A total of N2 billion or $0.5 billion was outstanding in foreign bank accounts in favour of the 34 commercial banks operating in the country as at the end of July 1987.
According to The Republic investigation this represents a phenomenal increase in the commercial banks foreign exchange holding in banks outside the country.
As at July 1986, the banks foreign exchange holdings with banks outside the country was put at N341.1 million. This figure grew astronomically to a total of N1.9202 billion in June 1987 a 462.9 per cent increase.
Within one month, June/July 1997 the foreign exchange build up to the commercial banks to N2.0525 billion a 6.8 per cent increase.
According to investigation, the foreign exchange build-up of commercial banks in Nigeria if repatriated home will reduce greatly the pressure of the naira.
According to our investigation foreign exchange balance held with the offices and branches outside Nigeria as at July 1986 was N23.6 million. This rose also to N205.3 million as at June 1987, a 580.7 per cent rise. The branch offices balance however declined to N162 million at the end of July giving 21.1 per cent decline.
According to research economist with banks, the period of the rapid foreign exchange build up of these commercial banks is the period when Nigeria was most hit by foreign exchange crunch.
CBN sources which confirmed the figures revealed that despite this huge foreign exchange build up, banks still press for foreign exchange at the Foreign Exchange Market, FEM, thus bringing undue pressure to bear on the naira.
CBN sources disclosed that banks were directed in the recent past to repatriate home their foreign exchange in banks outside Nigeria which banks failed to comply with.
The CBN sources expressed disgust at the half measure taken in the past to compel banks to bring home their foreign exchange build up abroad.
According to the sources if commercial banks were sensitive to the foreign exchange problems of the country, they ought to have yielded to the call for foreign exchange repatriation.
According to export firm sources, while banks build up large foreign exchange reserve with banks outside Nigeria they (exporters) are hunted daily for non-foreign exchange repatriation of their exports proceeds.
Last Monday, the managing director of Savannah Bank, Chief George Okonkwo said that out of an estimated N492.92 million dollars (2.069 billion) in proceeds from non-oil export between October 1986 and June 1987, only 206.3 million representing 48 per cent of the amount had been repatriated.