-funk was in demand. Chief Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade, among other renowned Juju artists, garnered international fame. Chief Obey even toured the US and UK in the late 70s, while King Sunny Ade earned a Grammy nomination in 1983 and performed at the Glastonbury Festival. While talking drums and Yoruba praise-singing were integral to their performances, the trend of money spraying originated during this period. This tradition persisted and became a hallmark of Fuji music after Juju’s decline in the mid-1980s.

 

The Nigerian wedding industry has become synonymous with ostentatious displays of wealth, luxury, and extravagance. It’s no longer just about celebrating the love between two people but also about showcasing one’s affluence and social status. From hiring the most expensive decorators to booking the most luxurious venues, many couples spare no expense in creating the perfect wedding day. This is done in the hopes that their friends and relatives will be impressed by the grandeur and luxury of the occasion and will generously “spray” them with money as a sign of their appreciation. For example, seven years ago, Emeka Okonkwo, a Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist known as E-Money, made headlines for his extravagant display of wealth at the wedding of Nigerian footballer Onazi Ogenyi. E-Money used a money-spraying machine to shower the couple with cash, a common practice in Nigerian weddings. The incident sparked controversy and criticism, with many questioning the ethics of flaunting wealth in such a manner. Despite the backlash, E-Money has continued to make headlines for his lavish lifestyle and philanthropic efforts. In 2016, E-Money, who is known for his generous nature, made headlines when he attended the wedding of Mike Ezuruonye’s sister, Chika. Mike, who played the role of the father of the bride, shares a close friendship with Kcee and E-Money. During the ceremony, the benevolent guest went above and beyond by generously sprinkling over 1 Million Naira in cash as a gift to the newlyweds. To ensure a more efficient distribution of funds, E-Money opted to use a spraying device. This act of kindness left a lasting impression not only on the newlyweds but also on the guests in attendance, making the event a memorable one. In 2022, Rita Dominic’s traditional wedding was a grand affair that attracted a lot of attention. However, one guest – E-Money – stole the show with his flashy display of wealth. During the wedding reception, E-Money stunned everyone by generously throwing wads of cash into the air, causing a frenzy of excitement among guests and onlookers alike. As the money rained down onto the dance floor, the atmosphere was electric. The sound of the cash hitting the ground mixed with the joyous cheers of the crowd, creating a surreal moment that no one present will forget anytime soon. While the exact amount of money E-Money threw into the air is still a topic of debate, it was undoubtedly a substantial sum. His grand gesture left many in awe, and the display became the talk of the town for days to come. The wedding itself was a beautiful event, but E-Money’s extravagant show of wealth added a whole new level of excitement to the proceedings.

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In 2021, there was a widespread public outcry in Nigeria following a video that went viral on social media. The footage showed a lawmaker, Mr. Ibrahim Abunna, throwing bundles of money at a large group of people believed to be his constituents in Borno State. The incident was captured on camera and showed over 100 recipients of various ages and genders, including elderly individuals, trying to grab as much money as they could. Despite the risk of a stampede, the lawmaker continued to throw naira notes from a balcony, proudly showcasing his supposed generosity. The incident sparked outrage across the country, with many people condemning it as a shameful display of greed and insensitivity towards the plight of people experiencing poverty. Mr. Abunna even shared the video on his official Facebook page with the caption “distributing money to thousands,” which only added fuel to the public’s anger. In the early months of 2024, Nigeria was once again rocked by yet another incident of money-spraying, which quickly made headlines across the country. The incident in question involved none other than Dike Osinachi, a well-known Nollywood comic actor, comedian, master of ceremonies, and local content creator popularly known by his stage name, Apama. The event in question took place at his sister’s wedding, which was held in Imo state, and quickly became the talk of the town. With his larger-than-life personality and infectious humor, Apama’s presence at the wedding was sure to have made it an unforgettable event that will be talked about for years to come. During a dance between the bride and groom, Apama was captured on video throwing large sums of money into the air, which quickly went viral on social media. The incident sparked widespread public outrage, with many criticizing Apama for his show of extravagance and insensitivity to the economic struggles faced by many Nigerians. Later that same year, Apama and his wife held a dedication ceremony for their child at church. During the event, their friends showered them with money in a similar manner to what had happened at his sister’s wedding. While some viewed this as a cultural tradition and a celebration of the family’s success, others criticized it as a display of wealth that was out of touch with the reality of many Nigerians.

