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We have dollars – Nigerian banks tell customers

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Deposit money banks in the country have moved to implement the directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to set up teller points within their banking halls to attend to the forex needs of customers.

This is evidenced by several emails sent by the banks to their customers over the weekend and seen by Nairametrics.

Recall that in an unexpected move last week, Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor announced the discontinuation of the sale of forex to Bureaux de Change operators in the country citing a slew of misdemeanors by the latter, which were jeopardizing the apex bank’s FX policy, as the reason behind the ban.

Emefiele had in the same breath, instructed banks to set up teller points within the banking halls to attend to the legitimate forex needs of customers.

An email from First City Monument Bank (FCMB) to customers read in part:

“We are pleased to inform you that the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) has approved the resumption of sales of Personal or Business Travel Allowance (PTA/BTA).

To access this, simply visit any FCMB branch today with the following documents and make your request.

  • Duly completed form A
  • Valid international passport and visa
  • Return flight ticket

For more information, please contact your Relationship Manager.

Thank you for choosing FCMB.”

A similar email from Zenith bank read:

“Personal/Business Travel Allowance (PTA/BTA) available for sale at Zenith Bank Branches nationwide. Simply walk into any of our branches with your travel documents.”

The email form UBA stated that the bank had implemented dedicated teller points for FX transactions at all their branches nationwide, listing PTA/BTA, foreign school fees payment, receipt of money transfer (FX) in cash, and access to other remittance services “with ease” as services available to customers.

From Guarantee Trust Bank and Stanbic IBTC, the notifying email was much lengthier with Stanbic Bank including a subtle caveat.

“…As part of our commitment to continually serve our customers, we will ensure all customers’ requests are handled on a first-served priority basis based on the availability of funds both in cash and electronically…”

Guaranty Trust Bank’s email had even more caveats. While listing the pre-qualifying documents for PTA/BTA, they noted:

“…PTA request is limited to a maximum of $4000 per quarter per applicant.”

In the same breath, the bank also listed, “A return ticket originating from Nigeria with a minimum travel time of 5 hours to your destination,” as one of the qualifying documents for accessing PTA/BTA from the bank.

It is interesting to note that flights to some African countries are completed well under 5 hours and this leaves one wondering about GT Bank customers needing forex to make such trips. On an Air Peace carrier, for instance, a trip from Lagos to Accra is estimated to take 1 hour. Lagos to Banjul (The Gambia) takes 4 hours 45 minutes, Lagos to Dakar (Senegal) takes 3 hours 30 minutes while Lagos to Freetown takes just 3 hours.

These notwithstanding, bankers who spoke to Nairametrics (on condition of anonymity) confirmed that the banks are fully prepared to meet individual and business forex needs, stating that the CBN’s move in ending forex sale to BDCs was the right move.

“The banks are more than capable of rendering this service,” Kayode (name changed), a staff of one of the top tier banks told Nairametrics.

“The issue has always been that the BDCs had constituted themselves into a powerful cabal with far-reaching influence among Nigeria’s powerbrokers. This is why they were able to take over such a crucial banking function, but the days of their reign are over now. We are only hoping that Emefiele is not removed from office for this bold action,” he added.

When asked if the CBN had funded the banks with sufficient forex to meet customer requests, another bank staff told our analyst:

“All the branches of all the banks have been capacitated to disburse FX to customers. You can walk into any bank branch and change your naira to dollar up to the daily limit set by the bank.

“You can also receive FX directly into your domiciliary account, which unlike before, now takes only a few minutes to set up. What government wants is for monies received from abroad to be documented, which is why the CBN has asked that we route FX inflows through domiciliary accounts.”

When asked about the availability of forex for transactions such as overseas payments, he said:

“The bank will not give you forex to make overseas payments; you present the necessary paperwork to them and they debit your account and credit the organization where you want to send the money to abroad.

“The CBN does not want individuals to start another round-tripping racket and this is why the regulator has put this rule in place. This is the procedure for making overseas payments like school fees, medical bills, and payment of suppliers for goods (or services) to be imported into the country.”

Our respondent also confirmed that the exchange rate would fall over the coming weeks as the panic and furor over the CBN/BDC debacle subsides and people start to see that the system has been rejigged in their favor. He advised individuals to open domiciliary accounts and save in forex if they can afford to.

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