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Commercial banks, grappling with the Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN) monetary tightening measures aimed at curbing persistent inflation, find themselves constrained in extending credit to bolster the faltering economy.

As per analysis by Daily Trust, mandatory reserve deposits with the central bank surged by 70.37 percent to N17.26 trillion by December 2023, up from N10.13 trillion the previous year. This surge in the Cash Reserve Requirement (CRR) compels banks to park a growing portion of local currency deposits with the central bank, limiting their lending capacity as these reserves are only accessible for intervention purposes.

Notably, Zenith Bank leads with N3.90 trillion in mandatory reserve deposits, followed by Access Bank with N3.10 trillion, and other major players holding substantial amounts, indicative of the profound impact of the CRR on the banking sector.

With Nigeria's CRR standing at 45 percent, among the highest globally, the stringent liquidity conditions further intensified with the CBN's revision of the loan-to-deposit ratio (LDR) from 65 percent to 50 percent to align with the ongoing monetary tightening.

In a circular titled "Re: Regulatory Measures to Improve Lending to the Sector of the Nigerian Economy," the CBN, through its acting director of the banking supervision department, Adetona Adedeji, announced this adjustment, emphasizing the need for banks to adhere to the revised LDR to stimulate lending.

However, analysts at KPMG caution that these elevated rates could impede banks' ability to support the economy's growth aspirations, casting doubt on the feasibility of government economic objectives.

Given the challenging liquidity environment, achieving desired economic growth becomes increasingly arduous, particularly as small businesses, reliant on affordable loans, face closures while new ventures struggle to emerge. Afrinvest analysts see the reduction in LDR as a reprieve for banks, allowing them to navigate the regulatory landscape while optimizing asset utilization without undue risk.

However, the broader impact of these policies on economic recovery remains a subject of scrutiny and concern.

The management of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) led by its Managing Director, Akintunde Sawyerr, has shed light on why students from private institutions and incarcerated individuals are excluded from the upcoming student loan fund launch. Addressing journalists at UNILAG, Sawyerr emphasized the fund's focus on aiding "indigent" students.

He clarified that private institution attendees aren't deemed financially disadvantaged and stressed the fund's aim at redistributing wealth to deserving candidates, monitored via mechanisms like BVN verification.

Regarding inmates pursuing education, Sawyerr cited challenges in loan recovery from individuals serving lengthy sentences.

Executing a transparent selection process, NELFUND plans to disburse funds directly to institutions and students, considering factors like tuition and geography.

Sawyerr disclosed plans to analyze applicant data and outlined requirements, anticipating loan disbursement from one percent of the gross revenue of Federal Inland Revenue Service’s revenue.

The student loan initiative stems from the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023, entrusting NELFUND with loan administration and recovery.

An influential global body has forecast Russia's economy will grow faster than all of the world's advanced economies, including the US, this year.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Russia to grow 3.2% this year, significantly more than the UK, France and Germany.

Oil exports have "held steady" and government spending has "remained high" contributing to growth, the IMF said.

Overall, it said the world economy had been "remarkably resilient"

"Despite many gloomy predictions, the world avoided a recession, the banking system proved largely resilient, and major emerging market economies did not suffer sudden stops," the IMF said.

The IMF is an international organisation with 190 member countries. They are used by businesses to help plan where to invest, and by central banks, such as the Bank of England to guide its decisions on interest rates.

The group says that the forecasts it makes for growth the following year in most advanced economies, more often than not, have been within about 1.5 percentage points of what actually happens.

Despite the Kremlin being sanctioned over its invasion of Ukraine, the IMF upgraded its January predictions for the Russian economy this year, and said while growth would be lower in 2025, it would be still be higher than previously expected at 1.8%.

Investments from corporate and state owned enterprises and "robustness in private consumption" within Russia had promoted growth alongside strong exports of oil, according to Petya Koeva Brooks, deputy director at the IMF.

Russia is one of the world's biggest oil exporters and in February, the BBC revealed millions of barrels of fuel made from Russian oil were still being imported to the UK despite sanctions.

