(Adds halt of dollar sales to exchange bureau)
ABUJA, July 27 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank voted unanimously to hold the benchmark lending rate at 11.5% on Tuesday.
It is the fifth straight decision to hold rates, and came as inflation moderated in the past two months after rising to a four-year high earlier this year due to the dual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and falling oil prices.
Governor Godwin Emefiele also announced that the bank will no longer sell U.S. dollars to exchange bureaus, which he said were draining Nigeria’s crucial reserves of U.S. dollars and had become a conduit for graft and illicit flows of money.
“It is a huge haemorrhage on our scarce foreign exchange reserves and it cannot continue,” he said.
Emefiele said the bank would channel more foreign exchange to commercial banks for consumers who had legitimate need, and that it would no longer process or issue new licences for bureau de change operators.
“We will deal ruthlessly with the Nigerian banks who have collaborated with these illegal foreign exchange operators,” he said.
(Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha and Libby George; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean)