On Friday, September 17, 2021, a video of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele – lovingly called Meffy by the interwebs – went viral. In it, Meffy was calling out abokiFX — a website popular for publishing currency exchange rates. While speaking to journalists, he said that abokiFX engages in “foreign exchange manipulation and speculation”, and that Olumide Oniwinde, the owner of abokiFX, is an illegal foreign exchange dealer.
Meffy also warned that “those who feel they want to support him (abokiFX) to fight me, come out, let’s fight”.
So basically this was Meffy that day:
Why Is The CBN After abokiFX?
abokiFX posts information about the exchange rate of the naira. The website provides official Bureau De Change (BDC) and black market rates of the naira, including other forex information.
But the Central Bank is not convinced that publishing information is all abokiFX or its owner does. According to Meffy, the owner of abokiFX, Olumide Oniwinde, directly benefits from the rates he quotes daily on his website.
At the press conference, Meffy questioned the operations of abokiFX:
- Have Nigerians ever asked how abokiFX collects its data?
- How many BDCs have seen staff of abokiFX come in to ask for daily rates?
- How many BDCs send daily returns on exchange rate to abokiFX?
- How does abokiFX determine what the FX rate is?
- How does abokiFX collect its data?
- How can an unlicensed single person be the one that sets exchange rates in a country?
- Why is abokiFX setting the exchange rate in Nigeria?
- Why is Olumide Oniwinde targeting Nigeria?
The CBN is concerned about how abokiFX comes about the exchange rate information it displays on its website. The CBN believes that abokiFX is setting the price of the naira out of its own imagination so that its owner can benefit from the fake rates by selling naira at unnecessarily high prices.
Section 2 of the CBN Act gives the CBN the power to ensure price stability of the naira. By looking at the activities of abokiFX, the CBN is exercising this power.
What Is The Real Forex Rate of the Naira?
The official exchange rate to the dollar is ₦410.60. The CBN says this rate is the genuine rate and that it has enough dollars to meet the needs of every Nigerian who needs dollars to import goods, pay international school fees or do other things.
The CBN claims that every Nigerian can buy dollars and other foreign currencies they need at the official rate and that banks will attend to Nigerians even if their dollar needs are more than the recommended amount.
But some Nigerians don’t believe this. They say that the exchange rate to the dollar at the BDC and parallel market is still at ₦570 and Bureau De Change operators and black market operators are still relevant in the forex market.
Why Do Nigerians Buy Forex From Black Market Operators?
The reason why many Nigerians patronise BDC operators and black market forex dealers aka “Aboki Wire” is because of the lack of access to foreign currency at the banks. Some Nigerians claim that bank officials keep forex while others claim that banks won’t sell dollars or other foreign currencies to them to pay for visas and other personal things.
According to a comment from a Nairametrics article:
Since 2015, the CBN has banned 41 items including rice, furniture and textiles from access to forex so as to “help conserve foreign reserves”. The CBN also banned the sale of forex to Bureau De Change operators to help stop illegal activities. But these moves may be part of the reasons why the unofficial rate of the naira to the dollar and other currencies keeps increasing.
At the moment, the price you have to pay to get dollars may just depend on who you believe more — Meffy or Aboki Wire.