As the Naira fell to N857 to the dollar on the black market on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission conducted simultaneous operations on Bureau de Change operators in Abuja and Kano.
The PUNCH learned that the operations, which netted a significant number of illegal BDC operators and those thought to be clients in the two cities, would also be expanded to Lagos, Onitsha, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, and other significant cities throughout the nation.
The event caused a disruption in the day’s operations, according to our reporters, as many BDC operators in Abuja went underground.
Ismaila Atumeyi, a New Nigeria Peoples Party candidate for the Kogi State House of Assembly, and two others were detained by the EFCC while in possession of N326 million and $140,500 in cash.
The EFCC agents, supported by armed police officers, raided the black market FX traders’ improvised booths in Zone 4, Wuse, Abuja, while they were going about their regular business, arresting many of them.
Witnesses reported seeing the men being apprehended being dragged into waiting cars while the incident slowed down nearby traffic.The national currency has remained under pressure against the dollar following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s declaration that the new naira notes will replace higher notes with effect from December 15 in order to combat counterfeiting, inflation, and insecurity.
The development was blamed on BDC operators and individuals desperate to convert their ill-gotten money into hard currency.
The EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa had endorsed the planned redesign of the naira and cautioned BDC operators against currency hoarders who would attempt to seize the opportunity to offload the currencies they had illegally stashed away.
Giving an insight into the raids in Abuja and Kano, a senior official explained that the EFCC has been monitoring the activities of forex dealers in the two cities, adding that the operations were intelligence-led.
He also disclosed further that the raids would be extended to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Ibadan and other cities across the country to stop BDC operators from ‘destroying the naira.’
“Today’s (Tuesday) operations were successful as they were intelligence-led. We have placed various bureau de change points under watch since the CBN announced the redesign of the naira.
“So, we know that those with illegal wealth would want to take advantage of the development to off-load their stash and convert it to dollars. It is not a one-off operation; it would be extended to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Ibadan, Onitsha and other cities,’’ the official disclosed.
The EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the raids on the forex dealers in Kano and Abuja but claimed to be unaware of the operation’s planned execution in other locations.
“I can confirm that our agents conducted a raid on the Wuse Zone 4 neighborhood of Abuja today and detained a number of BDC operators. I am unable to confirm how many suspects have been taken into custody at this time, he said.
A forex broker in Abuja, however, blamed the EFCC for the collapse of the local currency in an interview with The PUNCH following the raid.
All of us are hiding. We currently trade at N857 per dollar. I informed you that the exchange rate will be N850/$ in the afternoon, but it is now not achievable. Due to the EFCC’s entry into the market today, the dollar is extremely rare. Abubakar Attahiru, a forex dealer, said to one of our correspondents over the phone at 6:12 p.m. on Tuesday, “Perhaps things will change tomorrow (today).”
If the seller had a lot of dollars, another BDC employee offered to buy a dollar bill for N855.
“You get more money the more dollars you sell. If we purchase something at N850/$ from a person who has $100, we will purchase it at N852 from a person who has $10,000, he revealed.
Alhaji Aminu Gwaadabe, president of the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria, however, declared that he completely supported the raid.