Bureau de change, conduit for money laundering – CLO
A human rights group, Civil Liberties Organisation, on Monday alleged that bureau de change operators in the country have derailed from their legitimate business to become a money laundering conduit for politicians.
The group particularly decried a situation whereby bureau de change operators source dollars from the Central Bank of Nigeria at the rate of N190 per dollar and go to town to sell it at N270 per dollar to Nigerians.
Describing the bureau de change operators as blood-sucking merchants and heartless capitalists, CLO expressed the fear that if nothing was done to urgently check them, the nation was faced with an impending economic disaster.
It expressed the concern that the bureau de change operators were weekly growing in number, noting that they had increased from an initial number of 74 to 2,800 with hundreds of applicants still awaiting to be licenced by the CBN.
CLO, led by its president, Igho Akeregha, addressed journalists in Lagos on Monday.
It called on the government to undertake an urgent restructuring of the bureau de change scheme so as to bring it in line with international best practices.
In a statement jointly signed by Akeregha and the group’s Campaign and Strategy head, Chijioke Odom, CLO said, “We believe that the BDCs were a framework designed and re-designed to facilitate ease of corruption in Nigeria, especially as a potential vehicle for laundering proceeds of corrupt funds into foreign currencies.
“This has become hugely justified given the ease with which corrupt public officers could exchange ill-gotten wealth stolen from our collective patrimony into dollars.
“The vehicle for bribery in Nigeria has since changed from naira to the US dollars, as it became easy and handier to give and accept bribe in dollars rather than in naira.
“The immediate consequence of this was that it encouraged corrupt officers to be more daring and immediately increased demand for US dollars.
“As corrupt officers never made any effort to make monies that they stole, they never found it difficult to pay whatever price the BDCs placed on their dollar caches.”
CLO said the situation demanded urgent attention especially as Nigeria’s dollar-earning power was waning in view of continuous fall in crude oil price.
It demanded that the Federal Government and the CBN should take a firm stand against the excesses of the bureau de change operators in order to protect the interest of the masses.
It said, as obtain in other countries, bureau de change operators should be made to source foreign currencies from autonomous sources rather than the CBN.
“The BDCs, the way they operated, have become a huge scam and an avenue for truncating the dream and destiny of this nation,” CLO said.