Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor

The Central Bank of Nigeria CBN, has given conditions for the lifting of suspension placed on a total of 14 commercial banks over irregularities in the sale of foreign exchange to end users, especially Small and Medium Enterprises SMEs

The apex bank had Tuesday barred 14 commercial banks, which were said to have refused to sell forex to legitimate importers of finished goods.

The financial authorities did not disclose the real identities of the affected 14 banks at the time of filing this report but a total of eight commercial banks have been approved by the CBN to sell foreign exchange to end users.

They include Fidelity Bank Plc, Heritage Bank, Jaiz Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Unity Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc and Diamond Bank Plc.

The CBN however disclosed that before the suspension would be lifted, the affected banks, who were accused of frustrating the efforts of some SMEs at accessing foreign exchange.

Part of these conditions, a competent source at the apex bank hinted was that the managements of the embattled banks must have to show remorse for their action before the suspension will be lifted.

It was further gathered that the managements would in addition submit a written undertaking assuring the Federal Government that they will not continue to sabotage in its efforts to make foreign exchange available to end users as part of measures to stem the free fall in the value of the local currency, the naira.

Investigations showed that the affected 14 banks which had utilised the SME funds were allocated $100 million, which was supposed to be sold at the Tuesday wholesale auction transaction.

The banks were said to have frustrated the efforts of (SMEs) from accessing foreign exchange released by the CBN.

A competent source also hinted that the CBN, which had continued to inject foreign exchange for the benefit of the national economy, was however worried that the banks failed to sell foreign exchange to some legitimate SME operators, who are into importation of some finished goods.

To forestall a repeat of this, the apex bank has for now selected only eight banks that complied with its earlier directive on this.

These eight commercial banks would the ones allowed to participate in the wholesale of CBN foreign exchange being released under its intervention programme designed to save many Nigerians from the hardship associated with accessing forex for various legitimate transactions.

Recall that many manufacturing firms have had to close shop owing to their inability to access foreign exchange.

The CBN had barred a total of 41 items of imports including raw materials from sourcing foreign exchange at the official market, which was at a time pegged at N190 to the dollar while the parallel market rate was about N500 to the dollar.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had assured recently that the government would lift the restriction placed on the 41 items.