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Nigeria’s External Reserves plunge to $40.3 billion as devaluation concerns brew

Nigeria’s External Reserves plunge to $40.03 billion as devaluation concerns brew

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Nigeria’s External Reserves plunged to $40.3 billion as at October 18, 2019. This is the first time in almost two years that the nation’s external reserves would decline to $40.3 billion.

According to data obtained from the CBN, Nigeria’s external reserves dropped from $45 billion in July to $40.3 billion in October 18 2019. This suggests the country’s external reserves has depleted by $5 billion in less than four months. The CBN’s reserves is now at a 21 months low.

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Nairametrics has tracked the movement of the external reserves in recent months in view of several monetary interventions in the economy.

[READ MORE: External reserves drop by $3.2 billion in Q3’19]

The Oil Price effects?

While the decline in the country’s external reserves has coincided with recent fluctuations in global oil prices, the depletion in reserves has more to do with CBN intervention in the foreign exchange market.

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For instance, Financial Expert, Walle Smith, in a recent analysis cited by Nairametrics, stated that as foreign capital flowed out of the country, the CBN had to actively intervene to keep the Nigerian Naira in line.

According to him, “Oil is no longer the biggest driver of CBN reserve inflows. In 2018, oil accounted for 26% of CBN USD inflows (Q119:23%) vs over 90% before 2015. CBN purchases at the spot and swap market are now a big driver half of non-oil FX flows.”

While providing explanations to the reason to decline in the country’s reserves, the CBN in its monthly economic report for August 2019 stated that the decrease was due, mainly, to increased foreign exchange market interventions and external debt service payments, as well as, direct payments.

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Foreign exchange market

Since the introduction of the Investors and Exporters’ window in Nigeria, the CBN has increasingly intervened in the forex market as an active buyer and seller of currencies.

For instance, the half-year report recently released by the CBN’s Financial Markets Department showed that for half-year 2019 (January – June), the apex bank made available a whopping sum of $8.28 billion to authorised dealers in the FX market.

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[READ ALSO: Nigeria’s foreign reserves fall to 6-weeks low, lose $81.10 million]

Nigeria’s External Reserves Trajectory as of October 22nd, 2019.                        Source: CBN website

Debt concerns and its attendant costs

While the CBN’s intervention in the foreign exchange market has been a source of concern, two other issues depleting the country’s reserves are the country’s debt profile and outflow of foreign exchange.

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Recent report released by the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that Nigeria’s total debt stock rose to N25.7 trillion (US$83.8 billion) as of the end of June 2019, compared to N24.9 trillion recorded in March 2019. That is, within three months, Nigeria increased its debt by N754.56 billion, representing a 3.2% increase.

A further look at the international payment section of the CBN showed that Nigeria paid $732.9 million (N224.6 billion) between January and June 2019. There is no gainsaying that the country’s reserves were used to service the debt.

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Currency flows

The external sector performance of the Nigerian economy has continued to be on the low as oil prices plummeted while the country’s non-oil export slowed. This implies that the use of the country’s reserves to either defend the naira or service the debt comes at a great cost.

According to the CBN report for August 2019, the decline in international prices of crude oil affected the inflow of foreign exchange into the country. Meanwhile, this has not stopped outflow for an import-dependent economy like Nigeria.

In August, for instance, foreign exchange inflow through the CBN was put at $4.8 billion while the outflow was $6.14 billion. This puts the net outflow at $1.24 billion.

[READ ALSO: Nigeria’s External Reserves and SWF: Why IMF cannot be ignored]

Devaluation Concerns?

Recent policy moves by the CBN suggest that devaluation concerns are already brewing as the apex bank is throwing all measures to prevent this from happening. In a desperate bid to prevent naira from devaluation, the CBN has introduced several policy measures which include FOREX ban on food items and some fiscal measures to improve revenue.

Also, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele had recently mentioned that if external reserves drop to between $30 billion and $25 billion, and oil price falls between $50 – $45, the apex bank could consider moving on to float the exchange rate and devalue the naira.

This means if the current trend continues, the Nigerian economy may just be heading for another quagmire.

Patricia

Samuel is an Analyst with over 5 years experience. Connect with him via his twitter handle

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Coronavirus

FG announces schedule for 4th evacuation flight from the USA 

The evacuees will be expected to present an original COVID-19 negative test result not older than 14.

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flights, Nigeria sets conditions for border reopening, COVID-19: Nigerians in diaspora have not asked to be evacuated – FG, Attacks on Nigeria diplomatic residence, FG to engage Ghanaian government  

The Federal government has approved the fourth evacuation flight for Nigerians stranded in the United States of America for July 28.  

According to a statement that was signed by the Consulate General of Nigeria, the Ethiopian Airline with flight number ET509 will depart Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey on Tuesday 28 July 2020 by 21:15hrs and arrive Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Wednesday 29 July 2020 by 13:25hrs. 

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“All prospective evacuees duly registered with any of the three Nigerian missions in the USA should purchase their one-way tickets at a cost of $1250 for economy class and $2800 for business class for adult/child fare including all taxes with the usual percentage reduction for infants under 2 years,” the statement read. 

