The Nation Newspaper
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday joined the battle to halt further depreciation of the naira against the dollar.
It launched a crackdown on dollar speculators, hoarders, racketeers and firms issuing invoices in foreign currency.
The anti-graft agency said it had raised 14 special task forces to fish out culprits.
The anti-graft agency, which announced the arrest of many racketeers in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kaduna, said each task force will operate from the agency’s 14 zonal commands.
It has also invited for questioning some proprietors of privately run varsities and higher institutions who charge fees in dollars.
The development came on a day the Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) requested that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) allow its members to resume dollar sales.
The naira exchanged yesterday for N1, 490/$ at the parallel market and N1, 418/$ in banks.
In a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Dele Oyewale, the EFCC said the task forces will ensure “the enforcement of extant laws against currency mutilation and dollarisation of the economy.”
“The task force, inaugurated by the Executive Chairman of the Commission, Ola Olukoyede, was raised to protect the economy from abuses, leakages and distortions exposing it to instability and disruption.”
The CBN frowns at the use of foreign currency as a medium of exchange in Nigeria.
In a statement by its erstwhile Director, Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Mu’azu, the apex bank drew attention to the consequences of contravening the provisions of the CBN Act of 2007.
According to the Act, “the currency notes issued by the bank (CBN) shall be legal tender in Nigeria…for the payment of any amount.”
The statement reads: “The attention of the Bank has been drawn to the increasing use of foreign currencies in the domestic economy as a medium of payment for goods and services by individuals and corporates.
“It has also been observed that some institutions price their goods and services in foreign currencies and demand payments in foreign currencies rather than the domestic currency (the naira), which is the legal tender in Nigeria.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the attention of the general public is hereby drawn to the provisions of the CBN Act of 2007, which states inter-alia: ‘the currency notes issued by the Bank shall be legal tender in Nigeria…for the payment of any amount’.
“Furthermore, the Act stipulates that any person who contravenes this provision is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a prescribed fine or six months imprisonment.
“This prohibition, however, is without prejudice to foreigners, visitors and tourists who are encouraged to continue to use their cards for payments or exchange their foreign currency for local currency at any of the authorised dealers’ outposts.
“The general public is hereby advised to report any contravention of the provision of this Act to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for appropriate action.”
Although the EFCC was silent on the number of those arrested, it said some suspects have been undergoing interrogation.
The statement added: “Already, the commission has arrested some perpetrators of issuance of invoices in dollars and mutilation of the naira in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
“Also, proprietors of private universities and other institutions of higher learning charging fees in dollars have been invited by the commission.
“The commission is committed to the enforcement of all laws in place for the reflation and stimulation of the economy.”
In a separate statement, the EFCC said its operatives in the Kaduna Zonal Command arrested three persons in connection with suspected currency racketeering.
It listed the suspects as Musa Gideon, Abdul Seidu Adamu and Justine Musa.
They were arrested yesterday on Yakubu Gowon Way, Kaduna while trying to “sell new naira notes to an EFCC’s undercover operative”.
“The operative, a member of the special task forces set up for the enforcement of extant laws against currency mutilation and dollarisation of the economy, functioned in a sting operation carried out by the team.
“The operation yielded the arrest of the three suspects selling new and old naira notes to the tune of N1, 307,400 and in possession of many Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards.
“The suspects would be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded,” the EFCC statement said.
BDCs to CBN: let our members resume dollar sales
The Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) has requested that the CBN allow its members to resume dollar sales.
It said dollar distribution at the retail end of the market would recommence if the proposals it submitted yesterday to the CBN were approved.
The association also proposed the return of the self-regulatory status of ABCON by the apex bank. This, according to the association, will ensure compliance by its members with regulatory guidelines.
President of the Association, Aminu Gwadabe, said the BDCs would also partner with International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) to ensure the economy attracted more forex proceeds to deepen market liquidity.
The CBN had in July 2021 stopped forex sales and issuance of new licences to prospective BDCs after its Monetary Policy Committee two-day meeting in Abuja.