The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has predicted that the nation’s economy will likely come out of recession by the fourth quarter of this year when the result of the various measures put in place by the Federal Government and the monetary authorities becomes manifest.
One of such measures, according to him, is the decision of the CBN to establish a bridge fund for the government to utilise to stimulate the economy whenever there is a need for it.
Emefiele, who spoke to media executives in Lagos on Saturday, said, “We are already in the valley, the only direction is to go up the hill and the government is doing everything possible to ensure that we move up the hill. I am optimistic that based on the actions being taken by the monetary and fiscal authorities, the fourth quarter results will show evidence that we have started to move out of the recession.
While explaining the reasoning behind the bridge fund, the apex bank boss said, “Both the monetary and fiscal authorities are working together and that is why you can see a situation where today even when we have revenue shortage or deficit, the monetary authority is trying to bridge the gap.
“We said to the fiscal authority that we can give you a bridge to go ahead and spend, and when you obtain the foreign loan that you are negotiating, or when your revenue improve, you can repay the bridge that we have created for you in order to stimulate spending. That is a practical case of collaboration between the monetary and fiscal authorities.”
He alluded to the release of another batch of N350bn by the Ministry of Finance to stimulate the economy as another measure taken by the government to get the nation out of recession.
Following the introduction of a flexible exchange rate regime, Emefiele said foreign investors’ interest in the Nigerian economy was gradually increasing, adding that in the last three months, almost $1bn in Foreign Direct Investment had come into the country.
He stated, “I wasn’t optimistic that the FDI would come initially, but with what we have seen in three months, almost $1bn, I feel very confident that there will be more inflow into the system and more and more people will have foreign exchange available for them to do their business.
“That will improve industrial capacity. The rate may be high now, but there’s high possibility that with more availability of foreign exchange, the rate will come down. I am very optimistic that a lot of positive things will happen.
“I have talked about how the fiscal authority is trying to push in liquidity to stimulate consumption, demand consumption expenditure; and of course, when consumer consumption is stimulated, demand for goods will go up and if the demand goes up, the industrial capacity will improve. If we maintain a steady course in the way we are going, and if all those who have foreign exchange repatriate them, more and more people will have foreign exchange to do their business, that will improve industrial capacity.”
Another way to inject liquidity into the system, according to the CBN governor, is for the Federal Government to sell some of its assets in the oil and gas industry in order to raise money.
Emefiele said, “In April 2015, even before this government came on board, I had opined that there was a need for the government to scale down or sell off some its investments in oil and gas, particularly in the NNPC and the NLNG, at that time when the price of oil was around $50-$55 per barrel. We actually commissioned some consultants that conducted a study and at the end of that study, we were told that if we sell 10 per cent to 15 per cent of our holding in the oil and gas sector that we could realise up to $40bn.
“Unfortunately, the markets have become soft. If we choose to do that now, we can still get $10bn to $15bn, or maybe $20bn. If we have that kind of liquidity, it will be easy for us to really stimulate spending and also to turn the economy around. That proposal is still on the table, because I have also heard that some of our colleagues in the Federal Executive Council have talked about it and a lot of people too.
“If we take that option, I am optimistic we will be able to stimulate the economy and earn the foreign currency that we can really use to kick-start it.”
Another measure being considered by the Federal Government, according to him, is the shortening of the procurement process in order to accelerate the process of executing capital projects in view of the fact that the budget was not passed until May.
On the factors that pushed the economy into recession, the apex bank boss said the plunge in the prices of crude oil in the international market severely affected Nigeria’s earnings, in addition to the country’s inability to save when the prices were high and invest massively in infrastructure.
He also blamed unbridled appetite for the consumption of foreign goods for the recession, adding, “In 2005, Nigeria’s import bill was only about N70bn, but by 2015, Nigeria’s import bill had risen to about N790bn. What were we consuming?”
While reacting to the governor’s optimism that the recession would start easing off in the fourth quarter, economic and financial experts said on Sunday that it would be nearly impossible for the nation to come out of recession this year.
They said if the Federal Government implemented appropriate measures to tackle the problem, the country might be fortunate to witness a positive growth sometime next year.