Away from Russia, the IMF downgraded its forecasts across Europe and for the UK this year, predicting 0.5% growth this year, making the UK the second weakest performer across the G7 group of advanced economies, behind Germany.

The G7 also includes France, Italy, Japan, Canada and the US.

Growth is set to improve to 1.5% in 2025, putting the UK among the top three best performers in the G7, according to the IMF.

However, the IMF said that interest rates in the UK will remain higher than other advanced nations, close to 4% until 2029.

The group expects the UK to have the highest inflation of any G7 economy in 2023 and 2024.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the IMF's figures showed that the UK economy was turning a corner.

"Inflation in 2024 is predicted to be 1.2% lower than before, and over the next six years we are projected to grow faster than large European economies such as Germany or France - both of which have had significantly larger downgrades to short-term growth than the UK," he said.

Conflict in the Middle East

Economists at the IMF warned that if the Israel-Hamas conflict escalates further in the Middle East it could lead to rising food and energy prices around the world.

Continued attacks on ships in the Red Sea and the ongoing war in Ukraine could also affect the so far "remarkably resilient" global economy, it said.

A potential spike in food, energy and transport costs would see lower-income countries hardest hit, it added.

 

BBC

At least 10 passengers in a commercial vehicle have reportedly died after the automobile encountered an improvised explosive devise (IED) planted at a roadside in Borno state.

Zagazola Makama, a counter-insurgency publication focused on Lake Chad region, said the incident occurred along Baga road in Kukawa LGA of Borno on Wednesday.

The publication said 20 other persons sustained injuries.

“The IED was believed to have been laid for the troops of Sector 3 Operation Hadin Kai, around the Mosquito camp by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP),” Makama said.

The publication added that those who sustained injuries were taken to a healthcare facility in Monguno for medical attention.

ISWAP is a faction of the Boko Haram terrorist group that broke away after a leadership dispute.

The group has been involved in various violent activities, including attacks on citizens, security forces, and kidnapping among other criminal operations in the north-east, north-west and north-central parts of the country.

 

The Cable

Hezbollah launches missiles and drones at northern Israel, wounding 14 Israeli soldiers

Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Wednesday it launched missiles and drones at a military facility in northern Israel in retaliation for Israeli strikes that killed Hezbollah members, an incident that the Israeli military said left 14 soldiers wounded.

The military said six of the soldiers were in serious condition. It said it "struck the sources of fire" after identifying several anti-tank missile and drone launches from Lebanon towards the Bedouin village of Arab al-Aramshe.

The Israeli Ynet news site said the soldiers were in a community centre in the village.

On Tuesday, Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon killed three people, including a Hezbollah field commander, Lebanese security sources said.

Israeli forces and Lebanon's armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.

Later on Wednesday, Israel's air force said its fighter jets struck Hezbollah infrastructure north of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, reaching beyond the southern border region where Israel has focused most of its strikes.

The fighting has fuelled concern about the risk of further escalation. Those concerns have mounted following Iran's retaliatory attack on Israel, with hundreds of explosive drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles launched on Saturday night, to which Israeli officials have vowed to respond.

At least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, have been killed in the fighting according to a Reuters tally. Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed.

 

Reuters

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Members must choose Ukraine aid over own defense – NATO boss

Ukraine’s backers should prioritize donating weapons to Kiev over their own defense capabilities, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. 

“A part of the important effort we are now making across the NATO alliance to step up our delivery of air defense systems to Ukraine,”Stoltenberg told reporters during a press conference in Brussels. 

“But Ukraine needs even more. That is why if allies face a choice between meeting NATO capability targets and providing more aid to Ukraine, my message is clear: send more to Ukraine.”

Stoltenberg pointed to Denmark as “a strong example” for promising in February to donate all of its artillery to Kiev. He praised Denmark and the Netherlands for their plans to provide the F-16 aircraft, adding that he was “encouraged” by the news that the US Congress is expected soon to vote for additional aid to Ukraine after months of delay.

