Afrobeats hits follow one another, at full volume, in this nightclub in Lagos, on a Saturday in April in the dead of night. Cutting through the darkness, the red and yellow spotlights spin frantically, revealing tables where expensive bottles of spirits sit. For each order, a parade of hostesses brings them with fanfare, at arm’s length, on flashy illuminated displays. On the podium, the dancers take turns in their rich costumes full of sequins, fringes and frills, before giving way to a languorous pole dance choreography.

Young, mostly masculine, the customers – sneakers, oversized jackets and sunglasses – are there to spend money, party… and be seen. At the entrance, a man named Travis has installed a huge sign with his image: after all, it’s his birthday.

Everything is normal in this club on Victoria Island, one of the rich central islands of the Nigerian megacity. Except for one detail. Not a single note is stolen, not a single wad of naira, the local currency, waits on the tables to “water” the dancers, waitresses or one’s own friends. In the parking lot full of sedans, not a single “money changer”, these informal workers who provide, for commission, packets of small denominations in exchange for large notes or a mobile transfer. Inside, near the bar, an employee of the establishment confirms: “There will be no sprinkling of naira tonight. We want to protect our customers. »


However, “naira spraying” is a must in the very festive and exuberant Nigerian culture, particularly in the Yoruba region, where Lagos is located. Parties, concerts, weddings: these ticket showers are very common at social events to show one’s joy, give a tip, financially support newlyweds… or show off one’s wealth in a deeply unequal oil country. A well-intentioned or flashy gesture, depending on the context, to be performed with a big smile or with a haughty and detached air, one hand presenting the wad of notes while the other flutters them in the air. air or swipe on their recipient.

On the Internet, numerous videos demonstrate the popularity of the phenomenon. One of them caused quite a stir in mid-April. It shows a transgender celebrity nicknamed “Bobrisky”, adorned in a black velvet and rhinestone dress and endless matching nails, showering the dance floor with money at a social event. Following this publication, Idris Okuneye, her real name, was arrested by the anti-corruption agency, the EFCC, for throwing down some 400,000 naira (around 240 euros). She was sentenced to six months in prison, the judge considering that the LGBT influencer with 5 million subscribers had “damaged the image of the country”. In February, an actress was sentenced to the same sentence, for the same reason.

In fact, “watering” is prohibited by Nigerian law. In 2023, the Central Bank recalled this in a press release, insisting on the fact that “dancing or walking on the naira” constitutes a particularly degrading act while a large part of the banknotes in circulation are very worn, sometimes torn or glued back together. with tape. The lack of repression has until now made the ban highly theoretical – Bobrisky has also declared that she was not aware of it – but at a time when the government is trying by all means to support the Nigerian currency, the determination of the EFCC now seems to cool the enthusiasm.

White paw

A week after Bobrisky, the owner of a large nightclub was in turn sentenced, this time to a fine of 10 million naira (around 6,000 euros). Within the music industry, several well-known names in Afrobeats, a Nigerian musical genre which is enjoying great success across the planet, have taken care to show their credentials in the press. One of them, Portable, swore that he would no longer spray his fans, urging them to provide him with their bank account numbers.

But the laws never really apply equally in Lagos. Some places are less exposed than others, or more protected from harassment.

In the slightly more outlying district of Lekki, one of the islands’ best-known strip clubs slowly fills up after 1 a.m., starting midweek. Same bombardment of lights and sound, same hostesses brandishing the spirits on their display, same tables covered with bottles… but also heavy wads of notes. Crossing the room, young women equipped with thick bags and a credit card machine offer them to customers at any time. Once the naira are “watered”, they are duly collected from the ground by employees. Then one of them mop the floor from time to time.