“I am not sure we can come out of recession this year. Already, we are at the end of the third quarter. If the policymakers allow liquidity into the system and adopt appropriate measures, we may be lucky to come out of the recession early next year,” a professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sherriffdeen Tella, said,
The Head, Research and Investment Advisory, SCM Capital, Mr. Sewa Wusu, is of the opinion that the nation may not be able to come out of the recession until the second or third quarter of next year if appropriate measures are taken.
He said, “Recession is not something you come out of easily. It is going to be a long haul thing. We must take counter-cyclical measures to reflate the economy and get us out of recession. Nigerians need to be patient with the government. Countries that went into recession and came out did not come out so quickly.
“We need to spend money on sectors that can stimulate growth easily and also spend massively on infrastructure. Sectors that can stimulate growth, create employment, production and consumption, which we need to spend on are transportation, manufacturing and housing.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr. Johnson Chukwu, said, “It is not possible for us to come out of recession this year. There is a time lag between the time policies are implemented and the time we begin to see their effects on the economy.
“We are already at the end of the third quarter. The stimulus package will come in the fourth quarter. Before we can begin to feel the effect, it will get to next year.”
IMF Queries FG Strategies On Fuel Subsidy, Unemployment, Inflation
The International Monetary Fund has raised the red flag over Nigeria’s resumption of petrol subsidy payments, describing it as injurious to the economy.
It also reiterated the importance of introducing a market-based fuel pricing mechanism and deployment of well-targeted social safety nets to cushion any adverse impact on the poor.
In a report produced after a virtual meeting with Nigerian authorities from June 1 to 8, the IMF also expressed concerns over the rising unemployment and inflation rates, even as it admitted that real Gross Domestic Product was recovering.
The IMF team, led by Jesmin Rahman, further hailed the Central Bank of Nigeria for its efforts at unifying the exchange rate by embracing needed reforms.
The Fund said: “Recent exchange rate measures are encouraging, and further reforms are needed to achieve a fully unified and market-clearing exchange rate.
“The resurfacing of fuel subsidies is concerning, particularly in the context of low revenue mobilisation.
“The Nigerian economy has started to gradually recover from the negative effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Following sharp output contractions in the second and third quarters, GDP growth turned positive in Q4 2020 and growth reached 0.5 percent (y/y) in Q1 2021, supported by agriculture and services sectors.
“Nevertheless, the employment level continues to fall dramatically and, together with other socio-economic indicators, is far below pre-pandemic levels. Inflation slightly decelerated in May but remained elevated at 17.9 percent, owing to high food price inflation. With the recovery in oil prices and remittance flows, the strong pressures on the balance of payments have somewhat abated, although imports are rebounding faster than exports and foreign investor appetite remains subdued resulting in continued FX shortage.
“The incipient recovery in economic activity is projected to take root and broaden among sectors, with GDP growth expected to reach 2.5 percent in 2021. Inflation is expected to remain elevated in 2021, but likely to decelerate in the second half of the year to reach about 15.5 percent, following the removal of border controls and the elimination of base effects from elevated food price levels.”
The IMF also recognised that tax revenue collections were gradually recovering but noted that with fuel subsidies resurfacing, additional spending for COVID-19 vaccines and to address security challenges, the fiscal deficit of the Consolidated Government is expected to remain elevated at 5.5 percent of GDP.
Nigeria-South Africa Trade Hits $2.9bn
The volume of trade between Nigeria and South Africa hit $2.9 billion last year with expectation of it rising further with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
Nigeria’s Consul General, Malik Abdul, in a statement noted that Nigeria accounts for 64 per cent of South Africa’s trade in West Africa and is one of his country’s top three sources of crude oil.
He further added that in 2020, South Africa imported R35 billion ($2.48 billion) worth of goods, predominantly crude oil from Nigeria and exported R6 billion ($425milion) to Nigeria.
He stated: “South Africa is currently among the top 10 per cent of investors in Nigeria, globally and Nigeria is South Africa’s 10th biggest export market in Africa and thirty-second globally. Nigeria accounts for 64 per cent of South Africa’s trade with West Africa and is one of South Africa’s top three sources of crude oil.
