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BDC Operators Lament Lack Of Training, Travelex’s Unfair Advantage


CBN-LOGO-OKAS many Nigerians are acclamatising to the realities of conducting business with the Bank Verification Number (BVN), Bureau de Change (BDC) operators are having a hard time working with the new banking initiative, complaining of inadequate training, network failure and lack of public sensitisation on the implications of the scheme on sale of forex.

The operators say it is unfortunate that a 3,500-member association with the option of GSM and Internet portals would squeeze out slots on the BVN validation system, causing down times and loss of man-hour.

They also claim that an international operator in the country, Travelex, is taking unfair advantage of the handicap by indigenous operators, a situation, they argue, is unfair, as Travelex is the sole supplier of dollar in the country.

The Acting President of the Association of Bureau de Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Aminu Gwadabe, in a chat with The Guardian, decried the delay by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in organising workshops to train members of the association and the difficulty the initiative posed for their business.

According to him, “Our challenges have to do with network failure and lack of requisite training. Operators are confused. So, we need trainings so that operators can comply with the policy. This is because we have several ways of validating the BVN. None of them is working because of bad network, either through GSM or Internet. Imagine 3,500 BDC operators using the same system. It is really a big issue for us.”

He said that the development has seriously slowed down business and the association wants the CBN not only to train its members, but also sensitise the public on why BDC operators demand for BVN, as well as, clarification on the scheme.

He noted, “We want a partnership with the CBN. Even as an association, we have written to them, stating that we could just bankroll the training. What we need from them are the facilitators. We cannot just organise training without them having an input. They have to tell us what the requirements and penalties are. We are willing to train ourselves, but the CBN should be willing to provide their facilitators.
“We need public awareness for the entire impact of BVN. To me, BVN should be replaced with Financial Institution Verification number. If one wants to buy car, dealers should ask for BVN, the same should apply to buying shares. All these are like BDC agents. That way, it would be easier. When someone comes and wants to buy dollars or shares, they should be told how they could get the BVN and its uses. We just need the CBN to do enough awareness. The public doesn’t know much about the places where the BVN is required.”

He decried the fact that fraudsters are using the policy as a bait to dupe people, noting that this was possible because there was not much jingles and advertorials on the implications of the BVN.

He noted that since it was the CBN that introduced the scheme, the onus falls on them to carry every other person along, stressing, “There is not much stakeholder awareness on both the print and electronic media. They should tell people that giving their BVN to BDC operators is right and does not in any way compromise their accounts. But we don’t have that yet. When they come and we ask for their BVN number, they act like we want to defraud them. Fraudsters are already compromising the system. We need to clear that impression.”

He regretted that the dilemma of the local operators has given way for a foreign company with a Nigerian subsidiary, Travelex, was to take undue advantage of the situation, as it appears they have perfected process on how to access the validation portal without hassles; they are dominating the market.

Gwadabe argued that the Federal Government has to look into activities of the company, because they were given an opportunity in 2001 during Joseph Sanusi’s tenure at the Central Bank, to sell travelers cheque and no other BDC operator enjoys such privilege and rates have not come down ever since.
“A foreign company wants to come to the country to take over the business of 3,500 companies. We are against it, except if they can make BDC operators as lead agents. If Travelex is coming into this country without considering the over 3,500 BDC operators as being lead agents, we are against it.

Noting that government must encourage local content and guard the interest of her citizens, he said, “Travelex is benefiting from the weaknesses of the system. If the company has a product, which they trade with, they should show us how they are doing it. They are also a member of the BDC operators association. They are able to access the BVN database. They are a foreign company that supplies the dollars that go to government and other BDC operators in the country. As operators, we should be the lead agents to encourage local content.”

When contacted, Travelex said the allegations were unfounded, as the company was carrying out its activities in line with laid down rules.
An official of the company said the firm’s activities are genuine and there was noting to hide as regards how it goes about its operations. “We play by the rules and have no skeleton in our cupboard. In fact, we fear no allegations,” he said.

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