FREEPRESS – About 15 commercial banks were on Tuesday barred from dealing in foreign exchange through the recently created small and medium enterprises, SMEs wholesale forex window.
The decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to wield the big stick followed persistent complaints against the erring deposit money banks, DMBs, that they were deliberately frustrating efforts by many of the SMEs to access foreign exchange through the new window.
The CBN spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor, who confirmed the action by the apex bank said the decision was based on field monitoring reports, which found eight of the banks not culpable.
Mr. Okorafor did not mention any of the banks involved.
However, a highly-placed source, who requested that his name not be disclosed, identified the eight to include seven of the 22 commercial banks and one non-interest bank.
The banks found not culpable include Access Bank, Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, Heritage Bank, Sterling Bank, Unity Bank, Zenith Bank and Jaiz Bank.
The source said these were the banks that have been allowed to sell forex to the SMEs segment since the inception of the new window.
The 15 banks sanctioned, the source said, included Citibank, Ecobank, Enterprise Bank, First Bank, First City Monument Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Key Stone Bank, MainStreet Bank, Skye Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, SunTrust Bank, Union Bank of Nigeria, United Bank for Africa, and Wema Bank.
Mr. Okorafor said the CBN frowned at the action of the banks that refused to sell foreign exchange to SMEs to enable them import eligible finished and semi-finished items, despite the availability of forex from the CBN wholesale intervention window.
“All banks that had refused to sell FOREX to the SME actors after accessing over $300 million offered to the SMEs wholesale forex window since its creation last month will be sanctioned accordingly,” he said.
Urging all stakeholders to play by the rules for the benefit of the entire country and its economy, Mr. Okorafor warned that the CBN would not sit back and allow any form of instability in the interbank forex market through the actions of institutions or individuals.
Meanwhile, the CBN continued its intervention in the foreign exchange segment of the financial market by injecting a total of $196.2 million into the various segments on Tuesday.
The CBN offered about $100 million to authorised dealers at Tuesday’s FOREX wholesale auction.
A breakdown of the other interventions indicated that about $52 million was made available to the SMEs segment, while Personal/Basic Travel allowances as well as allocations for medicals and tuition fees received $44.2 million.
Mr. Okorafor also announced interventions in the retail auction window, which he said would be computed when the bank received requests made by customers to the CBN through their respective banks.
He also disclosed that the bank would continue its weekly sale of $20,000 to dealers in the Bureau de Change (BDC) segment this week.
“We are confident that the continued interventions by the CBN will continue to guarantee stability in the market and ensure availability to individuals and business concerns,” Mr. Okorafor said.