The persistent weakness of the naira, occasioned by low oil price in the international market, calls for devaluation of the currency sooner than later, industry experts have said, urging the Central Bank of Nigeria to review its restrictive foreign exchange polices.
The price of crude oil, the nation’s biggest source of foreign exchange, dropped below $35 per barrel last week, the lowest level since July 2004.
The naira took a further beating at the parallel market, trading near its lowest of N280 against the dollar on Thursday. It had on December 17, 2015 crashed to 280 against the greenback on the unofficial market.
Declining oil prices and the unwillingness of the CBN to devalue the naira amid constrained external reserves had continued to worsen the foreign exchange liquidity position of Nigerian banks, Renaissance Capital, a London-based investment bank, said in a report last month.
The naira had been devalued twice since the drop in global oil prices began, first in November 2014, when the central bank lowered the midpoint of the official peg by eight per cent to 168 per dollar.
In February 2015, the CBN also scrapped its twice-weekly auctions at which the naira was sold at a subsidised rate, a move that resulted in an effective weakening in the exchange rate of the currency by about 15 per cent.
The currency had lost 28 per cent of its value in the six months to February 2015 before the central bank fixed the exchange rate at N198 per dollar and tightened capital controls.
Since then, the central bank has sought to prop up the ailing naira with several measures, including stopping importers of around 40 items from toothpicks to glass and wheelbarrows from buying foreign exchange; restricting the use of local debit cards overseas; lowering Automatic Teller Machine withdrawal limits; and barring Nigerians from depositing hard currencies into their domiciliary accounts.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Economic Associates, Dr. Ayo Teriba, said the restrictions the CBN had recently put in place in the wake of the shortage of foreign exchange had been counter-productive.
He said, “The way forward to a sustainable exchange rate is to attract foreign investment. There is no country that can sustain a stable exchange rate if all you rely upon is what you earn from exports.
“My big issue with the way the central bank has chosen to manage the naira is that the it speaks about the reserves and exchange rate situation as if it is only about trading, and I think they get it wrong in that regard. It is not all about trading; capital flows matter.”
Teriba said the restrictive policies had scared capital away from Nigeria and eroded confidence of wealth holders in holding naira-denominated assets.
He added, “Countries that get comfortable reserves positions are countries that have regard for capital flow. They solicit and court capital flows and encourage people who bring their money into their jurisdiction to retain confidence in their ability to manage it. That is the neglected dimension in the face of the increased demand for forex; the CBN was announcing list of items that you cannot source official forex to import, and that is very wrong.
“By the time you start telling people that they cannot use their debit cards abroad, do you think that is going to encourage them to hold more money in naira? It is going to scare them to even flee the naira the more.”
The Financial Derivatives Company Limited, headed by renowned economist, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, in its latest Economic Bulletin, noted that the next meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN in two weeks would come up at a time when there were mixed signals on the direction of the monetary policy in the country.
“The CBN is expected to announce a new forex policy, which will give it the flexibility to bring the external and domestic economic variables into equilibrium,” they added.
This may include the announcement of a new exchange rate band, with a floor of N185 and a ceiling of N220, during the first quarter of the year, the FDC said.
“Nigeria’s external reserves are below $29bn. The anticipated adjustment in the exchange rate band is expected to slow-down the rate of depletion, as the demand pressure eases. However, with oil prices still soft at $37 per barrel, the likelihood of an accretion is slim,” the FDC analysts said.
The Global Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital, Charles Robertson, said he said in an emailed response to questions from our correspondent, “Given that oil producers around the world are devaluing, from Azerbaijan to Angola, investors do expect a similar move in Nigeria.
“Indeed, letting the market set the currency rate could help President Buhari achieve his anti-corruption goals.”
The Head, Investment Research, Afrinvest West Africa Limited, Mr. Ayodeji Ebo, said, “The challenges we see around the naira have continued to compound, and they show that several policies that the CBN has introduced have refused to yielded any positive results and that call for a review of the policies.
“The pressure we have seen in recent times, especially last week, can still be linked to the fact that the demand for the dollar has not been reduced. It is just that it has been shifted from the interbank to the parallel market.
