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Pressure to Devalue Naira Grows Amid CBN Resistance

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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.”

Punch

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Finance

Unity Bank Partners RIFAN Mega Rice Pyramid Display, Pledges More Support for Farmers

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Agric-focused lender, Unity Bank Plc has partnered Nigerian rice farmers under the aegis of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN to unveil a mega rice pyramid on the occasion of the National Rice Festival held in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on Tuesday.

The event, which coincided with the flag-off of the dry season farming, was used to showcase the gains produced by rice farmers in driving self-sufficiency in rice production through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP.

Speaking to newsmen at the event, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Unity Bank, Mrs. Tomi Somefun, while going down memory lane on the support of the rice farmers by the Bank since the inception of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP commended the rice farmers for their unwavering belief and collaboration in the implementation of the intervention programme, adding that as the PFI (Preferred Financial Institution) for the ABP transactions, the Bank will continue to support the farmers and ensure that more smallholder farmers get the requisite financial support to boost rice production.

She said: “Our strategic partnership with RIFAN started in 2018 when we financed about 273,000 smallholder farmers. This was the largest single-ticket transaction in that year. This financing cut across 33 states of the Federation including the FCT.

“In 2019, the Bank increased the tally by financing another 146,810 smallholder farmers for the wet and dry season farming. This funding cut across 35 States of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“Additional funding was granted to finance additional 221,450 smallholder farmers of the Association across the 32 states of the Federation including FCT for the wet season and additional 300,000 hectares was financed in sixteen states for the 2020 dry season cropping season.

“As of March 2021, the Bank has financed no fewer than 190,000 smallholder rice farmers across 35 states including the FCT, Abuja.”

Speaking further, she said: “The rice pyramids we see here today is an example of the resilience of the farmers and should be replicated in all states with a focus on the crop they have a competitive advantage.

“As we gear the programme towards deepening its penetration to reach more farmers, we encourage all beneficiaries of the Intervention Programme to always utilize the inputs judiciously in order to key into Federal Government’s goal of attaining food sufficiency, diversification of the economy from oil, job creation for the teeming youth and poverty reduction”.

“We remain optimistic that RIFAN under the able leadership of the National President, Aminu Goronyo, will continue to engage its members to drive higher performance under the ABP.”

Through the strategic initiative of the ABP, Nigeria has made incredible gains in rice production over the past six years raising production to significant levels.

Official reports show that from an average yield of 1.8 metric tonnes per hectare in the pre-ABP era, the initiative has increased the country’s average yield per hectare for rice paddy and maize to about five metric tonnes per hectare.

Similarly, the average capacity utilisation per annum of domestic integrated rice mills has jumped to 90 per cent, from the 30 per cent that was the case in the era preceding the advent of the ABP.

Statistics show that there has been a significant reduction in the country’s rice import bill, from a monstrous $1.05 billion prior to November 2015, to the current figure of $18.50 million, annually. The programme has also created an estimated 12.3 million direct and indirect jobs across the different value chains and food belts of the country.

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Consumer Loans Hit N2trn, CBN Attributes Rise to Improved Credit Appraisal by Banks

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The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has disclosed that the volume of consumer loans has risen to two trillion naira as recorded in October, 2021.

It stated that the increase has been persistent since last year, rising by 37 percent, year-on-year, YoY. In October, 2020, the value of consumer loans recorded was N1.47 trillion.

CBN, however, attributed the increase to improved credit appraisal and the various products offered by banks and other lenders in rendering their services.

The CBN data stated that, “monthly economic report for October, 2021, showed that the growth in consumer loans was driven by a 52 per cent, YoY increase in personal loans, which rose to N1.57 trillion in October 2021. 

“Consequently, the share of personal loans in the total consumer loans basket rose to 78 per cent in October 2021 from 70.4 per cent in October 2020.”

On the month-on-month (MoM) record, consumer lending moved from N1.94 trillion in September 2021 to N2 trillion in October 2021– an increase of 3.4 per cent.

The CBN noted that the continuous growth in personal loans increased consumer credit outstanding. The personal loans are from credit appraisal and diverse products by banks. 

“Total consumer credit extended by the Other Depository Corporations (ODCs) grew by 3.4 per cent to N2,009.88 billion at the end of October 2021, from N1,942.87 billion at the end of September 2021. 

“The ratio of consumer credit to the total credit to the private sector in October 2021 was 8.7 per cent, the same share as in the preceding month. 

“A disaggregation of consumer loans revealed that personal loans maintained their dominance, accounting for 78.0 per cent, increasing by 2.3 percentage points, above the level in the preceding month, while retail loans accounted for the balance of 22.0 per cent,” the CBN data stated.

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We Are Not Affiliated With Access Capital Investment Platform, Access Bank Warns

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The management of Access Bank Plc has issued a disclaimer in respect of the Access Capital Investment Platform which has been circulating.

The bank, which dissociates itself and its subsidiaries from the investment platform noted that the online investment entity has been soliciting members of the public to invest in its Access Capital Investment products promising mouth-watering returns on investment.

“By this disclaimer, Access Bank Plc wishes to dissociate itself, affiliates, subsidiaries and/or proxies from the activities, contract, claims or business engagements of Access Capital Investment Platform”, the bank said.

The bank further stressed that “Access Capital Investment Platform is not an affiliate nor subsidiary of Access Bank Plc and it would be at the risk of anyone who invests in any of the Access Capital Investment packages/products, as Access Bank Plc would not be responsible for any loss, damages, refund whatsoever that may arise therefrom”.

According to Access bank, relevant law enforcement and regulatory agencies have been notified of this disclaimer.

Investors King reports that there are lots of fake investments platforms in Nigeria. These platforms offer unsuspecting members of the public investments return that are too good to be true.

Most times, they offer fake – but often convincing – opportunity to make a profit after they hand over a sum of money. They pretend to be representing a legitimate and trusted investment group and pressurize their victims into making a rushed decision.

Usually, these fraudsters use platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to lure people into investing in cryptocurrencies, foreign exchange and binary options and often have convincing social media profiles or websites with fake reviews. Some of them even pay people to write fake reviews for them.

Recall that Investors King had earlier reported that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq warned the beneficiaries of the N-Power scheme not to participate in any unverified investment scheme.

She had noted, in a statement, that the ministry is aware of the current fraudulent investment scheme trending on social media and therefore, urged N-power beneficiaries not to fall victim.

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