Bureaus De Change (BDCs), as critical stakeholders in the Foreign Exchange (FOREX) Market, are known for the sale of small volumes of international currencies for Invisibles.
Such include Personal Travelling Allowances (PTA), Business Travelling Allowances (BTA), overseas school fees and payment of medical fees abroad.
Since the renewed onslaught of currency speculators on the Naira, culminating in a near currency crisis in contemporary Nigeria’s economic history, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has made it mandatory for BDCs to carry out due diligence on its customers to ascertain the genuineness of their transactions in foreign exchange.
Thus BDCs are mandated by the CBN to verify the travelling documents of their customers and their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) among other requirements.
In keeping faith with this mandate, the leadership of the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), commenced the rebranding of BDC operations nationwide with a call on its members to automate their operations for transparency and accountability.
ABCON is partnering with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), and the CBN in achieving a safe terrain for currency transactions.
Aminu Gwadabe, President, ABCON during a recent sensitisation session on the BVN Validation Service for BDCs, said that recent happenings in the financial sector had mandated BDCs to toe the line of automation.
Gwadabe said that for BDCs to remain relevant the rebranding of their operations was needed which would involve a re-registration and re-certification of all its members and directors in a new online portal.
According to him, it is an anathema for BDCs to operate without an office equipped with modern technology and communication gadgets.
The ABCON chief said that the reforms in the Forex market had made transparent transactions by BDCs compulsory in compliance with CBN regulations.
The financial expert said that automation clearly distinguished BDCs from parallel market operators.
“Any BDC operator without a registered office equipped with computers, printers, and photocopiers will not be allowed to operate under the rebranding philosophy of the association.
“This will allow for transparent monitoring of BDC operations by the CBN,’’ Gwadabe said.
Gwadabe explained that in the spirit of automation, BDCs would be a store house for gathering local and international records of foreign exchange transactions in the country.
He said that BDCs were currently enjoying “amnesty’’ from the CBN in terms of computerised weekly returns but added that compliance with the CBN regulations was required to continue to enjoy the amnesty.
He added that with automated operations, BDCs would be easier to get accurate records of Diaspora remittances into the country.
For Adewale Adewunmi, Accountant/Automation Officer of ABCON, the automation of BDC activities have become expedient in view of regulatory requirements for transparency and uprightness in financial transactions.
Adewunmi noted that ABCON’s initiative on automation was in tandem with international best practices.
According to him, ABCON developed an automation platform as its first phase of its automation drive for BDCs to key in basic data relating to its operations.
The automation officer said that ABCON now had a robust database of its members where every interested stakeholder could get information about any BDC.
He added that the platform would be hooked on to NIBSS platform for BVN and passport identity validation.
In his contribution, Kayode Kalejaiye, Manager Electronic Payment and Digital Solutions, NIBSS, said that automation was a sine qua non for BDCs rendition of reports.
According to him, BDCs can verify the BVN numbers of their prospective clients with the aid of the BVN portal.
Kalejaiye noted that through the BVN portal, multiple transactions of customers could be detected.
The financial expert said that ABCON was building its own portal for ease of transaction.
He argued that through an automated platform, BDCs could get clues on persons on the watch list of the regulators.
He said that anybody who had a fraudulent financial record could be placed on a watch list where BDCs would be advised to be cautious in their dealings with such a person.
Automation is one of the many self-checks ABCON is deploying to ensure that its members do not run foul of the law.
Automation could not have come at a better time when the present administration was fighting corruption with renewed vigour.
It is pertinent to note that a completely automated BDC sector will checkmate the excesses of currency speculators thus serving as a shield for the Naira.