Naira rebounds in parallel market

The naira, which had fallen sharply in the parallel market, staged a major recovery thursday, as it appreciated to a band of N225 to N230 to a dollar, compared to N240 to the dollar at which it sold in the last few weeks.

Forex dealers attributed the naira’s gain to excess supply of the greenback in the market, even as it looked like a lot of speculators would lose their shirts.

It was gathered from a reliable source that commercial banks that presently have dollars in excess of $1 billion in their vaults have started taking desperate measures to mitigate currency risk.

In fact, the source, a bureau de change (BDC) operator, disclosed that banks have stopped accepting dollars because they have too much cash in their vaults.

According to the source, as a result of the development, banks have been rejecting dollar deposits into domiciliary accounts, but customers are allowed to withdraw cash from their accounts.

“The reason the banks have too much cash is due to speculation and money laundering. A lot of people have been speculating against the naira and amassed so much cash. Then there are those who have been amassing dollars obtained illicitly and want to launder the money,

“So bank vaults are awash with dollars, largely driven by speculation and money laundering. The banks made it very clear that they want to get rid of the dollars in the system, so if you want to withdraw you can, but you cannot pay in dollars into your domiciliary account,” the source explained.

Confirming the development, an official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said the banks even offered the dollars to the central bank and sought its assistance to help them to wire the funds overseas, which the CBN rejected.

Following the rejection, the banks were left with no option than to stop accepting dollar deposits from customers, hence the sharp depreciation of the dollar to the naira in the informal forex market.

“By the time CBN refused to wire the cash abroad, the banks led by Stanbic IBTC stopped accepting cash from their customers. Stanbic IBTC sent an email two days ago to its customers that it would not accept dollar deposits for the time being and this was followed by ten other banks,” he divulged.

He said the situation was compounded by CBN’s insistence that BDCs obtain the Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) of their customers before transacting any business with them.

“The central bank introduced this measure so that it can track the wire transfer BDCs carry out on behalf of their customers. That way, a money trail can be established to ensure that the funds being wired out are for legitimate transactions and not illicit transfers.

“Another option available to the CBN is to give BDCs prepaid debit cards in denominations of $1,000 instead of selling them cash so that these cards could be used for legitimate transactions that are traceable,” the official explained.

Also, an analyst at Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Kunle Ezun, who spoke to THISDAY, attributed the naira’s surge to the directive by the central bank that all licensed BDCs in the country must provide the BVNs of their customers for all transactions.

“I have been watching the market in the past few days and since last week’s directive by the central bank for the inclusion of BVNs as one of the requirements for accessing the interbank market, the naira has been appreciating.

“As the enforcement of the BVN commences next week, I think we would see more transparency in that market. I have always said that what is driving the parallel market is speculation and that is what the CBN has always said.

“So once the BDCs start complying with the BVN requirement, we might see the naira appreciate further in the parallel market,” Ezun said in a phone chat with THISDAY last night.

The CBN about a fortnight ago also directed the BDCs to provide the BVN of all their directors before August 15, as failure may affect their continued participation in the forex market.

It also directed that information on all transactions by customers be included in the BDC returns to the CBN. It added that for corporate customers, the BVN of a director or an authorised signatory of the entity must be provided.

The CBN said the move was to ensure greater transparency in the transactions of licensed BDCs in the country.

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