From Uche Usim, Abuja
Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) Abuja have complied with last week’s directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which mandated them to set up foreign exchange teller points for customers, as it stopped forex sales to bureau de change operators.
Some of the banks visited within the Abuja metropolis had a staff manning the Forex teller point and sold dollars at N412.
From UBA to Access Bank, Fidelity to FCMB, the story was the same.
According to staff stationed at the Forex teller desk, each traveller is entitled to buy $4,000 dollars per quarter for personal travels and $5,000 dollar per quarter for business travels. Travellers are to provide necessary information as required by the CBN.
The Bureau De Change (BDC) operators in Nigeria were stung last week by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), after it announced the immediate stoppage of the weekly $110 million hitherto channeled to them.
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele who announced the development after the Monetary Policy Meeting (MPC) in Abuja said the action became inevitable given the BDCs rent-seeking behaviour, which has further hurt the economy by putting the external reserve and naira under tremendous pressure.
The CBN had been supplying each licensed BDCs $20,000 per week at the rate of N393/$1 with the instruction to sell with a margin of N2, but some of them sell as high as N505, making humongous profit for doing nothing but wrecking the economy.
He was peeved that the BDCs have not reciprocated the gesture to help maintain price stability in the market since the CBN had been selling forex to them.
According to Emefiele, since commencement of forex sales to the BDCs, the number of operators has risen from mere 74 in 2005 to over 2,700 in 2016, and almost 5,500 today.
To ensure controlled reticulation of forex, especially in the face of rising insecurity, the CBN transferred their services to the banks.
Experts say the BDCs offer golden opportunities for money laundering and terror funding.
Nonetheless, Emefiele said that the apex bank constantly receives nothing less than 500 new applications from BDC licences every month, “and we therefore begin to wonder, what is in this business that everybody must be in it?”
“They have remained renegade and so greedy, recalcitrant with abnormally high profit from these sales while ordinary Nigerians have been left to feel the pain and therefore suffer. The BDCs wer regulated to sell a maximum of $5,000 per day, but the CBN observed that they have since been flouting that regulation and selling millions of dollars per day.
“The CBN also observed that the BDCs aid illicit financial flows and other financial crimes”, Emefiele explained.
He told commercial banks to ensure that deserving customers got their forex demand, noting that any of them found circumventing the new rule would face unpalatable repercussions.