By Ayo Fadimu
The attempt to generalize all Bureaux De Change (BDCs) operators as weakest links in fight against illicit financial flow is unacceptable. The BDC sector has for decades, remained a critical component of the Nigerian financial market playing pivotal role in exchange rate stability and job creation. Erring BDC operators have severally been sanctioned by the Central Bank of Nigeria and Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria in line with the industry’s zero tolerance for regulatory abuse. The BDCs have also supported Nigeria’s growth agenda and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) commitment to exchange rate stability and regulation for the industry.
Corruption and illicit financial flows are twin evils that no right thinking individual, group or organisation should support. The impact of these societal malaise transcends over $30.4 billion lost by African economies and businesses annually. It has led to poor infrastructure and rise in insecurity.
That explains why the over 5000 Bureaux De Change (BDCs) and their umbrella body, the Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) rejected in totality, attempt by Punch Newspaper, through its editorial published on September 21, 2020 titled: CBN’s Poor Regulation of BDCs Hurting the Economy’ to label BDCs as economic saboteurs and illicit forex traders.
The fact remains that money laundering and illicit funds transfer are illegal practices that predates the coming of licensed BDCs. These illegal activities are so pervasive and widespread that every segment and all operators in the financial industry is vulnerable to their operations. That is why many prominent financial institutions including global banks, and investment firms have been found culpable in this respect.
ABCON leadership backs Central Bank of Nigeria’s ongoing investigation of some corporate bodies and individuals. It also believes that money laundering through the BDCs or any other financial institutions is unacceptable and those found wanting should be punished based on the law.
ABCON believes and has supported the need to tighten and strictly enforce regulations in the foreign exchange market , and taken steps to punish erring members including recommending them to the CBN for sanctions.
Besides, the CBN has been effective in regulating the the BDC sector , hence ABCON and all registered BDCs take exception to The Punch editorial for its outright lies and ignorance of the working of the financial system.
ABCON President, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, said: “We also do not agree with the newspaper that the CBN has been “inexcusably weak in enforcing its own rules,” as the regulator has in the past, fined erring BDCs and insole extreme cases, withdrew their operating licenses.”
He said that contrary to the editorial, the resumption of dollar sales to BDCs has led to nearly N40 appreciation of the naira in the first week of the exercise, and saved the local currency from continued depreciation.
He said the CBN’s aim of easing pressure on supply and firming up the naira succeeded and will continue to be achieved with improved liquidity in the market.
“The N2 margin earned by BDCs from every dollar sold is barely enough to cover their operating costs and keep over 15,000 Nigerians employed by the sector, hence the assertion that BDCs business is one of the lucrative business in the country is wrong,” he stated.
Gwadabe also said that the newspaper’s call for a moratorium on licensing new BDCs is unacceptable as any new operator that meets the requirement for registration should be given the opportunity to operate.
The ABCON boss said that BDCs operate only within the allowable scope of transactions i.e PTA, BTA, School fees, medicals, among others adding that BDCs all over the world are important retail sector of the foreign exchange market.
“The BDCs in Nigeria have over the years remained the most portent tool of exchange rate stability management of the CBN whenever the local currency suffers as seen in 2006, 2009, 2016 and 2020. The BDCs are not illegal operators but licensed with CAC and CBN and pay levies and taxes to the government. The over 5000 BDCs have created huge employment opportunities and remained a big threat to over one million unlicensed operators whose activities are usually misconstrued to represent the licensed players,” he said.
Understanding the Legitimate BDC Operators
In a statement, ABCON Executive Council, said it considered the editorial which alleged weak regulation of the BDC sector, linking BDCs money laundering activities and illicit funds transfer; and condemned dollar sales to BDCs by the CBN as unfair, very biased.
It described the editorial as a product of ignorance of the role and contributions of the BDCs sector, as well as the various measures put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria and ABCON to ensure strict regulation of the sector as well as compliance with all regulatory requirements especially anti-money laundering measures. The editorial, it added failed to distinguish between licensed BDCs and illegal currency hawkers or money changers, as a licensed BDC is registered as a corporate body with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and is licensed by the CBN to provide retail forex services across the counter.
“The BDC sector is regulated by the CBN via its various enabling laws which applies to all financial institutions. This include the CBN Act, BOFIA, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing Terrorism guidelines, Know Your Customer (KYC) Requirements. In addition to these is the CBN Guidelines on the Operations of BDCs, which is specific to the scope and operations of the BDCs. To ensure compliance, the CBN requires that each licensed BDC render returns on periodic basis (Daily, Weekly, Monthly and annually). Furthermore, BDCs are also required to render returns to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), which plays a major role in the country’s Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing and Counter-Proliferation Financing (AML/CFT/CPF) efforts,” it said.