“It further buttresses what the IMF boss has reiterated in terms of being flexible regarding our foreign exchange policies, which simply put means devaluation, to reflect the current reality that we are seeing in terms of global oil prices that have been on the downward trend.”
Ebo said for the CBN to be able to close the gap between the parallel market and the interbank rates, it would need to devalue the naira by a minimum of 25 per cent.
He added, “But beyond the devaluation, they also need to watch the policies so that we don’t see an immediate increase in the spread between the interbank and the parallel market after the devaluation.
“So, it is more of policy-driven than just devaluing. If we continue to hold on to these restrictive policies, then you create arbitrage and round-tripping and other unethical practices.”
The Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, Ms. Christine Lagarde, had last week during her visit to Nigeria, said the goal of achieving external competitiveness required a package of policies, including business-friendly monetary, flexible exchange rate and disciplined fiscal policies, as well as implementing structural reforms.
“Additional exchange rate flexibility, both up and down, can help soften the impact of external shocks, make output and employment less volatile, and help build external reserves. It can also help avoid the need for costly foreign exchange restrictions, which should, in any case, remain temporary,” she said.
The CBN may revise its target for the naira by more than 20 per cent to 240 to 250 per dollar as oil continues its decline, a London-based economist at Exotix Partners LLP, Alan Cameron, said in a research note last week.
Africa economist at Capital Economics, John Ashbourne, said in a note to clients last Wednesday that Nigeria would be forced to devalue the naira to around 240 per dollar in the first half of 2016, adding, “Cumbersome foreign exchange restrictions are strangling economic growth.”
Polaris Bank Set to Boost Nigerian’s Digital Banking Ecosystem, Unveils a New Digital Bank
With the rising opportunities in the e-payment systems accelerated by the COVID-19 era sweeping across the world, there are indications that one of Nigeria’s leading retail franchise, Polaris Bank, has thrown its hat into the ring as it unveils a new digital Bank.
Feelers indicate that the Bank’s new Digital Bank which has for some time been in test mode amongst its staff and customers is set to grow its market share, targeting a new generation of digital natives and immigrants who are socially and financially aware of innovations in self-service and stress-free transactions. According to industry players, the long wait which greeted the launch was to ensure that the platform is robust enough to meet prevailing global standards and support other existing entities in the digital banking ecosystem.
As part of its enterprise transformation initiatives, the Bank has overhauled its IT infrastructure within the last two years and upgraded its digital capability. According to the Bank’s Managing Director/CEO, Innocent Ike, “this has seen the institution grow to earn the confidence of the banking publics, as it has been able to offer quality banking services at the cutting edge of technology.” The plaudits which greeted the Bank’s recently published 2020 financial performance, has further earned the Bank’s digital transformation efforts, a shot in the arm.
Polaris’ digital Bank, offers a suite of services not readily provided by competitors. Some of such bundled benefits include; access to instant loans, accessing the platform service without being a prior customer of the Bank, and end-to-end account opening without entering a physical bank.
One of the competitive benefits of the Bank is its creation of a collaborative ecosystem that enables Application Programming Interface (API) Banking. API banking refers to a system that makes a bank’s services available to other third-party companies via APIs. API Banking helps both banks and third-party companies augment their complementary specialties and offerings more than they can provide to their customers by themselves.
Through its API, Polaris Bank is reported to have so far onboarded new business start-ups, improved their market access, and ensured profit sharing with partners within the financial technology space. The Agro-businesses, educational institutions, e-commerce, are all set to benefit from the Bank’s platform.
According to recent data released by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), the volume of electronic payment transactions increased by 80 percent year-on-year to 54.07 billion in the first quarter of 2021 from 30.04 billion in the same period of last year.
As a result of the rise in e-payment transactions, income generated by banks via electronic channel transactions also increased by around 52 percent to N53.4 billion in the period under review compared with N35.2 billion in the same period of last year.
With the grand entry of Polaris Bank into the digital Banking space, it is expected that at the close of 2021, the 2020 NIBSS figures will grow exponentially and bolster the overall performance of the country’s e-payment ecosystem. Indeed, many youngsters and digital native enterprises constitute most of the population and the early adopters of digital innovation and lifestyle.
Polaris Bank is a future-determining bank committed to delivering industry-defining products, services, and digital platforms across all the sectors of the Nigerian economy. The Bank is a member of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), which seeks to engage the private sector and the global financial sector to help create a financial sector that serves people and the planet while delivering positive impact.
