The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last month intensified efforts to stop the naira from spiraling further downward, by moving to curtail what it describes as activities undermining the country’s forex market.
The CBN believed the recent crash of the naira to N710/$1 was orchestrated by market speculations and vowed to take drastic steps to tame it. Shifting focus on the parallel market and the general public, the apex bank who believed Bureau de Change operators and members of the public to be responsible, has involved the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the fight.
The EFCC has raided Bureau de Change offices in Lagos and Abuja, the nation’s capital, in a move believed to have yielded appreciation for the naira, which exchanged for N680 per dollar in the parallel market and retained a N428 per dollar position in the Investor and Export window on Saturday.
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The anti-graft agency now warns that it will arrest anyone stockpiling and hoarding forex.
The chairman of the anti-graft agency, Abdulrasheed Bawa, issued the warning during a meeting with representatives of Bureau De Change operators in Abuja on Friday. He said based on the intelligence the agency has gathered, Nigerians are stockpiling foreign currency as the naira dwindles.
“The Commission has intelligence linking some persons and organizations to hoarding foreign currencies, especially the United States dollars, in key commercial cities of Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Calabar. We warn those involved to desist or risk arrest as a major offensive against the speculators is underway,” he said in a statement.
Last month, the CBN attributed the naira’s downfall to illegal forex activities and warned that it would penalize banks, arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use the naira to buy dollar.
Although the BDCs, media outlets and the general public have largely taken the blame for the naira’s ordeal, the CBN recently claimed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has not been remitting any fund to the country’s foreign reserve for months.
The claim, though it was denied by the NNPC, which solely exports and imports petroleum products for the country, supports experts’ assertion that the forex crisis is being fueled by insufficient dollar liquidity in the country. The NNPC claimed it remitted over $2 billion dollars in the account in the past few months.
While the two agencies trade words, the EFCC is embarking on a rescue mission. A statement issued by the anti-graft agency after the meeting with parallel market stakeholders said the ‘save the naira’ message, which is to be taken to BDC operators nationwide, is already yielding a positive result.
“The operators, who thanked the EFCC for the invitation, expressed optimism that the Naira’s rebound, which began after the EFCC’s intervention a few days ago, may eventually see the currency return to its pre-speculation value,” the statement signed by EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren said.
“Similar meetings are planned for other Bureau de Change operators in the major commercial cities across Nigeria as well as with key players, regulators, and operators of the Nigerian Financial Sector,” it added.
However, there is skepticism that the EFCC’s involvement will cause any significant change in the current forex market as long as dollar-yielding businesses (export) in Nigeria remain as poor as they are.