The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday sanctioned 12 banks for manipulating its foreign exchange forex policies.
It barred the banks from accessing forex from the newly instituted SMEs Forex Window.
The affected banks refused to sell forex to genuine SMEs that met disbursement requirements.
Confirming the development, CBN Spokesman, Isaac Okorafor, said only eight lenders – Access Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank, Heritage Bank, Jaiz Bank, Sterling Bank, Unity Bank and Zenith Bank, sold forex to SMEs and were cleared by the regulator.
“Apart from these eight banks, the rest have been sanctioned,” Okorafor, said in response to a text message sent to him by The Nation reporter.
He said the banks were barred for refusing to sell forex to the SME actors after accessing over $300 million offered to them via the SMEs wholesale forex window since its creation in April.
The SMEs Forex Window, which opened about three weeks ago, was designed to help SMEs import approved finished and semi-finished items not exceeding $20,000 for an enterprise per quarter.
Okorafor, said appropriate sanctions are spelt out by the CBN Act and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA).
He said employees, including chief executives of the affected banks could be punished where necessary.
The apex bank spokesman said the apex bank has already received series of complaints from bank customers, especially those that operate in the SMEs segment of the market that banks are frustrating their efforts at getting forex.
He said some entrepreneurs still complain that banks frustrate their efforts at obtaining forex for their eligible imports after the stipulated 48 hours.
He appealed to bank customers and the SMEs to “please give us concrete evidence against these banks so that we can hold them responsible by way of sanctions.”
He added: “Get a photocopy of your Form Q, Form X, Form A or Form M. Give us the name of the bank, branch and send to us and we will deal with them as example to others.
“The only way to make things better for Nigerians is for them to report to the CBN whenever they are in trouble or whenever, or are getting frustrated by banks.
“We have a number you can call or you send an email to our Consumer Protection Department. We want to urge everyone who is frustrated by banks to call and lay complaints. We assure you that you will get redress.”
He warned that the CBN would not sit back and allow any form of instability in the interbank forex market through the actions of institutions or individuals.
Okorafor urged all stakeholders to play by the rules for the benefit of the entire country and its economy.
“Any bank that fails to comply with the rules of this and other extant forex guidelines shall be sanctioned, which will affect the executive and other officers of the bank,” CBN Director, Financial Markets Department, Alvan Ikoku, had said in a previous circular to the banks.
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