The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on Monday warned banks against selling dollars to eligible travelers above the stipulated price of N360. The apex bank boss gave the warning during an inspection of banks in Abuja to monitor the rate of compliance with the circular issued last weekend to banks on the sale of forex. The bank branches visited by the governor are Zenith Bank Plc in Maitama, First Bank of Nigeria Limited in the Central Area and United Bank for Africa Plc in Area 3.
The CBN had issued the circular to banks directing them to sell foreign exchange over the counter to eligible buyers, who walk into any bank regardless of whether they were customers of the bank or not. To qualify to access foreign exchange under this regime, such eligible travelers must have in their possession valid traveling documents such as visas, passports and air tickets. The CBN governor, who expressed satisfaction with the rate of compliance by the banks visited, said he would deploy examiners to continue with the on-site inspection of the lenders.
He stated, “During the weekend, there was a release from the Central Bank of Nigeria that all banks are mandated to sell foreign exchange to anybody that walks into their bank, whether it is a customer or non-customer of that bank. It is the banks’ primary responsibility to provide foreign currencies for travelers out of the country. “So, all that you need is just your passport, visa and traveling ticket. You are not expected as a customer or non-customer to deposit your documents and go away; you are expected to be attended to over the counter.
“The essence of this visit is to see whether the banks are actually doing what we said they should do. I can say that I am happy, it hasn’t really hit the ground but I would have wished I see a long queue of people trying to buy BTA from the banks.” Emefiele added that no bank should turn back any eligible traveler who had complied with the laid down requirements, adding that the CBN had given all the banks enough foreign exchange to meet genuine demands of travelers.
He said, “I seize this opportunity to tell all Nigerians that all the banks are stocked with foreign currency and they should not have any problem coming to a bank, and you will see a cubicle for BTA or Bureau De Change. “You can go there and buy your dollar. The price is N360 to a dollar and you don’t have to be a customer. That is the essence of this. It is symbolic that I see for myself and we will also be talking to the management of the banks. “We’ve visited three banks, First Bank, Zenith and lastly, UBA. Our examiners will continue the process of on the spot assessment to find out and be sure that people who are travelling get attended to at the counter.”
Emefiele said the essence of the inspection was to ensure that there was enough liquidity for any eligible traveller. He added, “Nobody should just fall into the temptation of buying BTA or PTA from a bank at more than N360 to the dollar. “The banks are entitled to their margin, because their margin has been built into it. You don’t have to pay any charge. It’s just N360 to the dollar.”
Some of the bank officials, who received the governor, said that they had fully complied with the directive of the apex bank. For instance, the Executive Director, North, Zenith Bank Plc, Umar Ahmed, who received Emefiele at the bank’s branch in Maitama, stated that foreign exchange was sold to travellers at the price of N360 to a dollar. He said, “We have been attending to customers. Currently, we have customers right now that foreign exchange are being sold to.
“The process takes less than five minutes to attend to a customer if all the travel documents are in place.” When asked if there had been challenges with the implementation of the directive, he said, “We don’t have any challenge, it’s very seamless because the documentation requirements are very minimal and for every traveler, these are basic documents they should have.” He said Zenith Bank had adequate foreign exchange to meet the demands of eligible travelers.