 

In 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria and security agencies faced criticism for their inability to enforce the country’s anti-spraying law and prosecute individuals who abuse the Naira. The scrutiny was primarily directed towards the extravagant funeral of Obi Iyiegbu’s mother, the Chairman of Cubana Group, commonly known as Obi Cubana. It is worth noting that the Central Bank of Nigeria had previously cautioned against damaging or defacing currency during social events. The bank reiterated its commitment to working with other regulatory and law enforcement agencies, such as the Nigeria Police, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, to hold those who misuse the Naira accountable. According to the CBN Act of 2007, Section 21, anyone who tampers with a coin or note issued by the apex bank may face imprisonment for a minimum of six months, a fine of at least N50,000, or both. In order to enforce the law, mobile courts were deployed nationwide, as former CBN spokesman Isaac Okoroafor stated on October 5, 2018. Despite warnings, there have been few reported cases of prosecution for those who abuse the use of Naira by either the apex bank or law enforcement agencies. Even after numerous videos surfaced showing celebrities, businesspeople, and politicians spraying money at a concert held after a burial, no arrests were made. One video even showed Obi Cubana displaying his football skills while someone tossed a bundle of cash at him, which he transformed into round leather as he kicked and chested them. Many celebrities, including veteran actor Kanayo O. Kanayo, were seen spraying mint notes on Obi Cubana, who relished the melodic rhythm emanating from the background. In spite of the numerous campaigns launched by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in an attempt to curb the issue of mishandling money, money-spraying has unfortunately become a deeply ingrained culture in Nigeria. The CBN Act has even gone as far as criminalizing the behavior, but regrettably, these efforts have failed to bring about any significant change. Recently, there was a threat to arrest and prosecute those who abuse the Naira, a warning that was intended to serve as a deterrent to the public, but it did not yield any tangible results. While some people see money-spraying at parties as a harmless tradition, others argue that it perpetuates a culture of wastefulness, greed, and financial irresponsibility.

 

The issue at hand is how we can put an end to the problem of money-spraying in Nigeria. To tackle this problem effectively, all stakeholders – including the government, financial institutions, and individuals – need to work together and take appropriate measures. As an example, the government may implement specific policies and regulations aimed at controlling the amount of cash that an individual can withdraw from their bank account on a daily or weekly basis. These measures could be put in place to prevent any possible fraudulent activities or misuse of funds and to ensure the safety and security of the financial system as a whole. By enforcing limits on cash withdrawals, the government can also reduce the risks of money laundering and other illegal activities that pose a threat to the economy and society. Additionally, the government could consider introducing laws and regulations that impose restrictions on the amount of money that can be spent at parties. This could involve setting a specific cap on the amount of cash that can be sprayed or distributed at events, as well as imposing fines on individuals who violate these rules. By implementing these measures, the government could create a culture of responsible spending and discourage the wasteful use of money. Financial institutions, on the other hand, have the potential to play a critical role in curbing such actions. One of the ways financial institutions can contribute to this effort is by reporting individuals who are found to be engaging in activities that undermine the integrity of the currency. Such activities could include acts like dancing on the Naira, folding it in a way that damages the notes, or trampling on the currency in a manner that is deemed illegal or unethical. Other measures could include monitoring those found dancing on the Naira, folding the Naira, or trampling on the currency in ways that are deemed illegal or unethical. By reporting such individuals, financial institutions can help to ensure that the Naira remains a stable and reliable currency. This, in turn, is crucial for maintaining a healthy economic system and benefiting the general population as a whole. Financial institutions can also educate their customers on the importance of treating the Naira with respect and caution to prevent illegal or unethical activities that could damage the currency’s integrity. Individuals and communities alike need to take responsibility for their actions, as every action holds consequences that can range from positive to negative. On a positive note, showering someone with money on a special occasion is a way to show your love and support for their celebration. However, those who choose to engage in this activity should be mindful that it’s illegal and can lead to arrest and prosecution if caught. Not only is it against the law, but it can also be disruptive and even dangerous to others. For these reasons, many countries prohibit this activity to prevent chaos and violence from breaking out. As individuals, we must learn to resist peer pressure and avoid succumbing to the temptation of showing off wealth in public. While it may be easy to give in to the pressure to fit in or impress others, it is essential to remember that our actions have consequences. Instead, we should focus on making responsible choices that align with our values and beliefs. By doing so, we can help create a safer and more harmonious community for everyone.

