CBN to sanction banks denying consumers Forex, increase allocations

*The Central Bank of Nigeria says it will increase the foreign exchange allocations to banks for travellers, small and medium enterprises, medical fees, tuition, others

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Against the backdrop of the reported challenge consumers face in accessing needed Foreign Exchange (Forex) in the country, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has warned of severe sanctions against any Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) that deny consumers of financial products and services the opportunity to access Foreign Exchange (Forex) for legitimate purposes in the country.

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, after a meeting with Managing Directors of the DMBs at the weekend, cautioned them to desist from denying consumers, especially travellers, the opportunity to buy exchange for purposes of Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) and Basic Travel Allowance (BTA).

Other such purposes are tuition fees, medical payments, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) transactions, or for the repatriation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) proceeds.

Close sources to the meeting held over the current challenge faced by customers in accessing Forex from their banks disclosed that the Bankers’ Bank is embarrassed at the purported decision of banks denying legitimate customers access to Forex in the country.

The CBN Management frowned on the seeming difficulty consumers experienced in purchasing foreign exchange through their respective DMBs, particularly for invisibles such as PTA and requests bordering on tuition and healthcare needs, reported said.

It was learnt that the CBN may release several hotlines for aggrieved consumers to report any bank that fails to sell Forex to them even when they have provided required documentations.

Meanwhile, in view of the development in the Forex market, the CBN was said to have concluded plans to increase the amount of foreign exchange allocated to banks to meet consumers’ requests, particularly travellers, seeking foreign exchange for travel allowances as well as payment of tuition and medical fees, among other invisibles.

In regard to the discussions at the meeting with the bank chief executives, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, Acting Director of Corporate Communications Department at CBN, Sunday, June 6 stated the Bank remains committed to ensuring liquidity in the Forex market to meet genuine and legitimate demands of consumers.

Nwanisobi said: “The CBN agreed to increase the amount allocated to banks for travellers, small and medium enterprises, among others.

“The banks also agreed to operate something akin to foreign ex­change imprest account such that the coffers of banks will be replenished so long as they retire the initial amounts to the satisfaction of the CBN.”

There is no cause for alarm, the Acting Director of Corporate Communications Department said, urging interested members of the public seeking to purchase foreign exchange for PTA, BTA, payment of tuition fees or medical fees to approach their respective banks for that purpose.

He noted: “We wish to assure members of the public that the CBN shall continue to moni­tor market developments and is committed to ensuring an efficient FX market for all le­gitimate users.”

Nwasinobi also urged consumers to approach their Customer Service representatives of their designated banks should they encounter challenges.

Concerned consumers, however, could escalate complaints to the CBN via its toll-free line: 07002255226, or send an e-mail to cpd@cbn.gov.ng if their requests were not met, he added.

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