The world is in a fix. Covid-19, unprecedented as it is, has led to economic shocks owing to severe disruptions in the global supply chain, rising levels of corporate and public debt, rising levels of unemployment, negative shocks to commodity prices, and more. To cushion the negative impacts on economies around the world, global leaders have put policies in place hoping that it will stop or, at least, slow down the negative trajectory of these failing economies. It was in the same light that the Central Bank of Nigeria decided to lower the MPR rate to 12.5% from 13.5%.
How the Decision Came About
In a meeting held by the CBN’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on Thursday this week, a majority of the members voted to cut the rate from 13.5% to 12.5%. During an earlier meeting held in March, the decision to hold rates had been unanimous. However, given the deepening challenges of the present time, seven out of the 10 members at the MPC meeting voted to cut the rate. Even more interesting is the fact that the rest of the panel opted for a more aggressive easing, with two voting for a 150 basis-point reduction and one for 200 basis points.
Why the Decision Was Made
COVID-19’s adverse effects on the global economy have been unprecedented and severe. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on Thursday 28th May, the MPC had noted key observations in the macroeconomic environment resulting from the adverse impacts of COVID-19 as well as the drop in crude oil prices. Some of the key highlights of the current economic situation include:
- The significant decline in Manufacturing and non-Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Indices (PMIs) to 42.4 and 25.3 index points, respectively, in May 2020, compared with 51.1 and 49.2 index points in March 2020.
- The marginal growth in broad money (M3) to 2.66 percent in April 2020 from 2.42 percent in March 2020, largely due to increases in Net Domestic and Foreign Assets.
- The significant growth of aggregate net credit by 8.07 percent in April 2020 compared with 4.90 percent in March 2020 (still below the indicative benchmark of 16.85 percent for the year.
The committee also mentioned the gradual improvement in macroeconomic variables, particularly the improvement in the equities market, the containment measures of the COVID-19 induced health crisis, as well as the impact of the increase in crude oil price on the external reserves. It also noted the stability in the banking system as shown by the increase in total assets by 18.8 percent and total deposits by 25.52 percent (year-on-year).
Given the overall economic situation and its impact on the average Nigerian, the MPC was of the view that any tightening of policy stance is, for now, inappropriate as it will result in further contraction of aggregate demand, thereby leading to a decline in output – which is necessary to sustain the supply chain for growth recovery. For the option of holding previous policy stance, the MPC believed holding may indicate that the monetary authorities are insensitive to prevailing weak economic conditions. Also noteworthy is the fact that this move to cut rates have been carried out by many other central banks across the globe, including Australia, Malaysia, and the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The Impact Of The Decision
The expected outcome of the decision of the CBN is to ensure that the economy reverses from the recession quickly. As such, the decision is geared towards stimulating growth and swift recovery. The cut, being the lowest in four years, rests on the optimism that it will possibly avert a recession. It, however, has its limitations. A clear challenge is the impact the rate cut will have on inflation which has been way above the target range of 6% to 9% for five years. There is also the issue of increasing pressure on the naira.
The rising question is whether the rate cut will do enough to prevent a recession. This is an important question, taking into account the volatility in the crude market – a sector that accounts for about 90% of exports and more than half of government revenue, the fall in private sector credit of 61% from just a year earlier, as well as all of the same challenges that spurred the making of the decision in the first place.
We are on the brink of a recession. Whilst policies like these could offer a buffer, the prolonged existence of the pandemic on the economy is one nail in the coffin that can only be halted by the provision of a vaccine. It is only when life reverts to normalcy that we can begin to undo the damage thus far.
FG disburses N349.5m in Conditional Cash transfer to poor households in Kaduna
The disbursement was done under the federal government’s Conditional Cash Transfer.
The Federal Government has successfully disbursed a total of N349.5 million to 34,946 poor and vulnerable households in Kaduna State, under the conditional cash transfer programme.
According to the Head of Cash Transfer Unit in the State, Hajiya Hauwa Abdulrazaq, the disbursement lasted a period of 10 days, from July 1 to July 10.
Speaking in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday, Abdulrazaq explained that the benefiting households were drawn from 9 local government areas in the state – 4,470 from Kajuru; 8,032 in Birnin Gwari; 1,963 in Kauru; 1,406 in Sanga, 4,380 in Lere, 2,021 in Kachia; 5,478 in Ikara; 2,784 in Chikun, and 4,412 in Kubau LGAs.
She noted that the disbursement was done under the federal government’s Conditional Cash Transfer, a Households Uplifting Programme targeting poorest of the poor households in the country, and that each of the households received N10,000 each, being payment for the months of May and June at N5,000 per month.
“The households uplifting programme is one of the national social investment programmes which implementation began in September 2016,” she said.
NAN reports that the programme began in 2017 in Kaduna state with about 10,000 beneficiaries, but expanded to 22,380 in April 2020.
In May, a total of 12,566 new beneficiaries were added summing the figures to 34,956 beneficiaries in the state.
The state government had also commenced the process of capturing poor and vulnerable households into the social register in the remaining 14 LGAs, from which beneficiaries of the cash transfer would be extracted in subsequent months.
Buhari sheds light on why Magu was suspended
Shehu’s statement sheds more light on Magu’s suspension.
Following the suspension of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC), the Presidency has revealed the grounds for his suspension through the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu in a statement on Saturday evening.
He revealed that a preliminary review was conducted on allegations leveled against Magu and other EFFC staff that justified reasons for an investigation on his activities, and a panel was constituted “in compliance with the extant laws governing the convening of such a body,” adding that in cases of allegations against the head of the EFCC, it was proper procedure for the Chair to step down to enable a fair investigation.
