The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has appointed nine banks to handle all foreign exchange related transactions for the 2004 Christian pilgrimage.
A memo to this effect signed by the CBN Director of Trade and Exchange, Mr. C.E. Obeto and titled "Re: 2004 Christian Pilgrimage Purchase of Pilgrims Traveling Allowance," listed the appointed banks to include Zenith International Bank Plc, Standard Trust Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Bank of the North Limited, National Bank of Nigeria and Bond Bank Limited.
Specifically, the memo dated November 16, 2004, informed all authorized dealers that the Federal Government has approved a maximum of 12,000 Christians to undertake the pilgrimage to the holy land in 2004.
The Federal Government the memo also stated has approved the purchase of a minimum of US$500 and maximum of US$1,000 by each intending pilgrim as Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) at a concessionary rate of N128.65 per dollar.
While maintaining that the PTA can be purchased at any of the above-stated designated banks, the apex bank directed the banks to sell the permissible amount of PTA in Travelers¡ Cheques to intending pilgrims, whose names and passport numbers are included in the comprehensive pilgrims¡ master list.
The CBN however urged the designated banks not to deny pilgrims the travel allowance on the ground that he or she has no Tax Clearance Certificate.
"In view of the time constraint associated with this pilgrimage exercise, the Chairman or the Secretary of each State Pilgrims' Board after due identification, may be allowed to sign for and collect the allowance on behalf of the intending pilgrims in his or her State on presentation of the approved list and their respective valid passports.
"Please note, however, that abuse of this privilege will be duly sanctioned. Also, in accordance with the Israeli Government's Policy, visa shall only be issued to the pilgrims at the point of entry, that is, at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, and Israel on arrival," stated the apex bank.
Noting that the pilgrimage will be by chartered flights, the banking watchdog emphasized that air ticket requirement for the purpose of procuring the stipulated PTA will not be necessary.
It however stated that the endorsed photostat copies of passports should be retained by the bank for record purposes.
The CBN therefore advised all the nine designated banks to contact the Director, Foreign Operations Department, CBN, and Abuja for details in respect of the purchase of foreign exchange to cover their sales to intending Christian Pilgrims.
Accordingly, it directed the designated banks to render returns in respect of actual sales to the Director, Foreign Operations Department, CBN, Abuja, within 30 days from the end of the exercise.
A total of 19 States and 4,622 pilgrims were approved by the Federal Government for this year's Christian pilgrimage.
This Day (Lagos)