Furthermore, ABCON created an online platform, www.abconng.com, an online real time rendition of returns. The platform is presently used by over 4000 licensed BDCs to render returns to the CBN and NFIU.
Also, to ensure compliance with the Know-Your Customer (KYC) requirement, a critical element of the anti-money laundering guidelines, ABCON partnered with the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), to onboard BDCs on the NIBSS platform for verification of customer information.
In addition to the above, and also to ensure transparency, ABCON created naijabdcs.com, an online live exchange rate platform, which also contains the addresses and contacts of all licensed BDCs. The platform publishes the ruling exchange rate in the retail foreign exchange segment, so as to ensure, forex end have reliable information to guide them in their transactions with BDC operators.
Also speaking, former Executive Director at Keystone Bank, Richard Obire, said servicing the retail foreign exchange market through the BDCs is helping to stabilize the exchange rates.
“Generally, the supply and demand situation of forex shows that the forex rate set by the CBN doesn’t quite reflect demand and supply dynamics. Many who need forex can’t get it at the set rate and so are willing to get it elsewhere ( possibly through BDCs) at higher rates,” he said.
ABCON’s Role In BDCs Compliance
Gwadabe said ABCON is playing stronger role in the BDC industry by embracing effective self-regulation and ensuring compliance with extant Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) laws and regulations to mitigate the risks and vulnerabilities in the sub-sector.
He said that ABCON has also developed and implanting Code of Conduct for members to promote ethical practices and transparency in while also continually advising the apex bank on market intelligence on key industry issues.
He said that ABCON had consistently advised BDCs to put in place and implement, a system of internal policies, procedures and controls including Know Your Customer, Customer Due Diligence and reporting of all suspicious transactions to regulators.
According to Gwadabe, ABCON is also training BDCs on regular basis on the need to keep transaction records, and get a designated compliance officer that has day-to-day oversight over AML/ CFT programme. He said the Compliance Officers have been taught the rules in preparing Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs), and rendering STRs’ returns to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
He said that BDCs have met and will continue to meet a number of compliance requirements specified by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and local regulators.
The ABCON boss said that the collation and reporting of foreign currency transactions and suspicious transactions by BDCs are now fully automated. ABCON had in 2019, launched its Live Run Automation Portal in Lagos. The technology automates all BDC Operations with those of Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), NFIU and the CBN to improve the level of compliance of the BDCs with set regulations. ABCON, severally, organised trainings for its members, and at other times, partnered NFIU and the EFCC to build capacity for operators.
Report Filling by BDCs
ABCON has continued to ensure that BDCs file their reports as and at when due. The BDCs also do customers Know Your Customer (KYC) and due diligence reports.
Contrary to believe that BDCs are not well regulated, Gwadabe said there are increasing difficulties arising from over regulation and complex documentation requirements that licensed BDC operators are facing in carrying out their daily legitimate operation remain worrisome.
For instance, six units within the CBN are involved with BDC regulations, supervision, licensing, monitoring, saying this constitutes multiple regulation of a unit of the financial sub-sector that is only involved as a small market player. He said a BDC operator renders daily, monthly, quarterly, half yearly and annual returns to these various departments of the same corporate body, which could be very cumbersome, repetitive and time consuming for both the operator and the regulator.
BDCs’ Contributions To Economic Development
ABCON Executive Council, said that while BDCs are licensed to offer retail, across the counter, foreign exchange transactions, they however play critical roles in the economy and have contributed to the economic development of the country like ensuring order and confidence in the forex market, providing data for monetary policy, channels for CBN Intervention in Retail forex market and creation of over 15,000 jobs among others.
ABCON has assured the public of its commitment to orderly conduct of retail forex transactions as defined and regulated by the CBN for licensed BDCs. Members of the public are strongly advised to always patronize license BDCs and for this purpose they should visit www.abconng.com and naijabdcs.com for the list and contact of licensed BDCs,” it said.
|YEAR||Official Forex Rate||Parallel Market Rate Before BDCs Funding||Parallel Market Rate After BDCs Funding||BDCs Funding impact / Gains|
HISTORICAL GAINS BY NAIRA DUE TO CBN’s FUNDING OF BDCs
NIMASA DG calls for contributory pension for dockworkers
…As agency hosts maiden ‘day of the dockworker’ event
By Seun Ibiyemi
It was a milestone event for the local maritime industry as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) hosted the maiden edition of the ‘Day of the Dockworker’ in Lagos recently.
