Following the directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria to banks to set up teller points for sale of foreign exchange to customers, many of the financial institutions have mounted massive advertising, direct marketing, emails and SMS to attract customers.
In a recent circular signed by Haruna Mustafa, Director, Bank Supervision Department, the CBN directed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to set up teller points in designated branches for the sale of Foreign Exchange, Forex, to their customers.
The directive followed the apex bank’s decision to discontinue the sale of Forex to Nigerians through Bureaux de Change operators.
The sale of forex is to fulfill legitimate Forex requests for Personal Travel Allowance, Business Travel Allowance, tuition fees, medical payments and SMEs transactions, among others.
Banks were told to adequately publicise the locations of the designated branches and make necessary arrangements to sell FX to customers in cash and/or electronically in compliance with extant regulations.
Mustafa further advised DMBs to ensure that no customer was turned back or refused Forex, as long as documentation and all other requirements met. Banks were also told that undue delays, rationing and/or diversion of Forex would be strongly discouraged, and the DMBs are also required to establish electronic application and alert systems to update customers on status of their FX requests.
Meanwhile, CBN has set up a toll-free line for bank customers to escalate unresolved complaints related to their FX requests.
Recall that CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele had earlier announced last week that it will no longer sell Foreign Exchange to Bureau De Change operators. Instead, it will sell more dollars and other foreign currencies directly to commercial banks, which have been mandated to sell to Nigerians.
The bank said that it will also no longer process applications for BDC licences, accusing the parallel market of being a conduit for illicit Forex flows and graft.
Emefiele also accused international bodies, including some embassies and donor agencies, of complicity in illegal Forex transactions that have hindered the flow of foreign exchange into the country.
According to him, the organisations had chosen to channel Forex through the black market than use the official Investors and Exporters (I&E) window, called Nafex, threatening to “deal ruthlessly” with banks that allowed illegal Forex dealers to use their platforms.
With the new rule by CBN to only sell Forex to banks, many of such banks have been sending information to their customers, informing them of the processes they have put in place to ensure smooth sale of Forex to them.
In their email messages, the banks have been assuring their customers that they have put all arrangements in place for the implementation of the new Forex policy. Some of them have indicated that all their branches had been notified to be on the alert to ensure smooth sale of Forex to eligible customers and non-customers.
Tellers and other branch staff are said to have undergone training on strict adherence to the drive by the CBN to ensure availability, access, and efficient handling of all transactions.
The Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, in his comment on the preparations by his bank, said Ecobank remained a one-stop shop for all Forex needs particularly for PTA, BTA, School fees, Medical bills, Mortgage payments and remittances, stressing that all customers with genuine documents and complying with the FX regulations will be well served by the Bank .
He said: “I wish to assure our customers that there are no worries. Walk into any of our branches nearest to you and access FX once you have genuine documents, legitimate needs and meet the other requirements. We have staff dedicated to handle and meet your foreign exchange needs. From Personal and Business Travel Allowances to tuition and medical payments. Be rest assured, Ecobank has got your back.”
In its own notice, Fidelity Bank said it would sell to customers whatever foreign currency they preferred at the prevailing CBN rate, while assuring that it has put in place the electronic alert transaction that will provide update to customers on their request.
Zenith Bank and others have also given the same assurances and in all their email marketing messages, the banks have tried to be creative to attract customers.
With all the promises being made, and the toll-free number set up by the CBN to receive complaints from bank customers, we hope the new policy will meet the expectations of the formulators and the banking public will be duly served as they should be.