The Central Bank of Nigeria on Wednesday raised concerns about what it called the indiscriminate and suspicious manner some bank customers were spending dollars and other foreign currencies abroad through their naira debit cards.
Consequently, the regulator said it had through the Bankers’ Committee concluded that bank customers who spent above the $50,000 annual forex limit it imposed would be barred from the nation’s forex market.
The Director, Banking Supervision, CBN, Tokunbo Martins, stated this after the 329th Bankers Committee meeting held at the CBN office in Lagos.
She said, “In the CBN’s move to manage the demand for forex, there was a rule that was put in place that people are not allowed to withdraw more than $50,000 annually on their naira debit cards.
“For a while, the policy has been abused by bank customers, and the CBN had not taken any step to that effect. We have decided to take the steps now to enforce the rule. So, we want members of the public to remember that that rule is in place.”
She added, “All your accounts are linked to a particular Bank Verification Number. Now, that the BVN only allows you to withdraw only $50,000 per annum. If people continue to breach that rule, they will lose access to forex market.”
Martins also ruled out a possible lay-off of workers in the banking sector, saying the Bankers’ Committee was committed to keeping their staff members.
The CBN chief said, “One of the things we discussed, you must have been hearing about an impending retrenchment in the banking industry. So, we understand that many bank workers are experiencing fears about possible retrenchment in the industry.
“We discussed it among the banks; banks are committed to not retrenching their workers. So, whatever rumours are flying around about mass retrenchment happening or not happening, that is not true.”
Tokunbo also debunked a report by a Dubai-based investment bank that seven of the nation’s banks were having inadequate capital.
Arqaam Capital, the Dubai-based investment bank, had said seven Nigerian banks were undercapitalised with two of them close to being insolvent.
The CBN director said Nigerian banks were facing economic challenges but had strong capital buffers to weather the storm.
Martins said, “Banks have strong capital buffers; banks are feeling the headwinds.”
She said the Nigerian banking industry’s non-performing loan ratio of 11.7 was better than some European countries’ with about 15 per cent or 18 per cent NPL ratio.
According to her, the challenges facing the nation’s banking sector as regards the rising NPL is a global matter.
The Deputy Managing Director, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mrs. Cathy Echeozo, said commercial banks through the committee were committed to allocating more forex to manufacturers in order to enhance economic activities and prevent lay- offs in the manufacturing sector.
She said, “We met with the team from the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria to ensure that manufacturers employ thousands of people and so on. “We discussed how to boost the supply of forex to our manufacturers so that they can continue to produce their products.”
The Managing Director, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr. Yinka Sanni, said the Bankers Committee discussed how the country could tap into the funding opportunities in the pension industry.
He said, “We were also reminded of the role/responsibility of banks to help grow the economy, especially the manufacturing sector. As bank CEOs, we agreed to ensure that the economy grows. We also looked at how the country can leverage the opportunity in the pension industry.”