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Aftermath security agents raid: Bureau de change operators lower rates

AFTERMATH the raid on bureau de change operators by security agents and fear of sanctions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), foreign currencies such as dollar, pounds and euros, have been fixed at lower rates across the markets.

For the past three days, naira has been changing for N400 to a dollar at the parallel market. Pound Sterling is being exchanged for N540 and Euros for N500.

Checks by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, on Thursday, proved fear of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Service (DSS) to be the reason.

On Wednesday, the DSS raided the offices of some BDCs in Lagos and arrested operators selling above the stipulated exchange rate.

The DSS operatives posed as end-users who came to purchase dollars from the BDCs. After surveying the market for exchange rate offerings, they arrested some BDC operators who sold above the CBN agreed rates.

A licensed BDC operator in Abuja, Alhaji Yusuf Rabiu, said the recent raid of bureau de change establishments by the EFCC forced the operators to reach such an agreement.

Usually, the rate of Forex at the BDC segment is based on demand and supply. When demand is higher than supply, each operator uses his discretion to hike the price.

To regulate the segment, CBN recently issued a policy that allowed each BDC to buy dollars from Travelex at N381 per dollar and sell to end users at a maximum of N400 per dollar.

“On Monday, EFCC called so many licensed BDC operators. The issue is that they feel we are unnecessarily hiking the rates. But it’s not our fault.

“Right now, their focus is on our business; they have been calling us one by one and we don’t want problem. That is why we have agreed to have a fixed rate for now,” he said.

“After the raid in Lagos, we the Abuja operators met and agreed on a fixed rate, so that such will not happen to our members,” he added.

The security agents continued the raid on Thursday, detaining some and ordering others to sell dollars at a lower rate, in a bid to break the fall of the currency.

“The police and SSS officials are raiding black marketers in Lagos and Abuja to compel an appreciation of the naira,” Mallam Adamu, a bureau de change operator, told Reuters.

Another trader said security agents visiting bureau de change operators told dealers not to sell dollars for more than N395.

“We’ve stopped buying dollars from just anybody that walks into our shop due to the harassment from security agents and a directive from our association,” a dealer asking not to be named said.

The naira had regained some ground this week, after dropping earlier from N470 per dollar, but dealers said hard currency supplies remain limited.

Aminu Gwadabe, head of the Bureau de Change association, said his licensed dealers had agreed with the CBN and security agencies to enforce a rate of between N390 and N400 to the dollar.

In Lagos on Thursday, the DSS raided the Hajj Camp and the Airport, as part of the efforts to control the exchange rate.

The image maker in charge of the state police command, Dolapo Badmos, could not confirm the operation as of the time of filing this report.

It was gathered that the security men insisted that bureau de change operators should not exchange a dollar for more than N400.

Unconfirmed reports had it that the security men arrested two of the bureau de change operators.

A clearing and forwarding agent, simply named Celestine, told the Nigerian Tribune that “yes, they came today to Hajj camp and the bureau de change at the airport.”

He also added that there was a serious confusion as the operators initially insisted that they had not committed any offence.

Director of Corporate Communication of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Isaac Okoroafor, speaking on the raid, denied that the bank took part in it.