The Central Bank of Nigeria (“CBN”) on 31 January 2024 released the revised Guidelines for International Money Transfer Services in Nigeria (the ‘’Guidelines’’) which effectively repealed the previous guidelines issued in 2014 (the “2014 Guidelines”). The Guidelines were issued in light of the recent reforms to liberalise the foreign exchange market, and with the aim to boost diaspora remittances and other foreign capital inflows to Nigeria, among others.
The Guidelines specify among others, the licencing requirements for IMTOs in Nigeria, their permissible and non-permissible activities, AML/CFT/CPF requirements, as well as their operational and reporting requirements.
We have highlighted the key provisions of the Guidelines below:
Licensing Requirements for IMTOs in Nigeria
Unlike the 2014 Guidelines, the Guidelines prescribe a two-level approval for a prospective IMTO licencee: Approval-in-Principle (AIP) and Final Approval. For an applicant to be granted an AIP and Final Approval, the applicant must submit the required documents specified in the Guidelines to the Director, Trade and Exchange Department of the CBN. The applicant is expected to pay a non-refundable fee of N10,000,000 or such other amount as the CBN may specify from time to time and is also expected to maintain the minimum share capital requirement of US$1,000,000 or the Naira equivalent.
In addition to the requirements of the Guidelines, applicants are expected to also comply with the requirements of Section 4 and 5 of the CBN Guidelines for Licensing of Banks and Other Financial Institutions in Nigeria on Anti Money Laundering, Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Countering Proliferation Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction (AML/CFT/CPF) relating to disclosure of beneficial ownership and political exposed persons.
Prohibitions of Persons/Institutions
In contrast to the 2014 Guidelines which only prohibited deposit money banks from operating as IMTOs, the Guidelines extend the prohibition to include all banks in Nigeria and financial technology companies. However, banks are permitted to act as agents of an IMTO. An agent in this regard is defined to mean a suitable entity engaged by an IMTO to provide money transfer services on its behalf, using the agent’s premises, staff and/or technology.
The provisions of Section 47 of BOFIA 2020 which relate to the prohibition of employment of certain persons in banks also applies to IMTOs. This means that before any IMTO can appoint any director, chief executive, or management staff of such grade, such IMTO is to obtain the written approval of the CBN.
Annual Renewal Requirements
The Guidelines prescribe a novel requirement for IMTOs to renew their licence every year by paying an annual renewal fee of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira only) or any other amount specified by the CBN. The licence renewal fee is to be paid within the first quarter of every year.
Overseas Partnership Requirements
An indigenous IMTO who wishes to engage a foreign technical partner is required to obtain the prior approval of the CBN subject to certain conditions as follows: (a) the technical partner must be a registered entity in its home country with approval to carry on international money transfer services; (b) the overseas technical partner should be well established in money transfer services business, with a verifiable track record of operations; (c) there should be a memorandum of understanding between the parties and (d) the CBN shall conduct appropriate due diligence on the promoters, directors and key officers of the proposed IMTO.
IMTOs are only permitted to facilitate inbound international money transfer transactions only, which shall be limited to the following activities:
- the acceptance of monies for the purpose of transmitting them to persons resident in Nigeria:
- cross border personal money transfer services, such as money transfer services towards family maintenance, or in favour of foreign tourists visiting Nigeria; and
- the money transfer shall target individual customers and the transaction shall be on ‘’person to person’’, ‘’business to person’’ and ‘’business to business’’ transfer basis which may be reviewed by the CBN from time to time.
IMTOs are prohibited by the Guidelines from engaging in the following activities:
- any other business other than permissible activities;
- any outbound transaction. We note that this is also a new provision as the 2014 Guidelines had permitted IMTOs to engage in outbound money transfer services; and
- purchase of foreign exchange from the domestic foreign exchange market for settlement.
Returns to Regulators
IMTOs are expected to submit daily, weekly and monthly returns using the prescribed template to the Director, Trade and Exchange Department of the CBN. In addition, IMTOs are to submit suspicious transactions report to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) filed in the originating country no later than twenty-four (24) hours after such transaction.
The Guidelines provide that all in-bound money transfers to Nigeria shall be paid to beneficiaries in Naira only through a bank account or cash. IMTOs shall use the prevailing exchange rate at the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market on the day the transfer is received. Where the amount exceeds the equivalent of $200 (Two Hundred United States Dollars), payment shall not be made in cash, but through an account. Qualified cash payments shall only be made upon the provision of a satisfactory an acceptable means of identification. The Guidelines effectively amend all previous CBN circulars which allowed remittance to be made either in foreign currency or in Naira, by mandating only Naira payments.
Authors: Oludare Senbore, Partner | Adeyemi Ayeku, Associate | Esther Yugbovwre, Associate.
 IMTOs are companies approved by the CBN to facilitate the transfer of funds from individuals or entities residing abroad to recipients in Nigeria, and the payment of a corresponding sum to a beneficiary through a clearing network to which the IMTO belongs.
 IMTO applicants are to submit the documents listed in the CBN AML/CFR/CPF Guidelines in order to obtain an Approval-in-Principle.