â€¢ External reserves hit six-year high of $42bn
The Bankersâ€™ Committee rose from its meeting Tuesday with a consensus that commercial banks in the country should henceforth desist from charging customers commissions on retail foreign exchange (forex) transactions.
Retail forex transactions include the purchase of dollars for personal travel allowance (PTA), business travel allowance (BTA), school fees and medicals.
The chief executive of the FSDH Merchant Bank Limited, Mrs. Hamda Ambah, disclosed this while briefing the media at the end of the meeting in Lagos.
Desirous of alleviating the pains of retail forex consumers, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in May last year had directed all banks to sell the greenback for BTA, PTA, tuition and medical fees to customers at not more than N360 to dollar, down from N380 to the dollar at which forex was sold previously for retail transactions.
The CBN sells to banks at N357 to the dollar. However, it was learnt that some commercial banks have been charging commissions on such transactions.
To this end, Ambah explained: â€œOne of the things we discussed was a measure that would provide some sort of palliative for all individuals in the country to at least enjoy the benefit.
â€œIt was agreed that the forex that banks sell to their clients for PTA, BTA, school fees and medical bills, that henceforth all banks should charge N360/$ and there would be no commission whatsoever charged by the banks for such sales.
â€œWe want to make sure that this is uniform across all banks. Customers should report any bank that goes outside of this. It has actually been N360 for a while, but some banks in addition to the fee, are charging commissions.â€
Earlier, the director, Banking Supervision, CBN, Alhaji Ahmed Abdullahi, who was also at the briefing, put the present value of the countryâ€™s external reserves at $42 billion, higher than $40.4 billion last month.
The last time the countryâ€™s reserves derived mainly from proceeds of crude oil exports hit $42 billion was in December 2013.
Recent Eurobond issuances have also helped in boosting Nigeriaâ€™s reserves position.
Abdullahi also expressed satisfaction with the positive growth of all economic indicators.
Responding to a question on why the modalities on the Agric-SME fund agreed by the committee were yet to be implemented, the CBN director said: â€œWe had detailed discussions on the issues agreed at the last retreat and the modalities for disbursements have been agreed.
â€œBy February, we would see traction in that regard. The modalities are now out and it is left for the customers to come forward.â€
Also, the chief executive of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr. Demola Shogunle, disclosed that during the meeting, there was a presentation on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) by one of the special advisers to the president.
According to Shogunle, a major aspect of the presentation was that the federal government had agreed to focus on key selected areas in the ERGP to accelerate investments and job creation.
â€œThe focus areas include power and gas, agriculture and transportation, and manufacturing and processing. The Bankersâ€™ Committee overwhelmingly agreed to be embedded in the programme.
â€œThe banking community will participate actively to the extent that it will lead to job creation and additional investments in the economy,â€ he said.
In his briefing, the chief executive, Citibank Nigeria, Mr. Akin Dawodu, reiterated plans by the CBN to sanction exporters that fail to repatriate export proceeds.
â€œOil export proceeds have to be repatriated within 90 days and non-oil proceeds within 180 days. In the spirit of supporting the reserves position and economic growth, stricter measures were agreed regarding the repatriation of export proceeds, particularly oil export proceeds.
â€œA 90-day moratorium has been agreed for customers and corporate clients who have not repatriated their export proceeds within the stipulated timeframe for any delays to be cleared.
â€œAfter that, the CBN has the right to sanction any customer that defaults. The sanction may include banning people from the forex window or more stringent measures.
â€œWe think this is very important as a body to ensure that the rules are adhered to,â€ he said.