While the government appeared distracted with the coup in Niger Republic, the naira plunged further in the foreign exchange markets last week, exchanging at a record high of N955 to US$1 on Thursday, and spreading panic through the business community and apprehension among Nigerians. President Bola Tinubu and the Central Bank of Nigeria need to move fast, creatively, and pragmatically to avoid losing control of the currency and the economy.
The omens are bad. Since Tinubu pushed the CBN to merge the exchange rates two months ago, the naira’s southward descent has accelerated. The twin goals of facilitating a “realistic” rate, and eliminating the wide arbitrage gap created between official rates and informal market rates have remained elusive. At the official exchange rate of N767.76/$, the gap, and hence, room for illegal arbitrage, raced from N100/$ towards N200/$.
Absent an economic management team, direction, or cabinet, and no accompanying reforms of the regulatory agencies, all colliding with high inflation and business contraction, the naira is on track to crest the N1,000/$ mark and beyond soon, raising real fears that the CBN could lose control with dire consequences. The IMF added to the anxiety last week, saying existing “loose fiscal and monetary policies” make it difficult for the naira to stabilise.
Wale Edun, Tinubu’s longtime economic adviser and ministerial nominee, signposted N700/$ as the realistic rate, saying the higher rates are not backed by the fundamentals of the economy. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s forecast of a N1,000/$ rate up till 2027 now appear overly optimistic. Things could get really nasty well before then.
This is not surprising. Supply is constrained by low non-oil export earnings. Demand is artificial, driven by speculators and hoarders, and massive, unchecked money laundering by state and non-state actors. Politicians, public office holders, bandits, kidnappers, and connected contractors, facilitated by lax oversight of the deposit money banks and the bureaux de change, are driving the market with ill-gotten naira, not producers or genuine commercial enterprises.
Tinubu must shift from his unfocussed, ill-planned, and uncoordinated decisions to strategic, well-planned, and comprehensive economic policies. He desperately needs an EMT and more economists and technocrats on board than the motley politicians he has nominated as ministers.
To avoid losing control of the naira and hyperinflation, the CBN should for a few weeks, fund the forex market; next, restrain the BDCs and errant banks from round-tripping and illegal arbitrage. There should be closer collaboration with other regulatory agencies, and the anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies to monitor operators and swiftly and firmly punish infractions and offenders.
READ ALSO: CBN Speaks On Phasing Out Old Naira Notes
An economy battling high unemployment, inflation, production contraction, and dwindling public revenues, needs strong stimulus to achieve recovery. These should target protecting strategic sectors – agricultural production, pharmaceuticals, transportation, and small businesses. Special attention should be paid to SMEs; how to subsidise their power supply, access to low-interest credit, and overthrow crippling taxes and levies.
Hard decisions lie ahead, but should be taken only after rigorous diagnoses and preparation. Shortage of dollars is leaving supply to the market in the hands of black-market operators, thereby effectively subverting the goal of reducing the gap between the official Importers and Exporters window and the parallel market rates. A temporary bolstering of the market to defend the naira for a very short period and funnelled to legitimate businesses is desirable to halt the naira’s downward spiral.
The economy requires very close attention and rigorous planning to avoid a collapse: Tinubu should, going forward, stop taking hasty measures without them.
Bank Customers Pay N154bn Fees For E-banking Services
Customers of nine leading commercial banks paid N154 billion fee for using electronic banking services in the first half of the year (H1’23).
Details of the banks’ financial statements for H1’23 showed that the fee represents a 16.7 percent year-on-year (YoY) rise when compared to N131.97 billion paid in H1’22.
The banks are Guaranty Trust Bank which raked in N21.2 billion from the customers, Access Bank (N43.9), Zenith Bank (N22.27 billion), United Bank for Africa Plc (N51.07 billion), Stanbic IBTC (N2.14 billion), First City Monument Bank (N7.4 billion), Unity Bank (N1.96 billion), Fidelity Bank (N1.85 billion) and Wema Bank (N3.13 billion).
Electronic Banking is a service that enables banking transactions through electronic payment channels like internet banking, mobile banking, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale (PoS) among others.
