The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday made real its threat to sanction banks sabotaging its foreign exchange policies.
In the latest clampdown, the bank barred 12 Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) from the foreign exchange market for SMEs, attributing its action to complaints that some banks are deliberately frustrating efforts by many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to access forex from the new window created for them.
Recall that the apex bank, last month in Washington, USA, at the just-concluded Spring meeting of the World Bank/IMF, threatened to deal decisively with any bank implicated in the alleged bid to frustrate SME entrepreneurs from accessing foreign currencies to boost their operations.
A statement by the apex bank on Tuesday read in part: “Following persistent complaints that some DMBs have deliberately frustrated efforts by many SMEs to access forex from the new window created by the CBN, the apex bank on Tuesday barred all, but eight, banks from dealing in the SME wholesale forex window.”
Sources at the CBN disclosed that the financial regulator took the decision to bar the erring banks based on field reports, which revealed that only eight banks had sold forex to the SMEs segment since the inception of the new window.
According to the source, the CBN frowned at the action of banks that declined to sell foreign exchange to SMEs to enable them import eligible finished and semi-finished items despite the availability of forex from the CBN wholesale intervention window. Confirming the decision, the CBN Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, said all banks that had refused to sell forex to the SME actors after accessing over $300 million offered to the SMEs wholesale forex window since its creation last month will be sanctioned accordingly.
He listed the banks not barred to include: Access Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank, Heritage Bank, Jaiz Bank, Sterling Bank, Unity Bank and Zenith Bank, warning that the CBN would not sit back and allow any form of instability in the interbank forex market through the actions of institutions or individuals.