The dollarisation of the economy and depreciation of the local currency, naira, has assumed a frightening dimension.
Consequently, the federal government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) has renewed its clampdown on the Bureau de Change Operatiors for these challenges that have become national embarrassment.
But Aminu Gwadabe, president of the association has absolved the members of culpability, saying those involved in these activities that are bringing the economy into comatose are not their members.
Gwadabe, in a written response to metrobusinessnews.com, (MBN) said the development calls for reintrospection and vigilance by members by way of closely monitoring and knowing their customers.
He also advised that members should leverage on the existing information technology platform to continue to render accurate and verifiable reports.
He said it is a matter of regret that the operators, whom he described as disciplined and law abiding should be blamed for economic crisis, particularly as it regards to foreign exchange management.
Another operator, who pleaded for anonymity said it is a matter of irony that operators who were denied Patronage by CBN over one year ago would be accused of contributing to foreign exchange crisis.
“It is not true that BDCs are responsible for the current volatility in the market. Why are you people not looking at the angle of the banks who enjoy CBN Patronage? This is the 14th month now that BDCs have been out of business and yet BDCs are still in bad news of papers , have you ever asked how dollars are still circulating and coming into this country?, God almighty will deliver them.”
However the ABCON boss wonders why and how the operators are culpable.
His words, “It is baffling to always continue to limit the understanding of the continuous local currency attrition to the activities and labeling of our members.It is a misnomer.
I sincerely and quite frankly disagree with the labeling.
The volume of even the so called BDCs market is not more than 3 % in the market and I believe the need to interrogate the root causes like dwindling reserve, falling revenues, persistent liquidity crises and many other legacy factors.
There is the need to halt the increasing generalization of criminalization and de marketing of the sub sector by both regulators,securities and the media.
All agencies of Government should continue to recognize the BDCs role as an important transmission mechanism agents of the monetary policies.
The BDCs have always exhibited their potency in foreign exchange market stability and we will continue to play that role with necessary support from the authorities.
The authority should emphasis de risking rather than de marketing.
The clampdown on ungoverned operators is a global phenomenon, we have witnessed it in Egypt and recently in Ghana.
In all climes, hawking of currency in the street is a crime and falls under the purview of the anti money laundering agencies.
And presently the ranking of the country’s credit status is abysmally low by the FATF known as the global inter governmental body with the responsibility of setting up the measures against money laundering and terrorism financing.
It is therefore not surprising to expect severe compliance measures of operators by the security and regulatory agencies.
A licensed BDC is defined in the CBN manual as a retail end service provider to engage in retail products like PTA,BTA,SCH FEES,ETC.
Also,you can not engage on bulk transactions and you must have an office.
The clampdown of the EFFCC is a call to our licensed BDC members to ensure traceability of the receipts of payments from their customers and operating only in their offices.
Operators must ensure proper know your customer, customer due Delligence, return renditions, record keeping are all complied with.
We also advise the EFCC to continue to look into the already existing collaboration with critical stake holders in the sector like BDCs.
The use of stick and carrot,including friendly policies to guide operators can not be underscored.
We are also calling on our members to ensure they comply with extant rules and regulations.
As regards to the control of our MEMBERS, our association is an umbrella body of registered corporate entities and we have our rules of engagement which they are expected to comply with.
And this majority of our members are complying with.
We can not be over board but whereby a corporate member derailed his responsibilities through the ungoverned spaces he may have committed and infractions and attracts heavy penalties.
In what we are doing to ensure the sustainability of our members’ operations
ABCON, as a self regulatory and proactive association has long adopted the process of reforms by embracing technology and ensure the transformation of our members operations from manual to digital. Our members now send their returns to regulatory and security agencies ON LINE REAL TIME from the comfort of their offices using the AWS cloud application system known as SAAZ MASTERS.
On the part of collaboration, we have resiliently continued to collaborate and appealing to the authorities to reconsider our plight and also provide us alternative sources for our members engagement.
Our members are prepared and willing to ensure compliance as always.
We have sent proposals and reminders and I can assure they are all receiving attention in-spite of the daunting challenges of regulators and security agencies.
We call on all our members to continue to remain hopeful and strong.”
Commenting further, Gwadabe said, “Yes, we are collaborating with the identified leadership of the unregistered players with a view to reducing the menace of street hawking.
We are self sensitized operators in the market and guiding them of their responsibilities.
We are calling on all our members to comply with know their customer,customer due delligence. having operational offices, not engaging on bulk transaction as cash couriers of proceeds of crime, recording their transactions and rendering their statutory and regulatory returns to relevant authorities.
We are also engaging and lobbying the authorities at the highest level to reconsider the suspension of our operations.
Members are therefore adequately requested to trade with caution as the authorities may come up with surprises and make offenders suffer heavy loses.”
Gwadabe also said that the issue of naira redesign is an “orthodox policy of monetary authorities to usually check illegal economic behaviors in the economy like hoarding of currency, currency substitution, rent seeking popularly known as round tripping and therefore as a responsible Organisation guiding the set measures of anti money loundering and terrorism financing for our members will have our backing.
Our members are licensed as corporate entities and therefore not to be seen as quacks in the market.
Meanwhile, EFCC made some arrests when they raided Kano.
This came after marketers in Kano said they heard that the anti-graft agency had earlier swooped on their colleagues in Abuja arresting some in relation to the recent hike in dollar at parallel markets.
One of the marketers, who asked not to be named, said before the operatives of the EFCC stormed the market late Tuesday, some of his colleagues had partially closed their shops because of the development in Abuja and as such when the operatives stormed the market, many of them quickly shut down and ran out of the market.
Speaking with Daily Trust, another marketer said because of the development, many of them have decided to stay off the market for a while until things normalize, saying this was not the first time EFCC was raiding the market.
“Every time they raid this market, the price of dollar will go up. For instance, today (Wednesday) a dollar is N845 as against N835 it was being sold yesterday (Tuesday) before the EFCC raided us.
“In fact, last week we were selling it at N750/$ but before the end of the week, it went up to N780/$. Problem is that it is because the government is not releasing dollars. The hike is not our fault. We buy expensive, so we have to sell it in a way to make a little profit,” the marketer said.
Confirming the operation, a senior staff of the agency, who asked not to be named, told Daily Trust on Wednesday that the raid was conducted as part of the agency’s efforts to support the federal government to arrest the recent hike of forex.
The source said the anti-graft agency had been closely observing the roles of the BDC operators in the unfortunate hike and that money launderers have been using the BDC to obtain forex on black market in order to avoid losing their ill-gotten funds in Naira to the newly announced redesign of Naira notes.
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The senior staff, who is very familiar with the operation, confirmed that during the raid, eight suspects were arrested for forex racketeering and engaging into forex without legitimate license, adding that the suspects are now cooling off in the Kano command where investigation is currently ongoing after which the necessary action would be taken.