The rise in electronic banking fees and commission indicates that Nigerians’ adoption of electronic payment channels has continued to increase.
According to the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) e-payment data for Q1’23 the volume of e-payment transactions grew YoY by 209 percent to 4.7 billion from 1.52 billion in Q1’22.
The value of e-payment transactions increased YoY by 48 percent to N137.52 trillion in Q1’23 from N92.85 trillion in Q1’22.
Meanwhile, in H1 ’23, the nine banks earned N66.7 billion from account maintenance fees and commission income, representing a 14.7 percent YoY rise when compared to N57.5 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2022, H1’22.
In terms of highest account maintenance fees and commission income, Zenith Bank had the highest (N21.02 billion), followed by Access Bank (N13.36 billion), Guaranty Trust Bank (N10.5 billion), United Bank of Africa, UBA, (N9.6 billion), First City Monument Bank, FCMB, (N3.85 billion), Fidelity Bank (N3.4 billion), Stanbic IBTC (N2.64 billion), Wema Bank (N1.63 billion) and Unity Bank ( N742.6 million).
However, in terms of growth, UBA had the highest YoY growth of 47.6 percent at N9.6 billion in H1’23 from N6.5 billion in H1’22.
Edo, GIZ Strengthen Partnership To Enhance Ease Of Doing Business
As part of reforms to boost ease of doing business in Edo State, the state government has strengthened partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Addressing journalists after the meeting with the representatives from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) at the Edo State Investment Promotion Office (ESIPO), in Benin City, the Managing Director of ESIPO, Mr. Kelvin Uwaibi, said the primary objective of the meeting was to evaluate the outcomes of prior collaborations and chart a more robust path, aimed at elevating Edo’s standing in the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) ratings.
He noted that GIZ has been a steadfast partner to Edo State over the years, offering invaluable support in the state’s mission to enhance the Ease of Doing Business.
He added, “This partnership has yielded noteworthy successes, and the recent meeting provided an opportunity to assess the tangible achievements and strategise for the future.
“One of the top priorities identified during the meeting was the enhancement of EODB for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Both parties were committed to ensuring that these businesses encounter fewer obstacles and experience a more streamlined process.
“A key area of focus was simplifying business-related processes and reducing bureaucratic complexities. Streamlining these procedures can significantly enhance the overall EODB environment.
“Recognising the importance of reducing the cost of doing business, both parties underscored the need to implement measures that make it more affordable for enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized ones.”
Representative of the Head of Component, Policy and Strategy, Mr. Omoware Akinropo, and Access to Finance Policy Advisor, GIZ, Mr. Pearse Akinwande, reiterated GIZ’s unwavering commitment to supporting Edo State in its EoDB initiatives.
Naira To Dollar: Edo Businessman Wants FG To Intervene
An Edo State businessman, Mr. Osazee Gift Osazuwa, has called on the Federal Government to wade in and tackle the falling rate of the naira against the dollar.
He made the call in Benin while addressing Journalists as regards the current exchange rate of the naira against the dollar.
Osazuwa said on Saturday, the naira was sold for 1,000/$ at the black market, a trend he described as “very worrisome.”
He said the falling strengthen of the naira against the dollar is not helping them in the electronics business as they have to spend more to buy goods due to the exchange rate.
Osazuwa said if the naira keeps falling without any action from the Federal Government to salvage the situation, it might get worse and thereafter push them out of business.
Osazuwa, while expressing confidence on President Bola Tinubu’s ability to revamp the nation’s moribund economy, said those of them in the electronics business still have hope that he has the magic wands to turn it around.
He called on the Federal Government to arrest the situation before it gets out of hands.
He said if the government can check the falling rate, stem the tide and restore the dignity of the naira against the dollar, the country will be better for it.
Also speaking, Mr. Matthew Oshodin, decried the high cost of living in the country which is made worse by the fuel subsidy removal.
He said Nigerians are currently finding it difficult to cope rising from the high cost of fuel that has robbed off on every other aspect of the economy.
Oshodin further used the medium to call on the federal government to fix up the nation’s moribund refineries rather than sharing N5 billion as palliatives to states.
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