21 December 2012

Nigeria: FG Yet to Peg Maximum Foreign Currency for Travellers

There are indications that the Federal Government has not fixed a maximum amount of foreign currency that a passenger is allowed to take out of the country.

The recent arrests of passengers, who were alleged to be smuggling foreign currency out of the country showed that the limit of money any passenger can take out of the country is at the discretion of immigration officials at the airport.

A top immigration official told THISDAY that although the maximum stipulated amount of foreign currency by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that a passenger could take out of the country is $10,000, this amount could be exceeded provided the passenger could explain the source of the money.

He stated that besides explaining the source of the money, the passenger must also explain what he intends to do with the money overseas, adding that whether he would be allowed to travel with the money or he would be stopped depends on how he is able to convince the immigration officials and other security operatives concerned.

The officer explained: "No amount is a crime but you must confirm or declare the source of the money. So you don't have to be hiding the money as if you are smuggling it. It is when you smuggle it that you can be arrested. The recent arrest of the son of a governor is however politically motivated."

Investigations revealed that many of those who attempted to smuggle monies out of the country were aided by airport workers who used their on duty card (ODC) to pass them through the security critical area, where the passenger and his hand luggage are screened.

Most of the arrests were made at that point when the airport worker tried to shield the passenger by carrying his bag or making sure that the bag is not thoroughly screened by his colleagues.

Disturbed by the movement of large amount dollar in and out of the country, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, recently disclosed plans to stop cash sale of dollars to Bureaux de Change (BDC) operators.

Sanusi had said: "The dollarisation of the economy is a big problem for all of us and it is something that we are going to work towards stopping it."

Similarly, the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) recently called for improved security at Free Trade Zones (FTZs) across the country so as to control the menace of money laundering.

Director-General, GIABA, Dr. Abdullahi Shehu, argued that wherever there was free flow of money, criminals would attempt to utilise loopholes in regimes "to wash their ill-gotten proceeds,"

He added: "The standards, oversight, and regulations governing FTZs have not kept pace with these developments. As a result, illicit actors have been able to take advantage of the vulnerability of FTZs to launder the proceeds of crime. It is therefore of urgent need for FTZs to be kept abreast of their responsibilities in implementing Anti-money Laundering and Combating of the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes within their operational zones to prevent the misuse of FTZs as a conduit for money laundering, financing of terrorism and financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

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