READ ALSO: FG acquires profiling robots for airport

In line with the earlier announced protocols from the Nigerian Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the evacuees will be expected to present an original COVID-19 negative test result not older than 14 days on the day of departure at the airport. 

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There will also be a temperature check at the airport, and any intending evacuee with a body temperature above 38°c or any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 will not be allowed to check-in. 

Evacuees are also required to wear a face mask as a matter of necessity and be in possession of hand sanitizer for intermittent use during the flight, while also adhering to the instructions of the  

Furthermore, all returnees are enjoined to adhere strictly to all instructions of Port Health Services (PHS) officials and observe other entry screening protocols on arrival. 

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Patricia
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Hospitality & Travel

Covid-19: British High Commission to resume visa application in Nigeria

Nigerians who want to visit the UK can do so as soon as international flight operations resume.

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Covid-19: British High Commission to Resume Visa Application in Nigeria

The British High Commission in Nigeria has announced plans to resume visa processing in the country. It revealed that it will soon begin receiving visa applications from Nigerians who want to travel to the United Kingdom (UK).

This was disclosed in a public statement by the British High Commission in Abuja on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

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It said that Nigerians who want to visit the United Kingdom can do so as soon as the international flight operations resume in the country. The statement said:

“We know there are many Nigerian nationals hoping to be able to travel to the UK when flights resume, both for employment and to see family members.

“UKVI are working closely with TSL contact, our commercial partner, to reopen visa application centres that were suspended due to COVID-19. UK visa application centres are reopening in phased manner globally when it is safe to do so and when we can operate an effective service.

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“TSL contact are putting appropriate measures in place and working hard to reopen in Nigeria. We will share details of when VACs will reopen soon,”

READ MORE: US to stop issuing visa for Birth Tourism 

It can be recalled that the Federal Government had shut down the airports to both domestic and international flight operations in March as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.

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Following the gradual resumption of domestic flight operations, Nigerians are expecting that international flight operations might be resuming soon.

Patricia
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Commodities

Nigeria’s excess crude account falls to $72 million

Nigeria’s excess crude account has now fallen by a whopping 98% in just 5 years.

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Capital market to get more tax incentives - FG , FEC reviews Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas project contract, approves $2.571 billion, FG to reduce N1.5 trillion from 2020 budget due to coronavirus

Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) now stands at $72 million as the country continues to grapple with an unprecedented revenue crisis not seen since the early eighties. The ECA account has now fallen by about 98% within the last 5 years.

The information on the excess crude account was revealed by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed in a National Economic Council Meeting during the week. The ECA is a savings account retained by the Federal Government and is funded by the difference between the market price of crude oil and the budgeted price of crude oil as contained in the appropriation bill.

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There were major concerns last November when it was reported that the ECA balances held just $324.5 million one of the lowest balances recorded at the time. At $72 million the ECA is in low territory highlighting the effect of the fall in crude oil prices this year. Crude oil prices have crashed to sub-zero in March and have risen back o just over $40/barrel in recent weeks. However, it still remains low from Nigeria’s previous budget benchmark.

ECA in the news

About a year ago Nairametrics reported Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account has dropped to $480 million. This is as controversy continues to trail the $1 billion military spendings which were withdrawn from Nigeria’s Excess Crude. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s annual report for 2018, Nigeria’s crude excess account fell from $2.45 billion in 2017 to $480 million as of December 2018.

(READ MORE: Rising COVID-19 cases in world’s biggest economy falter crude oil prices)

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Just 5 years ago (August 2015) the ECA stood at $2.2 billion. This was the early days of the Buhari administration. It was $3.6 billion in February 2014, one of the highest balances on record. That same month, at its monthly FAAC, the government agreed to remove fuel subsidy from its books. Fuel subsidy is currently being borne by the NNPC.

The Controversies: Last year, the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari was accused of mismanaging the country’s Excess Crude Account especially the $1 billion reportedly spent on military equipment.

  • The National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Major General Babagana Monguno Gen. Babagana was quoted to have disclosed that he was not aware of the whereabouts or disbursement of the $1billion drawn from the ECA by the Buhari presidency in 2017 for security purposes.
  • While controversies trail the statement credited to the NSA, with many describing it as diversion of public funds, the Presidency provided some explanations.
  • Responding to the allegations, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed that various procurements had been made for the purchase of critical equipment for the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, and the Air Force, contrary to the allegations.

Nigeria’s ECA in retrospect: In Nigeria, there are two Sovereign Wealth Funds: the Excess Crude Account and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). Note that these two are funded by the savings earned when oil prices are at peak.

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  • Hence, as a larger chunk of revenue is appropriated for ECA and NSIA, the country’s external reserves are likely to fall.
  • Note that the sovereign wealth fund was established to address the controversies surrounding the Excess Crude Account.
  • The fund is usually expected to generate revenue to meet budget shortfalls in the future, provide dedicated funding for the development of infrastructure and saves for future generations.

ECA depleted by 98% in 5 years: A closer look at the various annual reports of the Central Bank of Nigeria shows that Nigeria’s excess crude account has now fallen by a whopping 98% in just 5 years.

Patricia
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