The NATO chief’s appeal comes at a time when member states are struggling to deliver sufficient amounts of weapons to Ukraine without depleting their own stocks and compromising security. Officials in Kiev are blaming ammunition shortages for last year’s failed counteroffensive, as well as recent battlefield losses.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has sharply criticized Germany for refusing to donate its Taurus air-launched cruise missiles and US Republicans for blocking the $61 billion military aid bill sought by President Joe Biden. “If Congress doesn’t help Ukraine, Ukraine will lose the war,” Zelensky warned this month.

Berlin has recently agreed to supply another US-made Patriot air defense system to Kiev. It refused to reverse the decision on Taurus, however, arguing that sending the missiles would require German personnel on the ground.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson, meanwhile, announced that he will put the Ukraine aid bill to the vote on Saturday. The legislation was previously stalled due to the bitter quarrels between Democrats and Republicans over immigration and border security.

Russia, for its part, has insisted that the deliveries of foreign weapons will lead to more escalation, but will not change the course of the conflict. “The West continues to pump the Zelensky regime with weapons and is becoming an accomplice to its horrific crimes,”Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in January.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Zelenskiy: Ukrainian military attacked Russian airfield in occupied Crimea

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that the Ukrainian military had attacked a large Russian airfield in occupied Crimea and thanked his top military commander for staging the strike.

"Today, the Ukrainian armed forces carried out a precise strike on the occupiers in Dzhankoi, on an airfield," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

"Thank you, warriors. Thank you for your accuracy. Thank you to commander-in-chief (Oleksandr) Syrskyi for organising this operation."

The president expressed thanks to servicemen staging "special operations, especially important operations, extremely significant ones that destroy the equipment of the Russian army, their combat infrastructure".

Dzhankoi lies in the northern part of the Crimea peninsula, seized and annexed by Russia in 2014. Unofficial sources in both Ukraine and Russia had earlier reported a series of explosions at the base.

 

RT/Reuters

Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun's April 3rd 2024 presentation at the Lagos Business School Breakfast Club titled 'Reconstructing the economy for growth, investment and climate resilience development' focused mainly on cost cutting through removal of subsidies, extreme high interest rates to curb inflation and attract foreign exchange, and agriculture, which don't address fundamentals of real economic growth. In terms of economic empowering infrastructure, the N15 trillion Coastal Highway also reveals a lot of economic misconceptions that need to be cleared.

Though it is debatable whether subsidies and floating of Naira have really been stopped, but even if we accept that there are no policy reversals for argument sake, cost minimization is just one part of the economic optimization equation which must be balanced with production maximization. Though social welfarism backs cost optimization, instead of the neo-liberal economic focus on cost minimization, either of the two still requires production maximization. How do we pay for the costs without taxing the poor for revenue generation? What can Nigeria do to stimulate real economic production and growth?

The continued sixty year focus on agricultural production is good, but is not enough to provide a high return on investment to pay for costs and, most important, to absorb the millions of unemployed. Nigeria’s agriculture which ranks as the world's fifth in Agriculture Value Added at $111.97 billion (World Bank 2022 report), and accounts for 38% of employment and 24% of national income, coupled with the Food, Tobacco and Beverages, textiles and cement manufacturing subsectors that account for 76% of manufacturing, are approaching diminishing returns, so there is an obvious need for new or other industries that can provide the highest return on investment and greatest income and employment multipliers in the economy.

Railways and solar energy are the two most important industries that can stimulate economic growth, industrialization and employment. Railways can provide more income and returns on investment than crude oil. Railways provide the highest return on investment in the USA at 50.93%, with real estate second at 41% (Comparisun). The USA railway revenue in 2020 was $68.8 billion compared to $20.43 billion that Nigeria made from crude oil same year.

It can be argued USA has a larger land and population than Nigeria, but the German railway operator Deutsche Bahn made $48.12bn, followed by the French railway operator, SNCF that made $38.43bn, both of whose combined land size (357,592 km² plus 551,695 km²) and population (83.8 m plus 67.97m) are less than that of Nigeria’s 923,768 km² with 218m population. So with the country’s land size and population, railways can bring nearly $100 billion yearly.