“As is the proper procedure, when allegations are made against the Chief Executive of an institution, and in this case an institution that ought to be seen as beyond reproach, the Chief Executive has to step down from his post and allow for a transparent & unhindered investigation” he said.
“The EFCC does not revolve around the personality of an individual, and as such cannot be seen through the prism of any individual.
“Therefore, the suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of investigation hanging over its head.”
He added that the EFCC is committed to fighting economic and financial crimes in Nigeria, and Magu would have the opportunity to defend himself against allegations leveled against him as stipulated by the Nigerian constitution where “every citizen is presumed and remains innocent until proven guilty.”
He said the war against corruption was not a static event, but a continuous process that required transparency and accountability, where people must be held to account for their activities so as to improve Nigeria’s democratic institutions.
“Those who see Mr. Magu’s investigation, as a signal that the fight against corruption is failing, have unfortunately, missed the boat.
“There is no better indication that the fight is real and active than the will to investigate allegations in an open and transparent manner against those who have been charged to be custodians of this very system,” he said.
“Under this President and Government, this is our mantra and guiding principle. There are no sacred cows, and for those who think they have a halo over their heads, their days are also numbered,” Shehu said.
He also said Magu was not immune to investigations regardless of the “obvious embarrassment that potential acts of wrongdoing by him” may have caused the Nigerian Government, however, the government maintains its fight against corruption.
Ibrahim Magu was suspended as EFCC Acting Chairman this week after facing a preliminary panel at the Aso Villa and was replaced by Mohammed Umar.
Therefore, the suspension of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, allows the institution to continue carrying out its mandate without the cloud of investigation hanging over its head.
— Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) July 11, 2020
Magu probe: New facts suggest case is about re-looting of previously stolen funds
The report exposed acts of corruption and money laundering against some EFCC officials, including Magu.
There appear to be more troubles for the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, as some new cases bordering on alleged re-looting of recovered funds and bribery may be lined up against him.
Some new facts also emerged on how accumulated interest rates on the recovered N550 billion by the EFCC in the period under review were allegedly re-looted. The suspended EFCC boss is expected to disclose the whereabouts of the missing interest funds running into millions of naira.
The final report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets (PCARA) that covered the period of May 29, 2015, to November 22, 2018, had also confirmed the concerns of the public about the contradiction in the recovered funds by Magu. These contradictions include;
“For Foreign currency recoveries, EFCC reported a total naira equivalent of N46,038,882,509.87, while the naira equivalent of the foreign currency lodgments was N37,533,764,195.66, representing a shortfall of N8,505,118,314.21.’’
“These inconsistencies cast serious doubt on the accuracy of figures submitted by the EFCC. It is the committee’s view that the EFCC cannot be said to have fully accounted for cash recoveries made by it.’’
“While EFCC reported total Naira recoveries of N504,154,184,744.04, the actual bank lodgments were N543,511,792,863.47. These discrepancies mean that EFCC’s actual lodgment exceeded its reported recoveries by N39,357,608,119.43.’’
It should be noted that the about N39 billion discrepancy excludes the missing accrued interest.
With all these, the report suggests that there is an apparent case of manipulation of data in a very brazen and unprofessional manner and has greatly eroded public confidence in the anti-corruption efforts.
The PCARA revealed how the investigative reports on EFCC’s activities by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) exposed acts of corruption and money laundering against some EFCC officials, including Magu.
The NFIU report shows that the Acting Chairman has been using different sources to siphon money from the EFCC, and in some cases collecting bribes from suspects.
According to News Agency of Nigeria, the report has shown that a particular Bureau de Change, owned by Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono linked to the Acting Chairman based in Kaduna has more than 158 accounts and has been receiving huge sums of money.
The PCARA report also claimed that Magu was linked to a N28m payment to Falana who is alleged to be his close associate and ally.
According to reports from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the former EFCC boss is being interrogated by the Rtd, Justice Ayo Salami led Presidential Probe Panel over allegations bordering on mismanagement and lack of transparency in managing recovered assets by EFCC.
A final report of the Presidential Investigation Committee on the Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances by EFCC from May 2015 to May 2020 had seriously indicted and implicated Magu on various allegations levelled against him.
The terms of reference for the investigative committee were
‘’Investigate, verify and review the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets as it relates to the EFCC, with a view to ascertaining the complicity or otherwise of the Ag. Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, in the mismanagement of the assets recovered by the Commission.’’
‘’Identify Avenues through which the recovered assets are dissipated and seized, recovered, forfeited (Interim and Final) assets are valued, managed, disposed and/or mismanaged with a view to ascertaining compliance or otherwise with extant laws, regulations, processes and procedures.’’
‘’Review the existing procedures on the Management of the seized, recovered and Forfeited assets (interim and final) and proffer Standard Operational Procedures for the management of seized, recovered and forfeited assets.’’
‘’Determine whether assets recovered during his tenure, whether locally in Nigeria or abroad, are being kept safely in a manner as to preserve their original value and determine: –
- Whether all the assets could be properly accounted for by the Ag. Chairman.
- To confirm if any of the assets have been diverted to the benefit of the Ag. Chairman, his family, relation, friends or favoured staff.
- To recover any such diverted assets and return back to the EFCC or appropriate government agency.
The committee was also to probe and report on corruption and money laundering allegations based on petitions and intelligence reports, involving Magu and Bureau De Change operators as well as some of his associates.
It was to audit the Assets and Finances of the EFCC as a legal entity from 2015-2020, with a view to establishing compliance or otherwise with procurement procedures of the EFCC in line with the provisions of the Procurement Act.