The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday waded into the controversy surrounding foreign exchange for Muslim pilgrims, saying it did not provide forex at a subsidized rate for the 2016 Hajj.
The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, made the clarification in a statement yesterday.
Mr. Emefiele explained that the insinuation that forex for the pilgrims was subsidized by the Federal Government, was untrue, adding that the agreement between the CBN and the pilgrims had been concluded even before the commencement of the implementation of the new flexible foreign exchange policy.
His explanation tallies with thePresidency’s statement last week in the wake of outrage that greeted the concessionary exchange rate of N197/$1 for the pilgrims; that approval was given months before and prior to the new forex policy of the apex bank.
The CBN boss said the pilgrims had earlier in the year made what he described as “advance payment” for their personal travel allowances, noting that in the current circumstances, the advance payment made was $750 per pilgrim.
He further explained that the advance payment was made by the pilgrims to the respective state pilgrims’ boards, after which the requests were passed by the states to the national body.
According to him, since the agreement was made in April when the market rate was N197 to a dollar, it would be unethical not to honour it.
Emefiele said refusing to provide foreign exchange to the pilgrims at the agreed rate would mean that the pilgrims would have to pay the difference between the old and new rates.
This, he noted, was against sound business principle.
He said, “What is obtainable is that every year, prior to the commencement of the pilgrimage, the commissions (both Christian and Muslim) approach the CBN to agree on the exchange rate for the personal travel allowance for that particular year, which, in this case, is between $750 and $1,000 per pilgrim.
“In this particular case, the market rate prevailed. Hence, with the commencement of the flexible exchange rate policy, market-determined rates will continue to serve as the basis for foreign exchange for pilgrimage or any form of PTA in the country”.
He added that the request for PTA for pilgrimage or tourism was a valid transaction and stated that the CBN, as a responsible organisation, could not renege on agreements or contracts entered into with other groups for whatever business transactions.
The CBN governor, therefore, appealed to members of the public to exercise restraint in their comments in order not to cause unnecessary and avoidable disaffection among the public.