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Buhari’s CBN policies may drag Nigerian economy into crisis – Fitch

Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) under President Muhammadu Buhari might drag the Nigerian economy in crisis to mismatch in economic policy.

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Nigeria's recession period, Buhari Ministerial list, Buhari ask for more time, Nigeria's economy - growth, Buhari food forex, CBN Policies

Fitch, a credit ratings international organisation has disclosed that the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) under President Muhammadu Buhari might drag the Nigerian economy in crisis due to mismatch in economic policy management.

In the latest report released by Fitch, titled Nigeria’s Unconventional Policies Aggravate External Vulnerability, the organisation stated that the CBN’s recent attempt to boost economic activity through giving incentives to banks’ lending had clashed with the goal of maintaining a stable exchange rate, and this is not good for the economy.

Uncoordinated policies: Fitch noted that the CBN’s policy moves to reconcile competing goals through unconventional macroeconomic management and weaknesses in policy settings were raising medium-term vulnerabilities to shocks, and this could expose the economy more to falling oil prices or disruptions to hydrocarbon production.

  • According to the report, tight management of domestic liquidity had been the key pillar of Nigeria’s exchange-rate policy in recent years.
  • However, the recent measures to boost lending have contributed to a temporary loosening of domestic financing conditions. This has combined with falling oil prices and deteriorating investor sentiment towards emerging markets to put pressure on the naira.
  • Specifically, one of the major policies cited by Fitch is the policy implemented in July, which includes a requirement for banks to have a loans-to-deposits ratio of at least 60% by the end of September and tighter restrictions on the amount of remunerable deposits that banks can park at the Central Bank.

Macroeconomic Pressures: Also, it was stated that exchange rate movement pressured the CBN to resume its liquidity tightening operations in August by auctioning Open Market Operations (OMO) bills, and to increase the supply of foreign currency, releasing about $800 million from its foreign-currency reserves between mid-July and mid-August.

[READ MORE: Nigeria’s foreign reserves shed $1 billion, biggest fall in 17 months]

  • According to Fitch, these moves by the CBN have contributed to a rebound in domestic interest rates and limited the depreciation of the naira on the Investors’ and Exporters’ FX Window by 1% since the end of June.
  • Hence, Fitch noted that the competing goals of preserving naira stability and supporting Nigeria’s fragile recovery were pushing the CBN towards increasingly complex policy measures, with a risk of aggravating external vulnerability or causing macroeconomic distortions.
  • Fitch stated that the CBN’s policy of auctioning OMO bills to non-residents had led to a rapid build-up of short-term external liabilities with non-resident holdings of these bills amounting to $15.8 billion (4% of GDP) at end-April, equivalent to a third of reserves. This generates meaningful rollover risks, which could necessitate persistently high-interest rates, holding back growth and increasing the government’s debt-servicing costs

FOREX restriction on milk and food items: Fitch identified CBN’s recent move to intensify restrictions on FOREX access for imports that were imposed in 2015. While the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, recently called on the CBN to end FOREX for milk importers, the President has also announced restriction of FX access for all food imports, but according to Fitch, the scope, modalities and timeline of such measures remain unclear.

Also according to Fitch, FX restrictions are unlikely to foster expansion in the domestic food supply, as Nigeria’s agricultural and food sectors suffer from deep-seated challenges from infrastructure gaps, communal conflicts, insecurity and weather hazards. Instead, these restrictions could push more traders towards the informal economy and compound inflationary pressures.

Sigma Pensions

On Nigeria’s inflation, Fitch noted that Nigeria’s Inflation at about 11% already raises the risk of an overvaluation of the real effective exchange rate, which could put more pressure on the naira and increase the risk of a sharp adjustment following an oil price shock. Withdrawal of portfolio investors would aggravate the potential balance of payment pressures.

[READ MORE: MFBs, DMBs, others get new lending limit directive from CBN]

 

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

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    Why the proposed Borno power plant may not materialise 

    The glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State.

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    Only a few days ago, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, led a delegation to Borno State to meet with the Governor of the State, Babagana Zulum.

    In the conversation with Zulum, Kyari promised the establishment of a gas-fired power plant in Borno State within a maximum of 4 months to solve the recent blackouts that resulted from insurgents cutting off Borno from the national grid since January this year.

    In Kyari’s words, “We have talked to each other and we think it’s very possible to establish a dedicated power plant in Maiduguri which will serve current needs of power supply not only in Maiduguri but to other parts of the neighbouring cities.”

    Yet, there is a significant possibility that the power plant promised by Kyari may not materialize for many reasons, the first of which is security. In the meeting with Kyari, Governor Zulum had noted: “The ongoing insurgency has cut off the entire Borno from the national grid in the last three months. We put all our efforts and restored it back… but unfortunately, after 48 hours, the same group of insurgents went back and destroyed the main tower again.”

