Nigerian Banks Resort to Electronic FX Payments as Cash Shortage Worsens
By Dipo Olowookere
The scarcity of foreign exchange (FX) in the financial system in Nigeria has forced commercial banks operating in the country to resort to payment of forex directly to the domiciliary accounts of customers or debit cards.
Business Post keenly observed that this is a new system the financial institutions are devising to manage the FX crisis the country is battling with at the moment.
Currently, it is very difficult for customers to get hard currencies in cash from banks for amounts more than $500.
At one of the banks visited by this reporter in the Egbeda area of Lagos State, customers were told to provide a domiciliary account of the bank for the requested forex to be transferred into.
In a situation where a customer is unable to provide one, a forex trader stationed in the bank is approached. After the exchange rate is agreed upon, the money is transferred into his account, and the Naira equivalent is given to the customer.
One of the customers who spoke with this newspaper said, “This is what this bank has been doing for a while now. They tell you there is no cash (FX). I have been coming here for weeks to get just $400, but it has not been successful.
“It was later suggested to me to provide a domiciliary account, which must be of the bank for the funds to be transferred. Since I do not have one, I had to use the Mallam’s account. We agreed on a rate, which is N7 lower than what is obtained outside, but I had no choice.
“When I asked him how he would get his forex in cash, he laughed. I know your guess is as good as mine. I hope this is another way these banks are milking us because I was asked to fill cash collected by me when in actual sense, I was not given the cash.”
Recently, Access Bank sent an email to its customers, informing them that FX payments would only be made via the Access Travel Debit Card.
“We would like to once again inform you that we disburse authorised personal and business travel allowance FX requests through our Access Travel Debit Card.
“The Access Travel Debit Card has been created to enable you to transact seamlessly when you travel abroad,” a part of the message sighted by Business Post read.
Another lender, First Bank, also sent a similar message to its customers when it said, “The full Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) and Business Travel Allowance (BTA) ($4,000 and $5,000) respectively will now be disbursed into your First Bank Travel Card.”
A banker in the forex department of one of the old generation banks, who craved anonymity, told Business Post that the electronic FX payments to customers were obviously deployed to manage the shortage of cash in the system when efforts to ration the hard currencies failed.
A financial analyst based in Lagos, Mr Sunday Kalu, said this trend will continue until after the 2023 general elections.
“What we are witnessing at the moment is caused by the political actors. They have mopped up available FX in the financial system, and banks find it challenging to meet customers’ demands.
“The electronic forex transfer into customers’ accounts is another way to manage the crisis, and I support them. Don’t forget, the USD is not our legal tender, and there should not be any need for you to have the cash with you here except the Naira. So, I support this system,” Mr Kalu told Business Post.