“Also, Nigeria in 2020 was South Africa’s top import market in Africa and sixth globally, after China, Germany, USA, India and Saudi Arabia. Over the past year, South Africa imported $2.48 billion worth of goods predominantly crude oil from Nigeria and exported $425 million worth to Nigeria.”
Also, the consulate said his embassy issued a total of 10,341 passports to Nigerian citizens in South Africa between March 2020 and May 2021.
The consul general further said the Mission had 404 unclaimed passports, and advised all those whose passports were processed and pending from August 2020 to come for collection.
Abdul added that the consulate was working to clear all COVID-19 lockdown backlog of applications, urging members of the public to exercise patience while the mission was resolving the backlogs.
On the re-introduction of administrative fees and charges for lost passports, Abdul said that the step was taken to harmonise and standardise consular services following approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.
The Mission had increased the fees for lost passports from R1,500 to R2,000, and admin charges of R120 for data capturing.
“On this issue, the Mission could not unilaterally impose any charges without headquarters’ approval or consent.
“The admin fees of R120 pertains to all services rendered by the two Missions,” he said.
According to the Nigerian envoy, the decision was taken to remove disparities in all consular services, noting that visa fees have also been harmonised.
On penalty for lost passports, Abdul disclosed that 484 Nigerian passports were reported missing at the mission between August 2020 and May 2021 with request for re-issue.
Abdul said it was discovered that there were criminal undertones and immigration rules infractions associated with the ‘so-called’ lost passport declarations.
“In line with practice in other Missions, there was a need to impose fines to deter people from engaging in such infractions.
“At such an astronomical rate of loss declarations, the option will be to refer such losses to Nigeria for processing.
“This will save the booklet for genuine requests of re-issue and thereby reducing the backlog and pressure on the Mission,” the envoy said.
Abdul disclosed that the consulate had received a directive to embargo processing of lost passports pending further instructions from the headquarters.
The consul general then accused some Nigerian groups in South Africa of, “peddling lies and outright falsehoods” against the Mission and his person.
“These disgruntled elements have gone ahead to incite fellow Nigerians with intent to sabotage the Mission.
“Moreover, a lie and falsehoods often repeated amounts to a propaganda which can be misinterpreted by the gullible and undiscerning as truth,” he said.
NNPC Engages Gas Producers to Improve Power Supply
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has started engaging gas producers across the country in an effort to boost gas supply to power generation companies (Gencos) and subsequently improve electricity supply.
Mr. Yusuf Usman, the Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, NNPC, disclosed this in Lagos during his tour of Egbin Power Plc facility on Monday.
Usman, who responded to concerns raised by the Chairman of Egbin Power Plc, Mr. Temitope Shonubi, said the company’s concern on gas supply and transmission restrictions had been noted, adding that the corporation would support it to ensure constant power supply.
“I have listened to all the concerns you raised. An area of concern to me is when you talked about the gas constraints. We are going to support you to make sure that the power supply is steady. We are having a session with gas suppliers in this regard.
“I am aware that works are ongoing in this regard to ensure that all the power we generate is safely evacuated,” Usman said.
Usman, however, said he was impressed by the level of progress being recorded by Egbin, noting that the effort of the company’s management to effect turnaround maintenance at the company through overhaul of the entire system, was commendable.
Usman added: “The visit has been an eye opener for me. We have seen turbines that have been running for over 40 years. We have seen efforts being made by Egbin management to effect a turnaround at the plant through overhaul of the entire system.
“We have also seen the support you have been given to the youths through employment and capacity development opportunities.”
Shonubi, in his remarks, said Egbin Power was planning to increase power generation by 1,900 megawatt.
Shonubi said: “Egbin has 1,320MW capacity. As at the time we took over, the plant was generating 300MW which is abysmal 22 per cent. As at today, our generation capacity has surged and we do 89 per cent.
“We have reached the highest peak of 970MW and we are working hard to ensure sustainability of this feat.
“The 970MW we hit is the highest recorded this year and based on our core value of sustainability, we are working round the clock to make sure that we sustain the gains, which we have made.”
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