    This glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State, particularly noting that the State and its surrounding communities have been the hot zone of insurgent and terrorist attacks by Boko Haram insurgents since 2009. Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have particularly been states where the insurgents have set up shop and carried out various activities, including kidnap, extermination of entire communities, burning of markets and religious buildings and the attack on the United Nations compound, in each case claiming tens or hundreds of innocent lives.

    One report reveals that at least 37, 500 people have been killed by the insurgent group since May 2011, a modest number, some say. Also, till date, some of the secondary school girls kidnapped in the April 2014 Chibok incident are yet to be returned to their families. It is then bewildering how Kyari intends to see to the construction and operationalizing of this gas power plant.

    Additionally, while the Minister of Petroleum for State, Chief Timipre Sylva, announced last year about the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the North, we have not seen any exploration and production kick-off. It then begs the question of where the gas for the Borno power plant intends to be sourced. The only gas pipeline that runs through the North – the AKK- is still in its first phase of construction out of three phases and has been earmarked at the earliest, to be completed in 2023 – not counting the typical delays the project will experience along the way.

    Should the AKK by some stroke of luck materialize much earlier than the target date, the pipeline route is a considerable distance from Borno. It runs the route of Ajaokuta-Abuja-Katsina-Kano, its endpoint, a striking 481km from Borno State. Thus, there would have to be construction of a tie-in pipeline almost as long as the AKK from Kano to Borno State to get gas to Borno.

    Hotflex
    Sigma Pensions

    Optimists may reference the oil and gas discovery in the North and how production may start soon, thus obliterating the need for a 481km pipeline. This optimism however is not well-founded, as insecurity has been shown to be a major risk to oil and gas projects everywhere in the world. One of the major reasons the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline proposed to run from Nigeria to Algeria was abandoned was due to security challenges posed by Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Tuareg guerilla movement in Niger and other insurgent groups along the proposed route of the pipeline.

    These increased the risks across board, including for completion and operations through the lifecycle of the project. As such, failing to fix the security threats in northeast Nigeria makes any proposed gas plant project a pipe dream. Transporting gas via LNG trucks is not a better option, given that the drivers and their cargoes would be in danger of being kidnapped, shot at or bombed. The risks for both personnel and investors are high.

    In any event, promising a power plant in 4 months for the people of Borno is unconscionable, since a typical gas power plant will take between 1 to 6 years to construct in relatively peaceful regions. What the government needs to do instead of making promises it cannot keep is to work arduously to fix the security challenges in Northern Nigeria and at the same time consider using decentralised solar power to provide power supply to homes, government institutions, schools and businesses while plans to produce gas in the region or transport gas to it are underway.

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    Lagos Commissioner of Police dismantles road blocks on Lagos-Badagry expressway

    The Commissioner warned the concerned Area Commanders to take action on full compliance as any defaulter will be sanctioned accordingly.

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    The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu, has ordered the immediate dismantling of all illegal roadblocks by police teams from the command on the Lagos-Badagry expressway.

    The directive is to checkmate the illegal activities of the police on that route which have been condemned by the government, some stakeholders and international bodies and also bring sanity and decency to their operations along that axis.

    That disclosure is contained in a statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, on Saturday, April 10, 2021.

    Adejobi in the statement said that CP Odumosu gave the order on Friday while addressing Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers in the command on the general security situation in the state and reviewing the anti-crime strategies of the command in order to sustain its feats on crime control.

    What the statement from the Lagos State Police Command is saying

    The statement from the Lagos Police Command partly reads, “In his bid to restore sanity and decency to the operations of the police along the ever-busy international route, Lagos/Badargy Expressway, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu, has ordered for the immediate dismantling of illegal roadblocks by the police teams from the Lagos State Police Command.

    The police boss, while reacting to some complaints from the general public and some security reports on the police activities along the international route, ordered the Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers whose jurisdictions fall along the Badargy Expressway; Festac and Area K, Marogbo, to withdraw their men from the illegal roadblocks and embark on aggressive motorised patrol and surveillance to police their areas and the route.

    The Commissioner of Police confirmed that the illegal police roadblocks along the route have been condemned by the government, international bodies and interest groups and they must be dismantled without delay,” he said.

    The Commissioner, however, noted that other police operatives from other police formations, outside the supervision of the Lagos State Police Command who operate along the route, would be contacted to adjust and do the needful to restore sanity to their operations.

    Sigma Pensions

    The CP Odumosu then warned the concerned Area Commanders to desist and take necessary action on full compliance with his order as any defaulter will be sanctioned accordingly.

     

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