Foreign currency speculators, who launched an unprecedented attack against the naira in the last two weeks, got their fingers burnt on Tuesday when the nation’s currency staged a major recovery, rising to N310 to a dollar at the close of business, compared to N375 at which it sold on Monday.
The naira fell to an all-time low of about N400 to a dollar on the parallel market last week fuelling concerns that it would plummet further to N450-N500/$ this week.
But findings showed that the naira defied expectations, climbing to as high as N305 to the dollar at some parallel market points in Lagos on Tuesday afternoon, before settling at N310.
Forex dealers and currency analysts attributed the significant gain on the parallel market to excess supply of the greenback in the market, even as it looked like a lot of speculators lost the shirts on their back.
A reliable source that speculators who thought that by attacking the currency last week, coupled with misplaced concerns that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was going to stop the allocation of forex for school fees and medical bills abroad, this would compel the central bank and President Muhammadu Buhari to alter their stance against the devaluation of the currency.
But they were disappointed when Buhari, in Egypt at the weekend, adamantly ruled out the devaluation of the naira on the grounds that Nigeria does not have the competitive advantage to benefit from an official currency adjustment.
Reacting to the president’s stance, speculators who had been betting that the naira would depreciate further, started dumping the dollars with reckless abandon, effectively creating excess supply of the greenback in the parallel market.
Commenting on the situation in the secondary forex market, the chairman, Association of Bureau de Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, said: “The market is moving from perception to reality.”
Similarly, an analyst at Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Kunle Ezun, predicted that the naira would edge higher in the coming days.
“We expect that the naira would appreciate further. We have always said that what happened last week was purely a speculative attack.
Some people felt that if they pushed the naira down to that level, they could force the CBN to devalue, so that when the naira is devalued and the gap widens further, they would now bring out the dollar cash to make a kill,” Ezun said.
He however urged the fiscal authorities to introduce policies that would help stimulate economic activities, saying that the fundamentals of the economy were still weak.
ABCON also aligned with the federal government’s decision not to further devalue the naira.
Gwadabe said this at a media briefing, pointing out that devaluing the naira would create more problems than it would solve.
He said that as a way of enhancing transparency in the BDC sub-sector, his association had decided to introduce a forex rate band weekly.
This rate band is expected to serve as a guide for all BDCs and the public on the prevailing exchange rate across the country, he added.
In addition, it will be operated in line with the regulated forex rate in the economy.
“This is to forestall exploitation of forex end users, and also to ensure that end users are informed to avoid falling victims of exploitation.
“The band will be announced via weekly press releases that will be circulated to the media for publication.
“ABCON will introduce a series of measures aimed at transforming the operations of BDCs in Nigeria to align with global best practices. These include: review and updating of BDC operational manual; introduction of live trading platforms; automation of all transactions and documentation requirements; and increased partnership with the CBN and other relevant agencies.
“Further, as part of its responsibility as a self regulatory organisation (SRO), and also in continuation of its aim to transform its members to compete within the global regulatory currency market, ABCON will seek the approval of relevant monetary and fiscal authorities as well as partnership for effective use of the nation’s external reserves to enhance domestic trade and foreign exchange management.”
“To this end, our website and internet platforms will be developed to position BDCs to serve as agents of Western Union and currency auctioneers.”
“We would also develop platforms that will allow our members to access sources of autonomous foreign exchange like govt agencies, embassies, IOCs and export proceeds, etc,” he explained.
He also urged the federal government to introduce policies that would diversify the economy to increase non-oil export earnings, and reduce imports.
This, according to him, would lead to increased foreign exchange inflow and a reduction in demand for foreign exchange.
In addition to policies that would diversify the economy, ABCON suggested that the CBN should review the policy of dollar importation into the economy for the purpose of defending the naira.
According to the association, the central bank should introduce a policy whereby the naira is used to intervene in the real sectors of the economy to boost productivity.
Furthermore, Gwadabe said as a way of reducing demand for dollars, the CBN should explore the option of promoting the use and acceptability of naira for transactions within the West African sub-region.
