The Central Bank of Nigeria on Friday said it observed that some banks are operating accounts either as companies or companies masking themselves as individuals for the purpose of illegally receiving money transfer flows into those accounts for onward disbursements to recipients in Nigeria.
This came on the day the naira sustained its downswing on the parallel market as it fell to a record low of N412 to the dollar, as against the N408 to the dollar it closed the previous day.
To curb this international fund transfer, the CBN in a circular titled: “Illegal International Money Remittances Through the Banking System,” dated August 25, 2016, and signed by its Acting Director, Trade and Exchange Department, Mr. W.D. Gotring, directed banks to identify and freeze such accounts receiving illicit flows with immediate effects.
The banks were also directed to submit the mandate and account details of these accounts held in naira or foreign currency to it for onward reporting to the security agencies.
“The CBN therefore reiterates that deposit money banks have the absolute responsibility to conduct Know Your Customers’ Business (KYCB) checks on all their customers to ensure that they do not transact in illegal/illicit flows,” it added.
Meanwhile, experts have expressed concern that the falling value of the naira coupled with a high inflation rate of 16.5 per cent is making the nation’s currency to lose its function as a store of value.
But on the interbank forex market, the spot rate of the naira rose marginally to N314.95 to the dollar yesterday, higher than the N316.84 to the dollar it closed the previous day.
The strong depreciation of the naira on the parallel forex market was majorly attributed to the strong demand for the greenback by customers of the eight banks that were banned from foreign exchange transactions.
It was gathered that a lot of them now patronise the parallel market for dollar purchases to meet their pressing obligations as they await the resolution of the matter between their financial institutions and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The CBN on Tuesday barred nine banks from participating in the forex market for not remitting a total of $2.334 billion Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)/Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company dollar deposits to the federal government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA).
The affected banks were: the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Ltd, Diamond Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, Keystone Bank, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Ltd and Heritage Bank Limited.
But UBA was re-admitted into the forex market by the CBN on Thursday having complied with its directive.
Speaking in a telephone interview with THISDAY yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer of Graeme Blaque Group, Zeal Akaraiwe faulted the restriction of the banks from participating in the forex market, saying the action by the central bank sent a wrong signal to investors.
“There CBN ought to have imposed other punishment. We are having serious forex problem in this country, clients cannot find forex and you are banning banks from the forex market. What I see is that we are trying to sabotage ourselves.
“This would certainly affect investor confidence, especially the foreign investors which we have been pursuing. The financial market works on a lot of confidence and destroying the confidence does not help anybody.”
Akaraiwe expressed concern that the nation’s currency has lost its quality as a store of value, saying a lot of people may be forced to dump the currency for other stronger currencies.
“Of course, it is going to increase the pressure in the forex market. And we cannot do anything about the dollar because we do not have natural control over dollar cash flow. One of the things we are suffering is cash flow problem. That is, we have dollar assets on the ground as oil, we have dollar assets sitting in oil companies, but we don’t have dollar cash and we are not doing anything to fix the problem.
“I keep emphasising that in the financial market, confidence is very important and you must do all to retain that confidence, but not by banning banks from the forex market,” Akaraiwe added.
Also, the chief executive officer of an investment bank who pleaded to remain anonymous expressed concern over the loss of value of the naira.
He urged both the fiscal and monetary authorities to fake urgent steps to correct the structural imbalances in the economy, saying the country’s economic managers must not fold their arms and watch the country go the way of Zimbabwe whose currency has been battered.
Gold Gained Ahead of Joe Biden Inauguration 2021
Gold price rose from one and a half month low on Tuesday ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
The precious metal, largely regarded as a haven asset by investors, edged up by 0.2 percent to $1,844.52 per ounce on Tuesday, up from $1,802.61 on Monday.
He said, “The key factor appears to be the (U.S.) currency.”
As expected, a change in administration comes with the change in economic policies, especially taking into consideration the peculiarities of the present situation. In fact, even though Biden, Janet Yellen and the rest of the new cabinet are expected to go all out on additional stimulus with the support of Democrats controlled Houses, economic uncertainties with rising COVID-19 cases and slow vaccine distribution remained a huge concern.
Also, the effectiveness of the vaccines can not be ascertained until wider rollout.
Still, which policy would be halted or sustained by the incoming administration remained a concern that has forced many investors to once again flee other assets for Gold ahead of tomorrow’s inauguration.
Crude Oil Holds Steady Above $55 Per Barrel on Tuesday
Brent Crude oil, against which Nigerian crude oil is priced, rose from $54.46 per barrel on Monday to $55.27 per barrel as of 9:03 am Nigerian time on Tuesday.
Last week, Brent crude oil rose to 11 months high of $57.38 per barrel before pulling back on rising COVID-19 cases and lockdowns in key global economies like the United Kingdom, Euro-Area, China, etc.
While OPEC has left 2021 oil demand unchanged and President-elect Joe Biden has announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, experts are saying the rising number of new cases of COVID-19 amid poor vaccine distribution could drag on growth and demand for oil in 2021.
On Friday, Dan Yergin, vice-chairman at IHS Markit, said in addition to the stimulus package “There are two other things that are going with it … one is of course, vaccinations — in the sense that eventually this crisis is going to end, and maybe by the spring, lockdowns will be over.”
“The other thing is what Saudi Arabia did. This is the third time Saudi Arabia has made a sudden change in policy in less than a year, and this one was to announce (the) 1 million barrel a day cut — partly because they are worried about the impact of the surge in virus that’s occurring,” he said.
Also, the stimulus being injected into the United States economy could spur huge Shale production and disrupt OPEC and allies’ efforts at balancing the global oil market in 2021.
Crude Oil Pulled Back Despite Joe Biden Stimulus
Crude oil pulled back on Friday despite the $1.9 trillion stimulus package announced by U.S President-elect, Joe Biden.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, pulled back from $57.38 per barrel on Wednesday to $55.52 per barrel on Friday in spite of the huge stimulus package announced on Thursday.
On Thursday, OPEC, in its latest outlook for the year, said uncertainties remain high in 2021 with the number of COVID-19 new cases on the rise.
OPEC said, “Uncertainties remain high going forward with the main downside risks being issues related to COVID-19 containment measures and the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior.”
“These will also include how many countries are adapting lockdown measures, and for how long. At the same time, quicker vaccination plans and a recovery in consumer confidence provide some upside optimism.”
Governments across Europe have announced tighter and longer coronavirus lockdowns, with vaccinations not expected to have a significant impact for the next few months.
“The complex remains in pause mode, a development that should not be surprising given the magnitude of the oil price gains that have been developing for some 2-1/2 months,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said.
Still, OPEC left its crude oil projections unchanged for the year. The oil cartel expected global oil demand to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to an average of 95.9 million per day in 2020.
But also OPEC expects a recent rally and stimulus to boost U.S. Shale crude oil production in the year, a projection Investors King experts expect to hurt OPEC strategy in 2021.
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