Buhari: FG Will Punish Banks, Importers Caught Round-tripping

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President Muhammadu Buhari
  •   In U-turn, says Nigeria is a member of Islamic coalition against terror

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Obinna Chima in Lagos
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that banks, importers and individuals involved in round-tripping of dollars they buy from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) official market and resell in the parallel market will be made to face the law when caught.

The president gave the warning in an interview monitored on Al Jazeera television at the weekend.

Forex round-tripping or arbitrage refers to a process whereby funds obtained from the official forex market (at lower rates) and diverted to other markets and sold at a higher rate by forex dealer, banks and end users.

There has been strong suspicion that some banks and other end users that get weekly forex allocations from the CBN divert some of the dollar cash to the parallel market because of the wide gap between the official and parallel markets.

In his response to a question on alleged round-tripping in the forex market, the president said: “I agree with you, but we are going to check that and we are going to apply sanctions to anybody that is given dollars by the central bank for the importation of essential raw materials, for example pharmaceutical products, and because he can make N100 more, goes to the parallel market to sell it. We will pursue them and obviously would punish them.”

The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, recently said the central bank was on the lookout to penalise banks found in such unhealthy practice.

He also warned that if any bank was caught in the act, it is not just the institution that would be penalised, its management would also be severely punished.

Continuing, Buhari reiterated his stance against the devaluation of the naira, maintaining that “countries that play around with their currencies are countries that have enormous production capacity”.

“They have factories in place, they have infrastructure in terms of power, and their communications and security are actually perfect,” he said.

According to him, Nigeria virtually imports everything, from rice to toothpicks, adding: “If we don’t have the money for importing those things, what is the value in further devaluing the naira?”

He pointed out that in terms of the country’s exchange rate policy, national interest supersedes the interest of multilateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF)?

“If it is against our national interest, why can’t we go against the IMF’s advice? Nigeria can only afford to live within its means. If we don’t have the money to back the naira for people to buy the dollars and import toothpicks, chocolates, rice, glamorous dresses,” he said.

When reminded that there were some essential items such as the importation of pharmaceutical drugs that are also being starved of forex, he said: “We have pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria.

“Once upon a time we did what was called institutional strengthening by giving them monies to import machinery and essential raw materials.

“We have already given instructions for the ministries to find out which industries need foreign exchange on a quarterly basis to produce those items that are essential, like pharmaceuticals as you said, but certainly, not to import rice.”

Responding to a question on the anomalies detected in the 2016 Appropriation Bill, the president, who pointed out that drawing up budget estimates involves technocrats, did not rule out the fact that there could be men and women in some ministries, departments and agencies that are working against his government.

“Basically you know producing the budget involves technocrats. I would like people to assess Nigeria, especially this government on where we found ourselves.

“When we came in, there were 42 ministries and we found out that the economy cannot take all 42 ministries and we reduced them to 24. The permanent secretaries, who are the heads of the ministries as technocrats, 21 of them were removed.

“So, people who want to be fair to us should sit down and reflect – the ministries, the permanent secretaries were taken over after eight successive administrations.

“We cannot assume that from the permanent secretaries downwards, they are 100 per cent loyal to the new government. But we would apply sanctions. But since the budget is at the National Assembly, I don’t want to talk more about that now,” he added.

He also urged member countries of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to work together to save oil producers from the present situation in the market.

“OPEC has to work together to save the situation. If you can produce less and earn more, why produce more and earn less? I have never been able to understand that, but the market forces are influenced by a lot of political decisions, both regional and global, and we have to live by it.

“OPEC as an organisation has to be mindful of the economic conditions in each member country because that is what will influence that country’s ability to go along with OPEC’s decisions.

“For Nigeria, we were unable to diversify our economy, hence we are much more disadvantaged by the low oil prices. OPEC may try to help us, but clearly, it was basically our fault.

“In OPEC, there are individual national interests: there are regional interests and there is OPEC’s interest. On top of that there are global interests. Large producers like Russia, which are not in OPEC are swing producers. If Russia decides to go flat, it can disorganise OPEC’S principle of controlled production.

“Certainly, under my leadership, Nigeria will not withdraw from OPEC. Between 1976 and 1979, I served as petroleum minister and I valued OPEC as an institution and I think Nigeria will make the necessary sacrifice to remain in OPEC,” he said.