He added: “We observe that this is already happening at the level of informal trading activities within the sub-region, and it is our belief that this can be replicated at the level of formal economic activities.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Mr. Atedo Peterside, has expressed concern over the uncertainty arising from the federal government’s foreign exchange policy, warning that it is threatening macroeconomic stability in the country and is unsustainable.
He stated this yesterday at the 2016 Standard Bank West Africa Investors’ Conference tagged, “Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential…Growth through Diversification”.
He said the federal government’s foreign exchange policy is the biggest uncertainty facing the country today following the lack of economic policy direction and the likely composition of Buhari’s economic team for much of the third and fourth quarters of last year.
According to him, “The argument at stake is not whether to devalue or not because there has already been an effective devaluation.
“The naira prices of various capital goods are now being ‘correctly’ priced purely on the basis of realistic expected replacement costs and so the economy is sliding towards an unpalatable scenario where the consumer suffers the ‘pains’ of devaluation (rising prices) without witnessing any of the expected ‘gains’ such as enhanced fiscal viability (in local currency terms at least) of the three tiers of government and increased competitiveness of Nigerian businesses.”
Peterside stressed that the much-craved economic diversification could only take place meaningfully if new capital investment activity takes place to take maximum advantage of increased domestic competitiveness.
“Sadly, most investors here – local and foreign – are currently caught up in a frenzied pursuit of the cheapest available dollars and the difference between losing this game and winning it can be as high as a mind-boggling 50 per cent on new transactions.
“The pursuit of scarce forex for today’s needs has understandably become the main game in town and this has exacerbated the pressures on Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves and the naira via the one-way bet that is currently on against the naira, that is, everybody wants to take foreign exchange out and nobody really wants to bring it in,” he added.
He further stated that the excitement caused by the important development in Nigeria’s political landscape last year, where a change in government occurred at the federal level after a keenly contested election, has given way to some apprehension surrounding whether a populist government can take the necessary tough economic policy actions that are necessary to restore confidence and stimulate badly needed new investment activity.
Tanzania: African Development Fund Approves $116 Million Loan to Upgrade Southern Road Corridor
The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund on Wednesday approved a loan of around $116 million to the Tanzanian government to upgrade a 160-km Mnivata-Newala-Masasi road corridor in the southern part of the country.
The Bank’s loan represents 98.71% of the project cost; the government of Tanzania will provide the remaining 1.29% in funding.
The project will upgrade the roadway, including the 84-meter Mwiti bridge, to bituminous standard. The works also have social components, including the provision of potable water, education and medical infrastructure, the establishment of cashew nut processing units, and extension of entrepreneurial training to women and youth.
The upgrade is expected to open up rural areas in the region and enhance the Mtwara Development Corridor, which links Mtwara Port and Mbamba Bay port on Lake Nyasa. Exporters, importers, small-scale cross-border traders, farmers, transporters are all expected to benefit.
“The periodic isolation of such a significant population worsens vulnerability and undermines social inclusion. Improved road connectivity would therefore build the resilience of the people and widen livelihood opportunities within the Mtwara Development Corridor and the surrounding districts,” Bank Director General for East Africa Nnenna Nwabufo said.
Overall, the five-year project will improve mobility and accessibility for about 1.1 million people in Mtwara, Tandahimba, Newala and Masasi districts and facilitate integration with neighbouring Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
Currently, the districts of Tandahimba and Newala, with an estimated combined population of 509,000 people, are mostly cut off, while connection with the Mtwara port area for essential supplies is severely constrained during rainy seasons due to the state of the road.
The project will advance Tanzania’s current five-year Development Plan (2021-2026) and aligns with the Bank Group’s Country Strategy Paper (2021-2025) which emphasizes sustainable infrastructure for a competitive economy and an improved private sector business environment for job creation, as well as two High-5 strategic priorities: Integrate Africa and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
At 30 June 2021, the Bank Group’s active portfolio in Tanzania comprised 22 operations (19 public and 3 private) with a total commitment of about $2.4 billion.
