Nigeria’s bureau de change operators have asked the central bank to consider a framework that will enable them access to foreign currencies at official market rates in an attempt to eliminate black market premiums that put additional pressure on the naira.
Aminu Gwadabe, head of the association of licensed currency exchange operators, said on Thursday the body had sent a request to the central bank for an alternative forex window where they can handle diaspora remittances, capital imports and export proceeds.
In July, the central bank banned dollar sales to such operators in a string of curbs on the forex market, forcing them to use black market rates and sending the naira tumbling to record lows.
“We are redefining our business model. Instead of dispensing central bank dollars, let us look at being a distributor of liquidity,” Gwadabe said.
Nigeria has been battling dollar shortages resulting from low prices for oil, its main export, and coronavirus-induced disruptions. It put in place a multiple exchange rate system as the government sought to avoid a large naira devaluation as a matter of national pride.
The naira firmed to 540 per dollar on Thursday on the black market, while it fetched 410 per dollar on the official spot market, broadly in a range held since June.
Gwadabe said dollar demand from importers and tourism was low, coupled with insecurity across the country.
Nigeria is grappling with criminal gangs in the northwest who carry out mass kidnappings for ransom, a decade-old Islamist insurgency in the northeast, piracy off its southern coast and tension from separatist movements in the southeast.
Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged the central bank to ensure the naira’s valuation reflects market rates, prodding the regulator to rethink its policy, which it has used to restrict imports in an attempt to manage pressure on the currency.