Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has asked travellers in need of dollars to visit any bank of their choice and get their demands met across the counter, advising them not to pay anything above N360 per dollar.
Emefiele spoke when he paid an unscheduled visit to some bank branches in Abuja Monday to monitor compliance with CBN’s directive to Deposit Money Banks ( MDBs) to make foreign exchange (FX) available to travellers in need of the greenback across the counter irrespective of whether such people are customers of the banks or not.
At the First Bank Plc, Commassie branch, located at the Central Business District (CBD), Abuja, Emefiele, whose visit caught the bank’s officials unawares, a bank customer was seen procuring Basic Travel Allowance ( BTA) at the counter.
After interrogating the customer, Emefiele asked the Head, Branch Services of the bank, Mrs. Zainab Darlington, what procedures were being adopted.
In response, Darlington disclosed that following CBN’s directive, they had received a directive from the First Bank headquarters in Lagos to sell FX to all travellers who meet the requirements.
A similar unannounced visit was paid to the Zenith Bank, Abuja headquarters, where the Executive Director (Northern Operations), Umar Ahmed, said his bank had been attending to both customers and non-customers that walked in for BTA seamlessly.
“We are attending to customers irrespective of whether the customer has account with us or not. All we required is for the customer to present eligible papers and he gets his currency in a matter of minutes,” he said.
At the United Bank for Africa (UBA PLC) Abuja headquarters in Area 3, Garki, Emefiele who also met some customers and non-customers being attended to, said he was satisfied with the level of compliance so far, noting that although he would have wished to see more people queuing for their FX needs, it was nonetheless a good start.
“I want to seize this opportunity to tell all Nigerians that have travel needs that banks are stocked with foreign currencies. You can go to any bank to buy your dollar at N360 to a dollar.
“This is very symbolic. I can see for myself. We will be talking to the management of banks in due course and our examiners will be going for on-the-spot assessment as follow-up.
“We have visited three banks and you saw for yourselves that customers are getting their BTA over the counter. You don’t have to be a customer of the bank before you get your BTA.
“All that is required of you, is to present your travelling papers — air ticket, visa and international passport, the bank is under obligation to give you BTA,” he said.
In order to ensure that eligible travellers are able to access foreign exchange and make liquidity available in the market, the CBN at the weekend directed all DMBs to buy and sell forex to travellers (both customers and non-customers) upon presentation of relevant, valid travel documents such as visa and ticket over the counter.
“All travellers shall be attended to immediately at the banksâ€™ counters. Any contravention shall be sanctioned by the
CBN,” the CBN said in a circular.