Ecobank Partners NiDCOM to Mobilise Nigerians Abroad for National Development
In a bid to fulfill it’s objectives and mandate, the Pan African Bank has promised to support Nigerians living and working abroad through it’s partnership with NiDCOM.
The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan has stated that the bank is privileged to work closely with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NiDCOM) and will continue to pursue one of its key mandates of helping to enhance the economic development and integration of Africa through its support to Nigerians living and working abroad.
Speaking at the maiden edition of the Diaspora Quarterly Lecture Series with Ecobank as the sole banking partner which took place on Saturday, 8th May 2021, he noted that Ecobank remains a critical bridge for Nigerians abroad, as it has made huge investments in the necessary platforms to enable them connect with home seamlessly. The event held online and had over 2000 participants from across all the continents in attendance.
“Nigerians in the diaspora play a major role in nation building, their contribution goes a long way to catalyse economic development. For us at Ecobank, we are a pan-African institution positioned to foster the economic growth and integration of our continent, so we are particularly pleased to work closely with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), ably led by the Chairman/CEO, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa”.
“We are committed to ensuring that every Nigerian living abroad is able to remit home seamlessly and affordably, access viable investment opportunities and as the financial institution of choice for Nigerians abroad, we have deployed the necessary resources to actualise this.” He stated.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was also present, reiterated the readiness of the government to collaborate with Nigerians in the diaspora, highlighting the new processes put in place to facilitate passport issuance, noting that all backlog of passport applications would be cleared by the end of May 2021.
Also speaking, the Hon. Minister of State, Foreign Affairs Amb. Zubairu Dada said harnessing the human capital and material resources of Nigerians in the diaspora towards the socio-economic, cultural, and political development of Nigeria can no longer be ignored. He pointed out that the Nigerian diaspora community is well educated, resourceful, skilled, and exposed to global best practices.
The NiDCOM Chairman/CEO, Hon. Abike Dabiri- Erewa explained that the Diaspora Quarterly Lecture Series is projected to be a major aspect of national discourse, where Nigerians abroad can be kept abreast of the government’s policies, programmes and projects.
Increase in Price Boosts Revenue of Dangote Sugar by 41.5 Percent in Q1 2021
Revenue of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc rose by 41.5 percent to N67.394 billion in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021 from N47.643 billion recorded in the same quarter of 2020.
According to the leading sugar manufacturer, the increase in revenue was a result of the increase in the price of sugar in the first quarter. The company claimed price adjustment was necessary to mitigate the negative effect of inflation and depreciation on the company.
Volumes only rose by 5.7 percent during the quarter despite a 41.5 percent increase in revenue, meaning the increase in price was the main sales catalyst.
In the company’s unaudited financial statements, gross profit grew from N12.721 billion in Q1 2020 to N18.044 billion in Q1 2021.
Similarly, operating profit stood at N15.884 billion, up from N10.747 billion posted in Q1 2020.
Finance cost more than double from N1.353 billion in Q1 2020 to N3.412 billion in Q1 2021.
Dangote Sugar’s profit before tax rose from N9.509 billion recorded in the corresponding quarter to N11.949 billion in the quarter under review.
The company paid N3.646 billion in income tax, slightly higher than N3.137 paid in the same quarter of 2020.
Profit for the period grew from N6.372 billion in Q1 2020 to N8.302 billion in Q1 2021.
Commenting on the company’s performance, Dangote Sugar said “EBITDA increased by 34.7% to N17.02 billion (2020: N12.64 billion) on account of increased earnings. Group profit after taxation for the period increased by 30.3% to N8.30 billion (2020: N6.37 billion) reflecting management’s unrelenting drive to deliver consistent shareholder value.”
On price increase, the company hinged it on series of devaluation carried out in 2020 by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), escalating inflation, port congestion and rising in price of global sugar. Dangote Sugar said its imported raw sugar from Brazil under Federal Government’s backward integration plan.
“We have continued to witness high cost of raw materials, energy costs and other input costs due to rising inflation and FX rate fluctuation. Further cost escalation is anticipated in the year as inflationary pressure mounts,” the company said.
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