With the theme of the event being “Healthy Dockworker, Better Productivity,” it was an opportunity for stakeholders gathered to not just appreciate the efforts of Nigerian dockworkers at the center of the nation’s import-dependent economy, but also to focus on ways of improving their health and general well-being.
Delivering his welcome address at the event, the NIMASA Director General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh OFR, charged employers of labor to ensure all dockworkers are enrolled on contributory pension schemes, while also emphasising the need for operators of Oil and Gas Terminals to allow only approved stevedores aboard their installations, to ensure compliance with relevant international guidelines and conventions.
According to Dr. Jamoh, “As we celebrate today, it is important to put in perspective the plight of dockworkers who spend the greater part of their working life at the ports, with little or nothing to show for it. As employers of labour, you must endeavour to put in place a Contributory Pension Scheme for dockworkers and ensure prompt remittances of both Employers and Employees contributions at the end of each month.”
Speaking on compliance with stevedore inspections, he stated, “This occasion presents me with an opportunity to express the need for operators in the private jetties and Oil & Gas Terminals to grant operational access to the Stevedoring Contractors appointed by the Honorable Minister of Transport, to carry out stevedoring activities in assigned operational areas.”
On his part, the President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, in his address, thanked the NIMASA Management for organising the event to celebrate Nigerian dockworkers in recognition of the important role played by them.
In attendance at the event were representatives from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity; Nigerian Ports Authority; Seaport Terminal Operators Association and the National Association of Stevedoring Operators (NASA).
Internationally, July 7th is marked as ‘The Global Day of Action’ and is organized by the International Dockworkers’ Council (IDC) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). It aims to raise awareness of port working conditions and emphasize the importance of collective bargaining rights.
LCCI tasks govt on transparent FX regime, multinationals’ engagement
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has implored the government to create a more flexible and transparent foreign exchange policy to address scarcity issues.
Its Director-General, Dr Chinyere Almona, gave the advice on Thursday in Lagos, in reaction to the recent announcement of Procter & Gamble to transition its Nigerian operations to an import-only model.
Recall that the Chief Financial Officer of Procter & Gamble, Andre Schulten, had said this move would effectively dissolve its on-ground presence in the country.
Almona noted that over the last few months, there had been a consistent increase in exit plans or a reduction in involvement in the Nigerian market by multinationals, saying the trend was worrisome.
She stated that the country’s lingering foreign exchange scarcity, poor power supply, port congestion, multiple taxation, insecurity, and poor infrastructure, among others, had taken a toll on many businesses in the country.
She recommended that the government should implement measures to stabilise and ensure the availability of foreign exchange for businesses, particularly those operating in dollar-denominated environments.
“Further, the chamber urges the government to engage multinational corporations and the business community to understand their challenges and gather input and feedback on policy decisions to collaboratively develop solutions that would forestall the exodus of businesses from Nigeria.
”The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should prioritise the stability of the country’s currency and adopt the right policy mix to ensure price stability,” she said.
Tinubu appoints Omatsola Ogbe as new ES of NCDMB
President Bola Tinubu has approved the appointment of Engr. Felix Omatsola Ogbe as Executive Secretary of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
The President in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale appointed new board members for the NCDMB.
According to the Spokesperson to the President, the President in conformity with Sections 71(1), 72, and 73 of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act (2010) approved the appointment of qualified Nigerians to serve on the Governing Council and Management team of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
The newly appointed board members include:Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri — Chairman / HMS, Petroleum Resources, Engr. Felix Omatsola Ogbe — Executive Secretary, Oritsemyiwa Eyesan — Member / EVP Upstream, NNPC Ltd, Gbenga Komolafe — Member / CEO, NUPRC, Bekearedebo Augusta Warrens — Member, Nicolas Odinuwe — Member, Rapheal Samuel — Member, Sadiq Abubakar — Member, Olorundare Sunday Thomas — Member.
Ajuri noted that the President expects the new appointees to discharge their duties with his patriotic resolve to significantly enhance indigenous industry participation in the energy sector as part of the Renewed Hope Agenda’s mandate to achieve the goal of 70 percent indigenous content and participation in the nation’s energy industry during the lifespan of this administration.
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