$1bn net assets: CBN bars unlicensed International Money Transfer Operators •As WorldRemit kicks

There are strong indications that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has instructed licensed local correspondent money transfer operators in Nigeria to stop dealing with unlicensed International Money Transfer Operators.

Though the apex bank warned Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora to beware of the unwholesome activities of some of the unlicensed International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) in Nigeria, industry watchers said the suspension may not be unconnected with failure of these operators to have minimum net assets of $1 billion set by the bank.

The CBN guidelines specify that any company offering mobile money transfers must have minimum net assets of $1 billion and have been operating for more than 10 years.

This warning the apex bank said had become necessary because of the activities of some unregistered IMTOs, whose modes of operation were detrimental to the Nigerian economy.

In a press statement signed by the Assistant Director, Corporate Communications CBN, Isaac Okorafor, the apex financial regulator noted that all financial service providers in Nigeria, just as in other jurisdictions, are required to be duly licensed in order to protect both customers and the financial system as well as to ensure the credibility of financial transactions.

In its reaction to this, WorldRemit, a leading online remittance provider, has called for urgent restoration of money transfers to Nigeria as allowing only Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria to continue operations unhindered might create a monopoly in the remittance market.

WorldRemit is a leading provider of international money transfers through its mobile apps and web service. Its global headquarters are in London, UK with regional offices in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer WorldRemit, Ismail Ahmed, in an email response to Nigerian Tribune explained that until now, money transfer operators such as WorldRemit operated via partnerships with licensed local correspondents based in Nigeria, but now, such transactions have been stopped.

He admitted that the CBN has not put out a public directive banning money transfers by other MTOs, but has contacted Nigerian companies on an individual basis “telling them to cease working with International Money Transfer Organisations (IMTOs) such as WorldRemit.

“Only three companies: Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria are said to be allowed to continue operations, following an extreme and unexpected move by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“This move is arbitrary, inexplicable and hugely detrimental to the Nigerians in diaspora who rely on a hundreds of money transfer companies and banks, providing them with choice, convenience and competitive pricing.”world.