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Addressing the problem of money abuse at parties is a complex issue that requires a concerted effort from everyone involved. In order to tackle this issue effectively, it’s essential to start with comprehensive financial education that emphasizes the need to resist social pressures to spend and impress others. This education should also highlight the importance of recognizing the value and significance of our currency. Individuals and communities can work together to foster a culture of respect for our currency and encourage responsible spending habits. This can be achieved by promoting financial literacy, providing resources and support for those who struggle with overspending, and creating a safe and supportive environment where people feel comfortable discussing their economic concerns. By taking these steps, we can help build a more financially responsible society that values the importance of our currency and treats it with the dignity and care it deserves. Given the current economic climate that our country is experiencing, it is vital that we take a more cautious approach when it comes to handling our currency. We must be mindful of our spending habits to avoid exacerbating the inflation rate. While it may be tempting to indulge in extravagant events and parties, doing so can have severe and long-lasting consequences. Such behavior could cause social unrest, leading to disorder and instability, which would ultimately harm our society and economy in the long term. This would be detrimental to our society and economy in the long term. To prevent this scenario from occurring, it is crucial that we call upon the government and security agencies to prioritize enforcing laws related to Naira handling during this critical time. This includes educating people on the legal ramifications of mishandling Naira notes, such as defacing, damaging, or destroying them. Any such behavior is a violation of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 and is punishable by law. It is equally important for every individual to play their part in ensuring that our economy remains stable and sustainable for the long term. This means avoiding wasteful spending and handling Naira notes with care and respect. By acting responsibly and supporting the efforts of the government and security agencies, we can help maintain a stable and healthy economy.

 

The public has shown significant disregard for our national currency, primarily due to the failure of law enforcement agencies to enforce regulations surrounding its use. Compounding this issue is a trend of individuals promoting the use of new naira notes on social media, which has sparked public debate over its legality. These circumstances raise questions about the effectiveness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), both of which have faced criticism for targeting average citizens instead of corrupt politicians and government officials who seem to enjoy impunity. This lack of accountability for high-ranking individuals has left Nigerians frustrated and disappointed, with a general sense that the legal system only works against the poor while the wealthy enjoy special privileges. As a result, many feel a sense of hopelessness, believing that the government and legal system have failed them. The careless handling and mutilation of Naira notes have significant implications for both the economy and public health. When notes are mishandled, they become dirty and unfit for circulation, posing a significant health risk to individuals. Exposure to such notes can result in respiratory infections, allergies, and conjunctivitis. This situation is particularly concerning in Nigeria, where cash transactions are prevalent and the use of digital money is limited. Proper handling and care of Naira notes are crucial to prevent contamination and mutilation, which can negatively impact the economy and pose a risk to public health. By educating the public on the importance of proper handling, we can prevent the spread of infections, reduce healthcare spending, and promote a healthier and more productive society.

 

In recent times, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other regulatory bodies have implemented strict measures to tackle the issue of defacing or mishandling the Nigerian currency. These measures are aimed at upholding the currency’s integrity and protecting the national economy from illegal activities that could destabilize it. Defacing or mutilating the Naira is considered a criminal offense under Nigerian law. It includes any act of writing, staining, tearing, or burning the notes or coins or any other activity that could render them unusable or unrecognizable. Such activities not only reduce the currency’s value but also pose a threat to the national economy by eroding public confidence in it. To prevent these unlawful practices, it is crucial that people change their mindset and refrain from such activities. Every Nigerian has a responsibility to handle the Naira with care and respect, as it symbolizes the nation’s sovereignty and economic strength. By collectively contributing to preserving the dignity of our national currency, we can promote a culture of financial responsibility and contribute to the economic development of our nation. Therefore, it is essential that every citizen understands the significance of handling the Naira with care and respect. By doing so, we can help safeguard the value of our national currency and ensure that it continues to be an effective tool for promoting economic growth and development.

 

This article may invite varying interpretations and criticism, and some may accuse me of harboring jealousy towards those who have disposable income. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to express concern when witnessing individuals spending exorbitant amounts of money on lavish lifestyles. This concern is particularly heightened in light of the current regime and the widespread poverty and suffering that many are experiencing. We must ask ourselves whether we can justify indulging in such extravagance when so many are struggling to survive. Despite these hardships, it is baffling to witness Nigerians flocking to banks to acquire fresh notes solely for the purpose of flaunting their wealth at parties. I fail to comprehend why educated individuals would feel the need to “spray” money at social gatherings. Is it to boost their own self-esteem or to impress fellow guests and the guest of honor? I find it perplexing how some people eagerly anticipate moments of excessive spending. While it’s true that individuals have the right to use their funds however they see fit, I hold the belief that indulging in lavish spending is a sign of immaturity. Responsible and mature use of financial resources involves thoughtful consideration of both present needs and future goals. Personal finance decisions have the potential to impact not only oneself but also those around us. It’s crucial to weigh the consequences of our actions and assess whether our behaviors contribute to or alleviate the suffering of others. In light of the challenges faced by many, we must question whether such flamboyant lifestyles are genuinely deserved.

 

 

Rev. Ma, S.J, is a Jesuit Catholic priest and PhD candidate in public and social policy at St. Louis University in the state of Missouri, USA.

 

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