Unfortunately, the Tinubu government has a myopic view of railways being just a means of transport. This is reflected in their plan to build a Coastal Highway and train from Lagos to Calabar, mostly over water and swamps, bypassing inland towns and economic nodes along the way, instead of along the East-West Road connecting dozens of towns and population centers. It's like building a road/railway flyover from Lagos to Sokoto, towns like Abeokuta, Oshogbo, Ilorin won't be what they are today.

Every industrialized nation stimulated its heavy manufacturing with railways. Though the USA built its initial railways to bring its cotton production to the coast for export to Europe, being the largest production unit of iron and chemicals/plastics, it stimulated their local production to build and maintain the railway system. Just like roads stimulate mechanics, vulcanizers, food vendors along their routes, so does railways stimulate various multiplier effects in towns and stops along the way. Currently, Iron and Steel, Plastic and Rubber, Electrical and Electronics combined contribution is a mere 1.6% of the economy which railways can increase tenfold.  

Instead of piecemeal railways built by nepotistic friends and family, it should be approached systematically, and the builders can only be China, or our army, being part of an industrial military complex. We have two North-South railways, what is required is to build a grid system with three East-West railways - Lagos-Calabar, Ilorin-Yola and Sokoto-Maiduguri, thereby creating 9 zones that states and private investors would build feeder routes to every corner. For every job or Naira spent on railways, it will create twenty fold jobs and income in other industries. These income and employment multiplier effects will be the growth drivers of agriculture, services, logistics, engine making, plastics, electricity and other industries.

Solar energy is also an industry with various multiplier effects, in addition to being a source of energy. Covering huge parcels of land in the arid North will reverse deforestation and desert encroachment, as the panels reduce the amount of direct sunlight and heat on the land, thereby stimulating the growth of vegetables under the panels. The covering of 10% of the core North with solar panels will not only fulfill Nigeria's electricity needs, but will provide income and employment to the poverty stricken area through a massive vegetable industry. If Nigeria is to compete globally, solar energy will be its foremost comparative energy production advantage.

The third most important sector that needs government focus is a massive real estate development. Many of us that travel to Europe and USA are marvelled by the sprawling suburbia of neat rows of identical residential homes don't know that they were built during the 1950s Reconstruction Era, when governments provided land and finance to rebuild after the second world war. Rather than taking lands for ethnic focused cattle colonies, the government should enable massive real estate development by creating a mortgage or housing subsidies program like Obafemi Awolowo did in Bodija, Ibadan. Real estate is the number one creator of individual wealth, and to economically empower the masses, there must be more political will on this industry than just political pep talk on breakfast shows.

These three sectors will provide real economic growth instead of tinkering with economic indices that favor only equity investors and rich speculators. It is a good thing the government has listened to advice to stop neo-liberal economic policies of cost minimization (subsidy removal and floating Naira), and we hope they will take up this advice to maximize the right production, not uneconomic projects like coastal Highway and Railways nor taxing the poor for revenue generation.

** Justice Faloye, Afenifere Deputy Publicity Secretary, President ASHE Foundation think tank is an Economist and author, The Blackworld Evolution to Revolution.

Getting things done at the office can sometimes be a lackluster experience, especially if you're performing similar tasks on a regular basis. You want to increase your productivity levels, but at the same time you wonder how you can motivate yourself enough to take the next step forward.  

Sometimes, a change in the way you perform work can give you a much-needed boost of productivity. Adjusting how you think, relate, and process your work can help reenergize your work sessions for the better. 

Here are seven surprising ways you can increase productivity at the office, while having fun at the same time. 

Change your location

Humans are creatures of habit. Break out of your comfort zone by brainstorming, writing, phoning, or emailing in a different area of your office or workspace. 

If you're unable to change your physical location, make subtle but noticeable adjustments to the way in which you work. For instance, you could stand instead of sit or change your desk or chair's orientation. 

Think like someone else

Envision a person you both admire and respect. They may be living or deceased, but they should be someone you relate to on a professional or personal level. Imagine how they would interpret, respond, and act upon your current work task, issue, challenge, or problem. 

