The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) have finalized arrangements for the resumption of forex sales to Bureau De Change operators (BDCs).
Following this finalisation, the more than 5,000 BDCs spread across the country are now expected to help curb the downward spiral of the naira, thereby checking the activities of foreign currency speculators.
Recall that the naira has recently been facing major challenges, no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, currency speculators took advantage of the situation by making spurious demand for dollars with the hopes of making good returns from the rising gaps between official and parallel market rates.
Meanwhile, Governor Godwin Emefiele of the CBN and ABCON President, Aminu Gwadabe, have repeatedly spoken against the illicit business of currency speculators and the dangers they pose to the economy and naira’s stability. They have also warned the speculators about the looming danger for their trade if they refuse to retrace their steps; they Could incur losses estimated at over N10 billion in the next few months, especially now that the CBN is enabling BDCs’ full return to the forex market after nearly six weeks of inactivity.
Governor Emefiele had also appealed to industrialists who patronize the parallel market to stop such practices in the interest of the economy and for the sustainability of their businesses. Failure to do this might result in them incurring the same huge losses as currency speculators.
Both Emefiele and Gwadabe have extensive experience in the market, enough to predict what follows after every major crisis. During the 2016 currency crisis, the market got a major relief after the BDCs began getting dollar allocations from the CBN. That same scenario will soon play out as the BDCs countdown to resumption.
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In the meantime, it is obvious that the CBN has come to realize that BDC operators can be the difference between naira recovery and depreciation during volatile times. This is especially true now that the local currency has come under intense pressure, driven mainly by speculative demand for the dollar.
Note that the BDCs are essentially operators who help to get dollars across to the end-users, no matter where they are. The BDC operators have, for decades, proven their relevance in stabilizing the naira. While commenting on the recent moves by the apex bank to resume dollar sales to the BDCs, Gwadabe said:
“The CBN’s planned lifting of moratorium on dollar sales to BDCs, reopening of the airports for air travels as well as global ease on restriction of movement are positive indications that dollar flows to the economy will soon improve.
“The naira has been exchanging at N461 to a dollar at the parallel market but will be upbeat once dollar sales to BDCs commence. The return of over 5,000 BDCs to the forex market will add great strength to the Naira and lead to major capital losses for forex speculators. It happened in 2016 and it will happen again in 2020. The return of the BDCs will immediately boost naira’s recovery and put the enemies of the economy to shame. We are committed to the CBN’s exchange rate stability and will take all necessary steps within set rules and regulations to keep the naira stable.”
Moving on, the CBN said it has taken steps to address the risks facing the naira. Asides other positive developments in the global economy (including oil price recovery thanks to OPEC+ output cuts and IMF’s $3.4 billion emergency funding to Nigeria), the CBN believes its measures will enable a rapid recovery for the local currency. Emefiele explained:
“CBN has also officially reviewed the naira exchange rate to N380 to a dollar. Aside devaluing the naira, the apex bank also adopted a unified exchange rate, and pushed the official rate of the naira to N376 to dollar for International Money Transfer Operators rate to banks; N377 to dollar for banks’ dollar sale to CBN and pegged CBN’s dollar sales to banks at N378, all aimed at attracting Foreign Portfolio Investment and strengthening the local currency. The BDC operators are expected to buy dollar from the CBN at N378 per dollar.”
For Gwadabe, the naira rate review and the CBN’s assurance to foreign investors on the easy repatriation of their funds from Nigeria, are positive indicators for naira’s continued recovery.
He also noted that ABCON is reopening guidelines to all its members nationwide included on-boarding of the queuing crowd ticketing management application, known as ABCON 360°QSM portal, by all members. So far, over 80 percent of members registered nationwide.
He also disclosed that they updated all regulatory obligations during the lockdown, such as fumigation of members’ offices/markets, and distribution of second phase of face mask nationwide to our members. They also made provision for wash hand basins and sanitizers at distributions centres, even as members will explore school fees, mortgage, and subscription payments as part of their allowable scope post-COVID-19.