The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on Friday vowed to send the Economic and Finance Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other security agencies after Nigerians fraudulently acquiring foreign exchange in the form of Personal Travel Allowance (PTA)/Business Travel Allowance (BTA) from banks.
The CBN, in a recent circular, said defaulters of its forex policy were customers that obtain PTA/BTA from banks, using fake visas, and others who cancel their flights and fail to return the purchased PTA/BTA within two weeks as stipulated in the customer declaration form signed.
The CBN governor, while answering questions from journalists at the end of a two-day meeting of Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), in Abuja said there were evidences that people had deceitfully bought forex from banks using fake visas, and under the pretext of traveling, only to cancel their tickets afterwards.
He said a particular study had shown that one of the banks sold forex to 52 people who said they wanted to travel.
Emefiele said, “After two weeks, they went to check, and 40 out of the 52 had canceled their tickets. How could you have a situation where about 70 per cent or 80 per cent of people who went to a bank to buy BTA on the excuse that they wanted to travel cancel the trip?
“Bank sold to them but they turned back and then went and sold it to black market because they wanted to enjoy the arbitrage.”
Emefiele said such fraudulent means of acquiring foreign exchange would no longer go unpunished, adding that the CBN was committed to meeting all legitimate Fx demands in the country.
He said: “However, if you go to a bank with fake ticket, fake visa, fake passport, we have told them not to sell to you. If they sell to you mistakenly because you hoodwinked them to sell to you and after two weeks, they checked and found that you canceled your ticket or your visa is fake, they will call you because you are their customer; they have your BVN, they have your number – they will call you to return the dollars.
“If you do not return it, they will place your name on their website, your BVN on their website and we will pick those details and we will send them to EFCC and other crime agencies and they will pursue you, you must return the dollars because you cannot acquire it illegally. That is our position.”
The CBN Governor also announced that the bank would track down and bring the founder of AbokiFx, Mr. Oniwinde Adedotun to book for alleged speculative activities on the foreign exchange “which amounted to economic sabotage.”
Emefiele said Adedotun had been conducting nefarious and criminal activity on the Nigerian economy by indulging in forex speculation in contravention of the CBN Act which vested the apex bank with the sole responsibility for determining the rate of the Naira.
The CBN governor said: “We found him as a Nigerian who lives in England, and conducts this nefarious and criminal activity on our economy. It is an economic sabotage and we will pursue him wherever he is. We will report him to international security agencies.
“We’ll track him, Mr. Oniwinde, we will find you, because we cannot allow you to continue to conduct an illegal activity that kills our economy.”
He described Oniwinde as an illegal Fx dealer who started the AbokiFx operation in 2015, adding that he had since milked the economy by taking position and manipulating the exchange rate to the detriment of the economy.
Emefiele said the CBN had investigated the activities of AbokiFx for the last two and a half years, adding that since inception of business in 2015, the company had continued to file the same account balance sheet of £1,000 to the UK Government for four consecutive years.
He alleged that in Nigeria, the company had over 25 bank accounts with about eight banks in both naira and dollar with significant turnover which indicated that he had been milking the system through speculative information activities on the Naira and collecting his proceeds in cash through a particular ATM in London.”
Nevertheless, the CBN governor said the bank would continue to do its job of safeguarding the financial system for the betterment of everyone.
“A few questions: Has Nigerians ever asked how exactly AbokiFx collects his data that he publishes on his website? How many BDCs can claim that they have either seen a staff of AbokiFx coming to ask for daily rates or how many BDCs send daily returns on exchange rate to AbokiFx. How then do they determine what the rate is and they post them illegally on their website?
“In which other country will unlicensed single person be the one that sets exchange rate in that country? How come he sets exchange rate of our own country, and why is he not setting exchange rate of the Pound and Dollar or Pound and South African Rands? Why target Nigeria, and yet you are a Nigerian?
“You chose to live in London, enjoy all the spoils in London at the expense of the blood of Nigerians. You will pay for it.
“The CBN Act Section 2, does make it clear that only the Central Bank can determine the value of the Naira, and yet a single unscrupulous individual who lives in London continues to manipulate the exchange for Nigerians, continues to make huge profits, continues to collect these profits in cash ATMs in London while ordinary Nigerians suffer the consequences of these actions. We will not allow this to continue again.”
The apex bank also resolved to retain Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), otherwise known as interest rate, at 11.5 per cent and the asymmetric corridor of +100/-700 basis points around the MPR.
It retained the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 27.5 per cent and Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent.
The MPR is the rate at which the CBN lends to commercial banks and often determines the cost of borrowing in the economy.
Aboki FX Speaks
Meanwhile, Online foreign exchange update platform, Aboki FX, responded to allegations against it on Friday night, saying it would no longer provide daily updates on foreign exchange rates following complaints by the CBN that it is responsible for the current crisis in the Forex market which has brought the naira to its knees.
Aboki FX said in a statement that it would no longer publish exchange rates for now and hoped that the naira would stabilise.
“Aboki FX is fully functional but we will not be publishing any form of rates on our platform for now. We sincerely hope this suspension will lead to the naira appreciation from next week. With our decision to temporarily suspend online rate publication, we are aware that there will be limited visibility of parallel rates information which will impact decision making for many,” it said.
The platform denied manipulating the market, adding that there was no way it could have such power.
It further stated that it usually gets its information from bureau de change operators in Lagos.
“None of our data source providers know who we are or what their rates are being used for. This is to avoid any manipulation of rates. Our staff have a daily routine of going to the market to gather rates as all the BDCs in the country have their rates clearly displayed on their rates board and parallel market dealers give the information away freely. All we do is collate all that information and display it on all our platforms daily,” the firm said.
As regards allegations of fraud levelled against its founder, Olusegun Oniwinde, by the CBN governor, the company said such allegations were not proven.
The firm said it doesn’t trade forex and it had always stated this on social media.
“Aboki FX purely provides benchmark parallel rate information which helps guide our users in almost 200 countries across the world. Aboki FX does not trade FX which we have always maintained in our emails and social media platforms,” it said.
James Emejo and Sonia Mayomi in Abuja