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By Oludare Mayowa
LAGOS Jan 10 Nigeria's bureau de change
operators set their first ever reference exchange rate for the
naira at 399 to the dollar on Tuesday, saying they wanted to
help reduce the gap with the official interbank rate.
The government has been pressing retail operators to narrow
what it says is a damaging gulf between the naira's
official rate - currently at 305 to the dollar - and the
parallel rate - as weak as 490 in recent days.
Bureau de Change association president Aminu Gwadabe, who is
due to meet central bank officials later on Tuesday, said his
members had agreed to set a weekly reference rate to improve
liquidity and help rebuild investors' confidence on the economy.
"Once liquidity improves, the wide margin between the
parallel and official market rates will be bridged," Gwadabe
He said the naira's outlook was "promising" as crude prices
have started to rise. Low prices have dried up the oil income
that makes up 70 percent of government revenues, cutting the
dollar supply and pushing Africa's largest economy into
Retail currency operators account for less than 5 percent of
total foreign currency trading in Nigeria. But with liquidity
poor on the official market due to low oil revenues and the
central bank left as the main dollar supplier, the bureau de
changes have done more business.
Gwadabe said the body was seeking approval from the central
bank to access dollars from exporters and has recommended
suspension for some of its members for failing to submit
documents on forex purchases from money transfer agents.
The naira lost a third of its official value against the
dollar in 2016.
(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha)