By Babajide Komolafe
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday said it was not planning to amend the Foreign Exchange Act or recommend jail term for anyone that holds the dollar for more than 30 days.
Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor stated this in a statement issued yesterday in response to a report by Reuters titled: “Nigeria considers foreign exchange reforms as dollar shortages bite”.
Okorafor stressed that the CBN, in line with its mandate, was committed to safeguarding the international value of the country’s legal tender. He, however, denied knowledge of the proposed clause recommending a jail term for as long as two years or a fine of 20 per cent of the amount for any holder of foreign exchange in cash.
“To the best of my knowledge, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has not proposed any bill seeking to arrest and jail persons holding foreign exchange for more than 30 days,” Okorafor said.
He also denied that the CBN was planning to confiscate funds in domiciliary accounts of individuals, saying any such claim was false.
It will be recalled that media report broke suggesting that the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria were considering imprisoning anyone who holds foreign currencies, particularly the United States dollars, for more than 30 days as a way of stemming the volatility in the exchange rate and strengthen the international value of the Naira.
Reuters had reported that a draft bill prepared by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC), contains provision to amend the foreign exchange laws to curb illegal fund transfers and insider dealing and stop individuals holding hard currency outside the banking system. The new proposals were aimed at promoting the orderly development and maintenance of the currency market in Nigeria.
Its provisions include making it an offence to hold hard currency in cash outside the banking system.
“The possession of foreign currency by any person without depositing same in a domiciliary account within 30 days of its acquisition constitutes an offence liable on conviction to two years imprisonment or to a fine of 20 percent of the amount of the foreign currency involved,” the draft bill said.
The NLRC said the existing currency law made it difficult to regulate foreign exchange transactions in Nigeria, which the reform seeks to address.
The law currently “prohibits the seizure, forfeiture or expropriation of imported money by the government without providing for exceptions” and is “narrow in scope”, it said.
The NLRC said the amendments were necessary to “strengthen the framework for effective monitoring and control, and to ensure probity in foreign exchange transactions in Nigeria”.