CBN suspends Ecobank, GTB, 12 others over SME forex abuse

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on Tuesday, barred 14 Money Deposit Banks from dealing in the Small and Medium Entreprises (SME) wholesale Forex window.

The barred banks are First Bank, Keystone Bank, Main Street Bank, Ecobank, Stanbic IBTC, Citi Bank, Enterprise Bank and WEMA bank.

Others are Guaranty Trust Bank, First City Monument bank, Union Bank, SunTrust Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and United Bank of Africa.

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.

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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.