Naira now 413 to 1 dollar : "We Buy Dollars From Government Officials" - Bureau De Change Operators
Some BDC operators at Wuse Zone 4, a popular spot for foreign currency exchange, lamented that the pervasive scarcity of the dollars and other core global currencies is due to activities of highly placed government officials, top politicians and Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) staff, who have found the falling naira as a way to line up their pockets at the expense of the nation.
On allegation made by a former CBN governor and current Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that people sit at home and make calls to buy dollars from the CBN and resell, BDC operators corroborated it, saying, “It is true.”
Refusing to identify his name, a BDC operator said, “Dollar is scare, we don’t have it like in the past. For us to have it, we must identify who to approach to buy from CBN for us,” he said.
“Mostly, top government officials use their influence to buy from the CBN in the name of going abroad for official assignment,” he further alleged.
Asked if he knew anyone or had bought from them, he said, “My ‘oga’ (boss) does not sleep,” adding that “he follows them around, sometimes he goes to their houses in Asokoro, Maitama to beg them to buy dollars. He traveled to Kano last time to approach somebody for it,” he pointed out.
According to information provided by the BDC operators, ministers, key personnel at the presidency, top politicians not in government but with strong links as well as traditional rulers mostly from the northern part of the country use their influence to buy dollars from the CBN even at the old rate of N170/$.
This must have informed the allegation of Sanusi, who, according to sources, must have spoken from vintage position.
“My boss told me he buys dollars sometimes at N300 and N380 depending on individual sellers,” another BDC operator noted.
The CBN while trying to prop up the naira few months ago opened dual windows and harped that the naira was floated to subject it to market forces.
Unfortunately, the national currency has continued to receive intense battering and fell to N406/$ few days ago at the black (parallel) market.
Recent reports said the naira has shed almost 40% against the dollar in almost a year, making it the worst performing currency globally.
And if that was not enough, Sanusi ran scathing attacks on the Federal Government handling of the economy in general and the CBN currency operation in particular.
“You don’t have to be an economist to know that any system that allows you to sit in your garden, and with a telephone call, make one billion naira without investing a kobo, that system is wrong. It is unsustainable”, Sanusi said of highly placed politicians and top individuals who use their influence to buy forex from the CBN and sell to make undeserved profit.
“And just so we are not always blaming the previous administration. We have also made mistakes in this administration,” he added.
“And if we fall into the same holes that we fell into the last time where the government is always right… If a policy is wrong, it is wrong. Nothing will make it right and it has to be changed,” the former CBN governor asserted.
Investigations based on findings from the BDC operators have shown that CBN top executives know about the whole dirty deals.
According to information, they are helpless as they cannot stop immense pressure put on them.
“Often, calls come from various sources that are highly placed. The major culprits in requesting for forex which they possibly resell are the ministers and highly placed presidency staff, who the CBN executives cannot ignore,” a BDC operator told Independent, lamenting that he was tired of begging these “people for forex.”
Few months ago, before the CBN floated the naira, there were allegations against a key aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had unimpeded access to forex as the nation groaned under forex scarcity.
The CBN had defended its position, saying it did not sell dollars to individuals but the aide while defending his dollar purchases said he did not breach any law as he did not buy above the threshold set by the CBN.
There has also been allegation of the CBN leaving its constitutional role of being the bankers’ bank to the buying and selling of currencies.
According to the BDC operator, who spoke with Independent, “the CBN flexible forex regime has not worked in our favour or the country but has become the conduit pipe as Emir Sanusi has said to influential people’s advantage.
“Banks don’t have adequate forex and so the demand placed on us is high. But for you to get it, you must be prayerful that one government’s official or politician remembers you and comes calling to sell what he has gotten for cheap from the CBN,” he said.