The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday revealed that some foreign missions in Nigeria were using third parties to transact in foreign currencies.

The anti-graft agency, therefore, described the act as illegal under Nigerian law.

The EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, disclosed this during an interview on The Morning Show on Arise Television.

“What actually happened is that the commission, over time, observed that a number of the foreign missions, by how they handled consular services, have engaged third parties to carry out consular services on their behalf, and those third parties have been invoicing in dollars.

“Some even went to the ridiculous extent of determining the exchange rate of the naira in the course of the transaction with Nigerians and some foreign nationals based in Nigeria.

“We thought that that practice conflicted with extant laws and regulations in Nigeria, and we felt compelled to bring this practice to the knowledge of the missions through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he added.

A report on May 11, 2024, highlighted that the EFCC had sent an advisory letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, titled “EFCC Advisory to Foreign Missions against Invoicing in US Dollars.”

The advisory warned foreign missions against transacting in foreign currencies and mandated the use of the naira.

Contrary to sensational headlines, Uwujaren clarified that the EFCC did not have the authority to ban or direct foreign missions on their financial practices.

He stressed that it was illegal for foreign missions to transact in foreign currencies within Nigeria, prompting the commission’s advisory on using the naira.

“We recognise as a commission that foreign missions are representatives of their home countries, enjoy certain diplomatic privileges by international law.

“The commission is not in place to interfere with some of the privileges that they enjoy under international law.

“It is not within the remit of the EFCC to either ban or direct foreign missions in the manner or the way they handle their finances,” the spokesperson noted.

Uwujaren clarified that the EFCC did not directly contact any foreign missions but, instead, informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for communicating with foreign missions.

He stated, “The advisory that we issued was to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and what we did was essentially to bring attention to this practice, which we believe conflicts with Section 20, Subsection 1 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act.

“That section of the recipient Act actually makes the naira the only legal tender in Nigeria, which presupposes that it is the only acceptable currency for doing business within the borders of our country.”

When asked whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had responded to the EFCC advisory, Uwujaren explained that the ministry had established protocols for engaging with foreign missions in Nigeria.

He noted that it was within the ministry’s competence to determine how best to communicate the information to the various foreign missions.

“Essentially, our focus is to discourage the dollarisation of transactions within the local Nigerian economy,” he added.

The spokesperson further stated that the EFCC had also put enforcement measures in place to prevent the abuse of the naira and discourage illegal forex practices.

A special task force, he said, was established to address the naira abuse and forex malpractices across the country.

“We have a special task force on naira abuse and forex malpractices that is working across our zonal commands throughout the federation, and the focus is to discourage people from transacting in dollars because the naira is the only acceptable means of transaction in the country,” he said.

The EFCC spokesperson said the agency had been proactive in informing those involved in these practices that they were against the law, urging them to comply with Nigerian regulations.

“The onus is on them to take corrective actions and ensure that the practices are in alignment with laws and regulations that exist in our country. If they fail to do that, then the commission will have no option but to enforce the law,” he added.

Uwujaren urged Nigerians to report any instances of businesses or individuals charging in dollars instead of the naira while stressing the EFCC’s commitment to protecting the naira and maintaining legal financial practices within the country.