Bank-to-bank forex deals resume

  • As EFCC sets to seize Diezani’s, Aluko’s Dubai mansions

Banks can now directly sell foreign exchange (forex) to one another, without prior Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) approval, The Nation has learnt.

The policy shift became exigent following the improvement in forex supply to key segments of the market, a development that has shored up market confidence.

A top manager in one of the Tier-1 lenders, who disclosed this at the weekend, said the CBN had in the heat of the forex scarcity stopped commercial banks from selling foreign exchange to one another, unless they had its approval.

But the regulator has in the last few weeks reversed the policy. It now allows lenders to sell foreign exchange to one another. But there is a condition:  ”In bank-to-bank forex deals, the buying bank must not resell to another lender, except to end-users”.

The source, who spoke anonymously because she was not supposed to disclose such development to the public, said: “The CBN has lifted restrictions on banks not to sell forex to one another except it is approved by the regulator. Today, banks can sell forex to one another, but the buying bank cannot resell to another lender, except to an end-user”.

According to the source, the CBN has since January, spent over $7.7 billion to stablise the forex market. The Investors’ & Exporters’ FX Window currently records about $80 million daily turnover, with the CBN contributing about 15 per cent of the transactions.

The Investors & Exporters Forex Window was introduced by the CBN on April 24. About $3.83 billion has been traded through the window since inception. The window has impacted positively on the naira. The window, where buyers and sellers are free to agree an exchange rate, was introduced to attract foreign investors and boost the supply of dollars.

Traders said $407 million was traded last week as against $354.8 million in the previous week, indicating a gradual return in investors’ confidence in the forex market.

There has been continuous improvement in dollar inflow into the market from offshore investors, a trend that has also reflected in the volume of transactions at the equity market. Before the window came on board, the CBN was the main supplier of hard currency on the interbank forex market, after foreign investors fled naira assets in the wake of an oil price slump in 2014.

Aside establishing the Investors’ & Exporters’ FX Window, the CBN also opened a special forex window for SMEs. The window, which allocates $20,000 per business per quarter, helps the SMEs import “eligible finished and semi-finished items” needed for their businesses. The CBN said the bank’s special intervention was necessitated by its findings that many SMEs were being crowded out of the forex space by large firms.

“The sum of $20,000 per SME customer per quarter can be done through telegraphic transfer, subject to completion of Form ‘M’ supported with a pro forma invoice and the importer’s Bank Verification Number (BVN),” it said.

All the processing banks are to ensure that the importers submit shipping documents not later than 60 days from the date of the transfer.

Meanwhile, barely 48 hours after the US Department of Justice released details of how part of the $1.5billion oil production contracts funds were laundered, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is set to seize a mansion belonging to one of the suspects, Kola Aluko, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Besides, the commission will apply for the forfeiture of two houses belonging to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was implicated by the U.S. authorities as a beneficiary of the laundered cash.

About five luxury properties have also been traced to a former official of the defunct Oceanic Bank.

All the properties in question have been identified and documented for forfeiture with the UAE authorities, The Nation learnt yesterday.

Nigeria signed six agreements with the UAE on January 19, 2016 following a state visit by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The pact includes Judicial Agreements on Extradition, Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, and Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal and Commercial Matters (the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth).

Besides, the luxury properties in the United States, the EFCC believes Aluko and Mrs. Alison-Madueke allegedly acquired others with the laundered funds.

According to a source, who pleaded not to be named because he is not allowed to talk to the media on the matter, all the suspicious assets have been located in the highbrow Jumeirah, which is the most expensive and exclusive area in Dubai.

But of the eight identified, two apartments linked with Mrs Alison-Madueke are marked as J5 Emirates Hills (30million Dirham) and E146 Emirates Hills valued at 44million Dirham.

For “security reasons”, the addresses of the mansions of Aluko and the ex-Oceanic Bank official, a woman, have not been disclosed.