Shortly after the Monetary Policy Council’s two-day meeting in Abuja, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, announced the clampdown on Aboki FX.
Aboki FX, a website that provides currency exchange information, has been condemned by Emefiele for being an illegal platform that engages in “speculative activities on the naira”. This is further based on the rate of the rise of the naira on the parallel market which is currently trading at N570/dollar.
“I have given instructions to our experts to go after his website and let it be clear that we will go after him because we can’t allow this to continue,” he said as he accused the owner of the platform, Mr. Olusegun Adedotun Oniwinde of sabotaging Nigeria’s economy.
Emefiele further affirmed that the Nigerian government would collaborate with other security agencies to track down Oniwinde, and then have him arrested and prosecuted.
“There was a particular time I asked our colleagues to find the so-called owner of Aboxi FX that we want to engage him to understand his module, his basis and how he came about advertising those rates,” the Central Bank governor continued.
Godwin Emefiele further said, “We find him as a Nigerian who lives in England and conducts this nefarious and criminal activity on our economy. It is an economic sabotage and we will pursue him. Wherever he is, we will report him to international security agencies. Mr. Oniwinde, we will find you!”
“First, let me make it clear that if you are running a legitimate business and following our rules at the Central Bank for use of financial system, there is nothing to worry about, but for those who think they are smart and they want to sabotage the efforts of the Central Bank in running this economy, we will make life very difficult for you. We will continue to do our jobs in safeguarding the financial system for the betterment of everybody,” the apex bank governor stated.
According to a Nairametrics source, Mr. Oniwinde might be profiting from the speculative activities of the naira by setting exchange rates while living outside the country.
The source further claimed that Nigerians cannot be comfortable with an ‘unknown licensed man’ setting exchange rates in Nigeria while he lives in faraway England.
The sources also accused “unseen actors” of probably gaining from Oniwinde’s daily reports on exchange rates, linking the suspicion to over 20 bank accounts that he operates in Nigeria.
A set of documents seen by Nairametrics reveal that the owner of the website has a company registered in the United Kingdom with all filings (between 2015 and 2019) showing a shareholder’s funds of 1000 British Pounds all in cash. The company also does not have a fixed asset or other current assets except cash.
The source added that the CBN is working in the interest of the entire country even though it is a callout that may burn some people while accusing Aboki FX of maintaining over 20 bank accounts with “millions of naira and thousands of dollars” going through “annually here in Nigeria”.
Another allegation levelled against Mr. Oniwinde is the registering of a company in the UK as an owner. Findings also reveal that Aboki FX is registered in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, before Aboki FX, black market rates are easily obtained via a simple phone call to black market operators who confirm the rates. Although there can be different rates quoted, the disparity is largely insignificant. Rates may also differ from state to state. However, with Aboki FX, most unofficial forex buyers or sellers access the website to get a guide of what the rates are.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, Aboki FX has been providing false black-market exchange rates which are being termed illegal and not representative of the forex liquidity and true value of the naira.
Furthermore, the CBN appears to be accusing Aboki FX of masterminding the devaluation of the naira from N505/$1 before the ban to over N560/$1 as of September 16, 2021 with false and misleading exchange rates.
Several financial experts have, however, disapproved of the action taken by the apex bank. They insist that the depreciation of the naira was not primarily caused by sites like Aboki FX but policies and impulsive decisions of the apex bank 4 as well as the failure of agencies saddled with the responsibility of the fiscal aspect of the economy to function effectively and stimulate economic growth.
A former presidential candidate and political economist, Prof Pat Utomi, said he disagreed with the decision.
He said, “As a general principle, I disagree with that approach. Of course, markets need to be regulated and have boundaries, but I think that it is too easy to blame markets when sometimes the problem might be from within. I think there is nobody who is knowledgeable that does not know that for a number of years, policymakers were the biggest problem with the forex market.”
“Let us not deceive ourselves, the current order has ruined the forex market, so for those who made such decisions to now complain, I think it is uncharitable. If they continue to clamp down on this and that, then the market would collapse and we will return to where we were in the 1980s,” Utomi continued.
However, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu, has said that currency speculators attack and affect the value of the naira.
Moghalu, who was a deputy governor at the apex bank from 2009 to 2014, made this known in a thread posted on his Twitter handle on Saturday.
He made the comments just hours after the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on Friday, said that the Federal Government would track down the owner of Aboki FX and stop the operations of the website in the country.
Commenting on the FX crisis in the country in a Twitter thread, Moghalu listed factors that affect the value of the Naira to include “supply and demand (if too much Naira is chasing scarce dollars, the dollar gets stronger relative to the Naira, and vice versa).”
“Others are inflation (a high inflation economy such as Nigeria’s weakens the value of the legal tender), high government indebtedness (again, our case especially relative to our revenues and ability to pay which will be stretched the more we borrow on poor revenues, and 90 kobo out of every N1 goes to debt servicing).”
While Moghalu did not mention Aboki FX, he said, “Speculation also affects the naira value, as there are currency traders around the world for whom the weakness of a currency is their very good fortune. Such traders “attack” such currencies for profit, especially where the currency is using a fixed, official exchange rate determined by the central bank instead of the market.”
He continued, “As the Naira is effectively pegged officially to a “reserve” currency (dollars, euros, pound sterling), speculators can attack such a currency for profit if the country (Nigeria in this case) is perceived to have insufficient foreign reserves to meet demand. Because our inflation rates at 17% are way higher than those “reserve-currency” countries, again we are exposed to possible currency attacks.”
Reacting to the apex bank’s clampdown on Aboki FX, Mr. Sodiq Tade said, “When abokiFX was busy updating rates in 2014, it was all fun and APC used it as major campaign. They said Nigerians are not okay with $1/N166 and promised to make it $1/N1. Now that a dollar is N560 instead of solving the actual problem, they are running after imaginary enemy. Abokifx is simply doing what they are known for. I wonder why APC, Buhari and Emefiele see them as opposition. Only an ignorant failure sees the norm as opposition. To APC, everything appears to be an opposition. They are trying to bully abokiFX because their constant rates is evidence of Buhari’s glaring failure. You can bully them, but the failure is everywhere. It takes extra failure to make a dollar 560 from 160 in 6 years.”
Videographer Bimbo said, “It’s not possible that abokifx, a Yoruba man in Lagos is the one who tells Audu, a BDC guy from Zamfara in front of Sheraton hotel, Abuja, how much he is to sell his dollars.”
Medical doctor Chinonso Egemba believes that Aboki FX is not responsible for the devaluation of the naira by simply publishing exchange rates.
“Blame everyone but yourself. That’s the motto of the government here. Imagine Arsenal fans blaming Livescores for publishing scores rather than their manager for abysmal results. It sounds stupid yes? It’s the same thing happening here. Blame abokifx for publishing exchange rates,” he said.
Afam Ezenwakwor said in reaction to the shutdown of Aboki FX, “Now that AbokiFx has shutdown updates of rates, how will that help naira rise? It’s the same thing this government did with border closure. How did it help food production, particularly rice in Nigeria? They told us that it was closed to curb insecurity but are we secured today? What do these guys smoke in APC?”
On-air personality Oseni Rufai said, “If Abokifx could bring down the Naira then the BDCs that sold forex for 100 Naira margin for years must be invincible to the CBN. We play too much in Nigeria.”
Digital marketing expert Sheni Coker said, “The government doesn’t like platforms that publicize their failures and ineptitude. Twitter, blogs, AbokiFX, etc.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, September 17, Aboki FX released an official statement to announce the suspension of rate updates on the platform.
“AbokiFX has taken the decision today, the 17th of September 2021, to temporarily suspend rate updates on all our platforms, until we get better clarity of the situation. Final rates have been posted this evening but the abokiFX news section and the crypto rates section will still be active. AbokiFX does not trade FX, which we have always maintained in our emails and social media platforms. Neither do we have the power to manipulate the rates, we do not create the rates. We sincerely hope this suspension will lead to the Naira appreciation from next week. With our decision to temporarily suspend online rates publication, we are aware that there will be limited visibility of parallel rates information which will impact decision making for many,” the statement read.