FirstBank Expands Its International Money Transfer Network, Reinforces its Commitment to Customer Service
In furtherance of the need to expand diaspora remittance inflow into the country, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has increased its network of International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs), targeted at easing the accessibility of its customers to receive money from close to 100 countries across the world in a safe and secured manner. With over 750 branches across the country, customers can receive money from the nearest FirstBank branch closest to them.
Over the years, FirstBank has been in partnership with Western Union, MoneyGram, Ria, Transfast, and WorldRemit. The bank is also in partnership with other IMTOs which include Wari, Smallworld, Sendwave, Flutherwave, Funtech, Thunes and Venture Garden Group to promote remittance inflow into the country, thereby putting Nigerians and residents at an advantage in receiving money from their families, friends and loved ones across the world.
Beneficiaries can receive remittance in US dollars in any of our over 750 branches spread across the country. Customers without an existing domiciliary account can have dollar account automatically created for their remittances. You can also receive inflow directly into your account through Western Union.
In addition, FirstBank has launched its wholly owned remittance platform named First Global Transfer product to promote the international transfer of funds across its subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa. These subsidiaries include FBNBank DRC, FBNBank Ghana, FBNBank Gambia, FBNBank Guinea, FBNBank Sierra-Leone, FBNBank Senegal.
Reiterating the Bank’s resolve in promoting diaspora remittances, regardless of where one is across the globe, the Deputy Managing Director, Mr Gbenga Shobo said “at FirstBank, expanding our network of International Money Transfer Operators is in recognition of the significant roles diaspora remittances play in driving economic growth such as helping recipients meet basic needs, fund cash and non-cash investments, finance education, foster new businesses and debt servicing.
We are excited about these partnerships, as it is essential to ensure our customers are at an advantage to receive money from their loved ones and business associates, anywhere they are, across the world.”
FirstBank pioneered international funds transfer and remittances over 25 years ago and has been at the forefront of promoting cross border payments in the country, having started the journey with Western Union Money Transfer. The Bank’s wealth of experience and operation in over 750 locations nationwide gives it the edge in the market.
Private Sector Seeks FG’s Directive on VAT Payment
The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) on Sunday in Lagos called on the Federal Government to urgently make a pronouncement on the ongoing controversy over VAT payment so that businesses will know what to do.
OPSN chairman, Mr Taiwo Adeniyi, made the call at a news conference and said delays in addressing the issue could cause negative effects on businesses, most especially in the collection and remittances of VAT.
“We are aware that by Sept. 21 we get penalised if we do not pay or remit the VAT for the month of August.
“We are also aware that laws are not made in retrospect. It then means that even if those laws have been enacted, particularly the Lagos State law which came into effect in September, it will not affect the payment by businesses in the state.
“Due to our remittances, we have issues with the fact that the law for Rivers was made in August and the majority of the businesses in Lagos usually will have a relationship with the Rivers State Inland Revenue too.
“The confusion in the public space is the reason we are calling on the government to come to our aid as we want to pay.
“It is for the government at the center to make a pronouncement as to what becomes of us,’’ he said.
Adeniyi, who is also the President of, Nigeria’s Employers Consultative Association (NECA), said that the ongoing challenge had the potential to make businesses pay double VAT in view of demands by the FIRS and state governments.
He said that businesses, as the collecting agents, were practically unclear on the authority to remit to and without a clear path, this would further aggravate the pain on businesses.
“It is a popular saying that where two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
“It is no longer news that Nigerian businesses have been battling with myriads of challenges, making the survival of enterprises and ease of doing business in the country among the worst in this part of the world,’’ he said.
There has been controversy over the collection of VAT after a Federal High Court ruled that it was not the duty of the Federal Government to collect the tax.
VAT is normally collected by the Federal Government since the military era and the money is shared by the three tiers of government.
Following the court ruling, however, Lagos and Rivers states passed laws that allowed them to collect VAT.
FIRS, which used to collect the VAT on behalf of the Federal Government, has challenged the court ruling at the appellate court.
OPSN comprises the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NECA, Nigeria Association of Small Scale Industries and the Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.
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