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Market Digest Nigeria

Finance

CBN introduces sanctions against IMTOs who facilitate diaspora remittances in Naira

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has frowned at activities of some International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) and unlicensed companies who continue to facilitate diaspora remittances into the country in Naira.

The apex bank’s reaction follows the contravention of its earlier directive that all diaspora remittances must be paid to the beneficiaries in dollars.

This disclosure was contained in a circular titled, ‘Modalities for Payout of Diaspora Remittances’, issued by the CBN on Friday, January 22, 2021, and signed by its Director Trade and Exchange Department, Dr O.S. Nnaji.

The CBN in its circular said, ‘’Further to our circular titled ‘Receipt of Diaspora Remittances: Additional Operational Guidelines’, it has come to our notice that some IMTOs and unlicensed companies continue to facilitate diaspora remittances into the country in Naira, “in clear contravention of the Central Bank of Nigeria directive that all remittances be paid to beneficiaries in dollars.’’

For the avoidance of doubt, the Central Bank of Nigeria further clarifies as follows;

Only licensed IMTOs are permitted to carry on the business of facilitating diaspora remittances into Nigeria; All diaspora remittances must be received by beneficiaries in foreign currency only (cash and /or transfers to domiciliary accounts or recipients); IMTOs are not permitted, under any circumstances, to disburse diaspora remittances in Naira (either in cash or by electronic transfers), be it through remittance settlement accounts (which had been earlier directed to be closed), third party accounts or via any other payment platforms within and/or around the Nigerian financial system.’’

The apex bank in the circular said that the measures were intended to promote transparency, grow diaspora remittances and significantly improve foreign exchange inflows into Nigeria.

The CBN warned that strict sanctions, including withdrawal of operating licenses, shall be imposed on any individuals and/or institutions found to be aiding, abetting or directly contravening these guidelines. It went further to say that it shall not hesitate to authorize the closure of the accounts of unlicensed operators in Nigerian banks, including being barred from accessing banking services in Nigeria.

It promised continued monitoring of developments in this regard, adding that it would also issue further guidance as appropriate.

With the insistence of the apex bank on its earlier directive, it means that Nigerians living in the diaspora can transfer foreign currency to their relatives and loved ones in the country, who in turn will withdraw the money in dollar cash and sell anywhere they so desire.

It means they can for instance receive foreign transfers such as Western Union or Moneygram, withdraw it in dollars and then sell at the black market rate or anywhere else they want to. This they believe will help to stabilize the exchange rate and discourage hoarding.

It can be recalled that the CBN, had in November 2020, amended the procedure for the receipt of diaspora remittances and insisted that it must be paid in dollars to the beneficiaries, in an apparent and frantic attempt to improve liquidity in the forex market and reduce the disparity between the black market and the official window.

Also in an additional guideline for diaspora remittances, the CBN barred IMTOs from sending money to Mobile Money Operators and also stopped the integration of payment services providers to IMTO accounts. It also stopped switches and processors from getting involved in foreign remittances.

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