May 8, 2017 / 6:32 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Nigeria's central bank releases $81.2 mln for dollar requests

(Adds central bank statement)

LAGOS, May 8 (Reuters) - Nigeria's central bank said it released $81.2 mln for dollar requests on Monday in a continuing drive to improve liquidity.

In an emailed statement, the bank said it provided $44 million to meet requests for expenses such as medical and school fees, and to cover travel allowances. It said a further $37.2 million was provided for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The central bank has been intervening aggressively since February to try to narrow the spread between the official and black market rates and has sold more than $4 billion. In theory, greater liquidity should lead rates to converge.

"The bank remains committed to ensuring that there is enough supply of forex to genuine customers to achieve the goal of forex rates convergence," spokesman Isaac Okorafor said in the statement.

Earlier traders, citing a memo from the central bank, said the regulator had planned to offer $100 million in forwards at an auction on Monday but did not disclose the settlement period. They said the dollar auction would be both for spot and forward settlements and have to be backed by customer demand.

The Nigerian naira traded at around 400 to the dollar in deals for investors on Monday, traders told Reuters, two weeks after the central bank allowed investor trade in the currency at market-determined rates.

The naira was quoted at 381.11 per dollar for investors on Monday, data from market regulator FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange showed. FMDQ provides daily opening and closing quotes on the naira.

The official market rate was 305.20 on Monday and the black market rate 391. (Reporting by Oludare Mayowa in Lagos and Camillus Eboh, in Abuja; writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Chijioke Ohuocha and Mark Heinrich)

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