The president also said high demand for forex by parents of students studying abroad had put pressure on the naira, stating that any parent who can afford foreign education, should go ahead to source for forex from autonomous sources.

According to him, “Those who can afford foreign education for their children can go ahead, but Nigeria cannot afford to allocate foreign exchange for those who decide to train their children outside the country. We can’t just afford it. That is the true situation we are in.”

The president’s remark on the possible review of forex sales for foreign tuition conflicted with the CBN’s statement three weeks ago when it allayed fears that it was going to stop the sale of forex for school fees.

The central bank’s statement came on the heels of the last meeting of the Bankers’ Committee where bank chief executives had expressed concern over spiralling demand for forex for school tuition oversees. However, no decision was taken on the issue at the meeting.

The statement by the Bankers’ Committee caused jitters in the forex market, as parents rushed to buy as much dollars as they could get, leading to increased pressure on the naira which depreciated by several percentage points to over N400 to the dollar in a space of one week and forced the central bank to issue the statement to douse concerns among millions of Nigerian parents.

Also, Buhari who less than two weeks ago turned down the invitation to join the Islamic Coalition against Terrorism put together by Saudi Arabia told Al Jazeera that Nigeria was in the coalition.

He had been asked whether Nigeria was part of it and he answered: “We are part of it because we’ve got terrorists in Nigeria that everybody knows claim that they are Islamic.

“So if there’s an Islamic coalition to fight terrorism, Nigeria will be part of it because we are casualties of Islamic terrorism.”
Asked whether he had spoken on Nigeria’s membership of the coalition during his meeting with King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz during their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia recently, Buhari said “yes.”

Asked to explain how the coalition would work for Nigeria, he said he could not disclose the details.

However, he added: “Well, we mentioned that under Lake Chad Basin Commission, our regional grouping comprising Cameroun, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin, we dedicated a certain number of troops to be deployed in our own sub-region and I don’t think we have to tell the press the details of that.”

Pressed further on how joining the Islamic coalition would serve Nigeria’s security interest, he declared: “Certainly. I’ve just told you it is the Boko Haram itself that declared loyalty to ISIS.

“ISIS is basically based in Islamic countries. Now, if there’s a coalition to fight Islamic terrorism, why can’t Nigeria be part of it, while those that are fighting in Nigeria as Boko Haram claim to be Muslims. But the way they are doing it is anti-Islamic.”

When his interviewer pointed out that since Nigeria was roughly evenly divided among Christians and Muslims and that some Christians were complaining that he was giving an Islamic identity to Nigeria, the president wondered why Christians had not gone to fight Boko Haram in the north or the militants sabotaging installations in the south.

“Why can’t those Christians that complained go and fight terrorism in Nigeria or fight the militancy in the south. It’s Nigeria that matters, not the opinion of some religious bigots,” he stated.

On whether he was trying to change the religious identity of the country, Buhari noted: “How can I change the religious identity of Nigeria?

“No religion advocates hurting the innocent and just because the Muslims are the ones that claim to be Boko Haram and they are killing innocent people whether in the church, in the bus or in the market place, then I will just sit and look at them because I too I’m a Muslim? Islam is against injustice in any form.”

The president’s admission of Nigeria’s membership of the Islamic coalition came a little under two weeks after an official presidency statement suggested that Buhari had turned down the invitation to be part of the coalition.

A statement by his media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu, during the president’s trip to Saudi Arabia said that Buhari had pledged Nigeria’s support for the coalition, but would not be part of it.

The statement said that two leaders (Buhari and King Salman) who engaged in extensive discussions on regional and global issues also agreed that terrorism posed a common threat to their states and would require close cooperation to prevail over the threats.

It observed that Buhari who was making his first pronouncement on the invitation to join the coalition of Islamic states against terror spearheaded by the Saudis, congratulated the Kingdom on its formation.

The statement quoted Buhari thus: “Even if we are not a part of it, we support you. I must thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the recent creation of a coalition to address the menace of international terrorism. Nigeria will support your efforts in keeping peace and stopping the spread of terror in your region.

“This is in consonance with our own commitment and ongoing efforts seeking to stamp out Boko Haram terrorists from the West African sub-region and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC).”

  • Tru

    “The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, recently said the central bank was on the lookout to penalise banks found in such unhealthy practice.”

    Mr Emefiele, you already have plenty of banks to “penalise”. ALL banks are charging customers N300 – 390/$ when they use their naira debit card for US$ transactions. Your old bank Zenith Bank is one of the banks that charge at the higher end of the band. Are you saying you are not aware of this? Or your look-out has not looked out to this practice? Nigerians are on the look-out for you!!! Nigerians want you to do your job or resign if you are noy up to it.

    • vic

      AS A CHAIRMAN OF BANKERS COMMITTEE, CBN GOVERNOR, MR GODWIN EMEFIELE IS THE CENTER OF FOREX FRAUD BY THESE MAJOR BANKS IN NIGERIA BY AIDING AND ABETTING THESE COMMERCIAL BANKS TO CONTINUE TO INDULGE IN THIS ILLICIT FOREX FRAUD ON DAILY BASIS.

      MR GODWIN IS AT THE CENTER OF THE WEAKENING OF NAIRA IN NIGERIA. FOREX FRAUD CON EMEFIELE MUST GO AND ALL CHIEF EXECUTIVES AND SENIOR FOREX MANAGEMENT STAFF IN THESE COMMERCIAL BANKS WHO CARRY OUT SUCH FRAUDULENT FOREX TRANSACTIONS INVESTIGATED AND THE GUILTY ONES HEAVILY FINED AND LOCKED UP.

      • Artful ºDodger

        Shut the fk up. Take your ignorance to the latrine and remain there with the maggots!

        • vic

          vampire looks with vampire habits. get lost you maggot on this pltform

    • dozie

      How can he stop what he is hugely benefitting from as a major shareholder in Zenith bank. Civilized countries call it conflict of interest. Should he serve Nigeria’s interest as CBN governor or his interest as a major shareholder in Zenith bank? Difficult position to be.

      • Artful ºDodger

        Grow a brain hypocritical moron!

        • Techo

          You have made some good comments. Reply to other if you must but please refrain from insulting.

          • Jon West

            That’s what he and others like him have been hired to do by the New Media Adviser of the Certificateless One. You can smell them on social media, attacking and abusing others like the thugs who sponsor them- Comical Ali Liar Mohammed and sundry literary agberos.

        • dozie

          Coming from the office of mis-information and propaganda, I’m deeply honoured by your tantrum. Thanks. Truth does hurt, doesn’t it.
          We understand the CBN directors, some with 32 bureau de change licences, have been moved to other sections; when will they deal with CBN governor’s conflict of interest so the gap btw official rate and black market rate can further be reduced. More tantrums please!

    • Vee

      True talk!! Nigerian banks are obviously roundtripping and Nigerian authorities especially the CBN cannot fake oblivion. I was recently abroad and all my transactions on my Visa Debit card was charged between N320-350/USD by my bank Access Bank.
      Now you have a clue so pls check this and others out and do the needful.
      Let’s stop getting so hard on well meaning citizens of this country because we are not the only ones hit by the present melt down.
      No steady electricity, portable water, no good roads etc. in fact my estate presently are forcing residents to pay amounts of money to build roads that ought to be done by the government.

      Please let’s follow common sense!!!

      • Bawa Garba

        Correct.

    • Artful ºDodger

      Did you have a brain bypass between when you read the article and wrote your comment? The president just explained that to you, he said those who want to train their kids abroad can do so at the black market rate. That also include you who is spending from your Nigerian issued Debit or even Credit cards abroad.

      • Bawa Garba

        Bros, even in the 70’s when the Naira was stronger than the dollar, people still used BTA and PTA. You cannot spend Naira everywhere. How much, and on what you spend should be the focus of the debate.

      • Tru

        I normally do not reply people like you who see the anonymity of the internet to to display their lack of home training. In addition to lack of home training, you also lack comprehension ability for simple discourse. If you can tell me that Nigerian banks have the authority to deal currency in the black market, then your argument will hold water.

