The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has established a 7,000-member special task force across its 14 zonal commands to crack down on dollar racketeers in a bid to alleviate pressure on the naira.
The commission’s spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, announced in Abuja that the agency had summoned proprietors of private universities and other institutions charging tuition in dollars. With the naira plummeting against the dollar, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Olayemi Cardoso, informed the House of Representatives that Nigerians spent $98 billion over a decade on foreign education, healthcare, and personal travels, exacerbating the naira’s depreciation.
To mitigate exchange rate volatility, the CBN initiated measures such as unifying FX market segments and enforcing limits on commercial banks’ net open positions. Cardoso disclosed that between 2000 and 2020, foreign education costs totaled $28.65 billion, medical treatment abroad cost $11.01 billion, and Personal Travel Allowances reached $58.7 billion. This cumulative expenditure exceeded the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves. To address the worsening situation, Finance Minister Wale Edun, alongside the CBN Governor and EFCC Chairman Ola Olukoyede, strategized on stabilizing the currency.
The CBN directed banks to sell excess dollar stocks by February 1, 2024, and cautioned against hoarding foreign currencies. In tandem, the EFCC formed a special task force to enforce laws against currency mutilation and dollarization. This task force arrested perpetrators in Lagos and Rivers States and summoned proprietors of institutions charging fees in dollars.
Despite these efforts, the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria expressed confidence that their operations would not be affected. However, they urged banks to repatriate funds from ticket sales in naira. The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association supported the crackdown on dollarization, while the Nigerian Economic Summit Group emphasized the need for government agencies to lead by example.
The Association of Bureau De Change stressed the illegality of demanding forex payments, warning of further damage to the depreciating naira. Recent reports indicated some schools, such as Wigwe University, were requesting tuition fees in forex, exacerbating the issue.