By Racheal Ishaya
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on Tuesday, barred First Bank, the United Bank for Africa(UBA) and 12 others from dealing in the Small and Medium Entreprises (SME) wholesale Forex window.
The other banks affected by the order are FCMB, Keystone Bank, Main Street Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank, Enterprise Bank, Ecobank, and WEMA Bank.
Guaranty Trust Bank, Union Bank, SunTrust Bank, Standard Chartered Bank were also affected.
The CBN spokesman, Mr Isaac Okorafor, in a statement in Abuja, said they were barred, following persistent complaints that some Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) deliberately frustrate efforts by many SMEs to access forex from the new window created by CBN.
He said the financial regulator took the decision to bar the erring banks based on field reports, which revealed that only eight banks out of 22 had sold forex to the SMEs segment since the inception of the new window.
He said the CBN frowned at the action of banks that declined to sell foreign exchange to SMEs to enable them import eligible finished and semi-finished items despite the availability of forex from the CBN.
Okorafor, said all banks that had refused to sell forex to the SMEs after accessing over 300 million dollars offered through the SMEs window since its creation last month will be sanctioned accordingly.
He listed the banks not barred to include: Access Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank, Heritage Bank, Jaiz Bank, Sterling Bank, Unity Bank and Zenith Bank.
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.
He, therefore, urged all stakeholders to play by the rules for the benefit of the entire country and its economy.
Meanwhile, the CBN continued its massive intervention in the foreign exchange segment of the financial market by injecting $196.2 million into the various segments of the Forex market on Tuesday.
According to Okorafor, the apex Bank also offered 100 million to authorised dealers at Tuesday’s Forex wholesale auction.
A breakdown of the other interventions indicate that the CBN made available $52 million to the SME segment, while invisibles such as Personal and Basic Travel Allowance, medicals and tuition fees received $44.2 million.
The spokesman expressed confidence that the interventions would continue to guarantee stability in the market and ensure availability to individuals and business concerns.
It will be recalled that the CBN in April, opened a special foreign exchange window to cater to the SME sector.
The Window would enable SMEs import eligible finished and semi-finished items not exceeding $20,000 for an enterprise per quarter.
This is part of the CBN strategy to improve the fare of everyday imported commodity in the market.