  • Rotimi

    Nigeria will punish this and Nigeria will punish that, that’s all we hear from this old lunatic psychopath but someone should please remind him that we are in a democracy not dictatorship where he can lawlessly victimise people the way he wants then get away with it.
    Sooner than later, Nigerians will get tired of this arbitrary use of power, say enough is enough and stage a revolt which I pray will consume only Buhari as well as his wicked gang.

    • salele

      Old boy. Take it easy now. Have you taken “something” ?. You don’t want people who are killing us slowly to be punished?

    • Artful ºDodger

      nnamdi canoe can hang no one give a shit! Restrict your mental disorder to the latrine where you both belong!

    • Truetalk

      I think you are the lunatic. Go and revolt against your father for not bringing you up with good manners.

  • Henry Ohakwe

    That’s sounds like a joke to me. Are you after punishing people or making sure you don’t create systems that makes infractions thrive? If you created an exchange rate regime that opens doors for cheating, it is obvious that people must cheat. How many will you catch and prosecute? It is better to prevent crime that to pursue criminals.

    • Artful ºDodger

      Even in societies with the best protective and preventive measures, crime and criminals still thrive. The president cannot control the minds of everyone. Those who will not live by the law must perish with it. The president is right!

      • kenn

        Saner societies know that prevention is better than cure. So they invest heavily in perfecting prevention mechanisms.

  • Nze

    Despite all the complaints and facts on ground, Mr. President is still saying we are going to ……
    Does it mean they had no plan to check round tripping all this while?
    The solutions to Nigerian problems cannot always be in the “future tense”.
    We will this….We will that …….. tomorrow never ends.

    • Bawa Garba

      You do have a point.

    • Henry Ohakwe

      He is still campaigning. LOL! lets wait for him for another 2 years before he will start doing.

  • Artful ºDodger

    Nigeria can be a member of Islamic anything that does not bother me. I am not a Muslim and do not give a shit about those politicizing religious issues out of mediocrity. Jonathan was always in Israel praying at the wailing wall yet he remain the worst president to have ever walk the face of this earth. God is not mocked, not interested in your religion. He only care about the goodness of your heart. Clear your heads and face reality.
    Concerning the forex issue, the CBN has still not done enough to stem round-tripping. Every forex issued to the banks should be made know to the customs and excise to await the arrival of the purpose for the forex at the nation’s ports. If the items fail to arrive, at the end of that year, the commercial bank in question should have its board of directors and management arrested and sent to jail for economic sabotage. It should be as short and simple as that !
    Concerning forex for those whose children are studying abroad(the thing when black no good, na foreign things dem dey like- Fela Anikulapo Kuti), the president is right. Nigerians cannot afford to bankroll your lack of patriotism. Go to the black market and source for your forex there.

    • Bawa Garba

      You missed out the bit where banks charge black market rates for card and online transactions. I don’t think there is anything to look out for there by the CBN; it’s crystal clear.

  • Otunba 1

    “Buhari reiterated his stance against the devaluation of the naira, maintaining that “countries that play around with their currencies are countries that have enormous production capacity”.

    “They have factories in place, they have infrastructure in terms of power, and their communications and security are actually perfect,” he said.

    According to him, Nigeria virtually imports everything, from rice to toothpicks, adding: “If we don’t have the money for importing those things, what is the value in further devaluing the naira?”

    Imagine that sound and intelligent economic argument that thwarts the advice of so-called economics scholars! Sai Buhari!

  • MUkintu

    “There are pharmaceutical industries in Nigeria” Yet this guy runs to UK for medical check-up. Why can’t Buhari go to a local hospital to save the Naira?

  • Henry Ohakwe

    One word description of Buhari’s economic policy is “Isolationism” it is
    death sentence. It means detaching the Nigerian economy from the global
    market place. It means increase in unemployment, more closure of
    factories and more banks failing. That is the simplest way to understand
    it. On the other wing is to fix the Naira and perhaps to try to make it
    100 Naira=1$ , the introducing import licensing, and seeing Nigerians
    cuing up very soon for essentials like milk, groceries, pharmaceuticals
    and foodstuff. That is the direction he is heading to

  • nna_nwagwu

    I’ll make sure that whoever is responsible in editing my write up to leave those statement he or they want to hear gets punished or create my own BlogSpot to deny Face Book the privilege of circulating my blogs . I can no longer sit & swallow this shit any longer .