Take these attributes and apply them to your work. This single exercise can open your mind up to a whole new way of thinking. 

Imagine the work as finished

You've begun work on a new assignment. Unleash your creative side and ask yourself what the assignment will look like once it's finished. Don't hold back; be as creative, detailed, and realistic as possible.

You can imagine the specific steps you'll take to complete your work or you conjure every aspect of the final product in your mind's eye. Envisioning the final product may inspire you to approach your work within a fresh attitude. 

Give your analytical mind a rest

Forcing yourself to analyze and evaluate information on end can be an exhausting experience. Oftentimes the best remedy for an overworked mind is rote or repetitive work. You can file documents, collate papers, declutter your desk, or prepare items for a mailing. 

Not only will you complete the task at hand, but you'll allow your mind to work silently in the background, processing issues and challenges, and coming up with novel or unexplored solutions.

Ask someone for an idea jumpstart

Find yourself at a loss for ideas? Pick a colleague or coworker's brain. Gaining insight from others, especially those who work in other departments or industries can give you a new way of looking at things. Present them with the problem at hand and ask them how they would go about solving it. 

Carefully listen to their answer and ask yourself how you could use this way of thinking or problem-solving approach in your work. 

Get some fresh air

Take a break from your work and go outside to clear your mind. Breathe in that fresh outdoor air, take in the scenery, view the environment, and observe the weather. 

If you're unable to go outside, open a window for some fresh air and glance at a faraway landmark in the distance for a few moments. Connecting with the outdoor world can sometimes be the jolt of energy you need to get yourself moving in your work.

Look through the eyes of your past, present, and future self

If you want shake up your work flow, try viewing your work through different moments of your work experience. Think about how you might complete your work if you were a novice, your present self, and future self, perhaps in, say, five years' time. 

The idea here is not to have all the answers, but to prompt yourself into a new way of thinking. This exercise alone might spark some inspiring or unconventional answers that will help you work smarter, and not harder.

 

Inc

Nigeria is burning through foreign-exchange reserves at a rate not seen in four years, raising concerns that the central bank is depleting its dollar holdings to support the naira after pledging it would allow the currency to float more freely.

Liquid reserves declined 5.6% since March 18, when the naira started its rebound from record-low levels against the dollar, to $31.7 billion as of April 12, according to Bloomberg’s calculations based on the latest available datafrom the Central Bank of Nigeria. That’s the biggest decline in a similar period since April 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The currency of Africa’s largest oil producer has recovered most of its losses since a 43% devaluation in January. That came after the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced measures to improve liquidity, attract capital inflows and allow the market to determine the naira’s exchange rate. As part of the reforms, the CBN pledged to clear a backlog of pent-up dollar demand.

“The CBN does appear to be using its FX reserves to clear the valid backlog, and return the naira to a realistic exchange rate,” said Charles Robertson, the London-based head of macro strategy at FIM Partners. “My assumption is they hope to encourage others – local and foreign investors – to start investing in the local currency, and return private sector liquidity to the foreign exchange market.”

Nigeria still has a sizable cushion of foreign-exchange reserves, buoyed by a rally in oil prices and inflows from multi-lateral loans. Gross reserves of around $32.6 billion cover about six months’ worth of imports, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The central bank said last month it had cleared a backlog of overdue dollar purchase agreements estimated at $7 billion since the beginning of the year. That was built over years as the central bank pegged its currency against the dollar, leading to a scarcity of foreign currency that deterred foreign portfolio investment. However, it’s unclear how much dollar debt the CBN retains on its books.

The publication of the central bank’s financial statements late last year showed it had securities lending agreements with JP Morgan Chase & Co. for $7 billion and another $500 million with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. It is not clear if those obligations have been settled. A spokesperson for the central bank didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg’s telphonic request for comment.

The FX reserves have fallen despite a surge of inflows into capital markets following 600 basis points of cumulative interest rate hikes in February and March, which increased the allure of Nigerian local debt. Foreign portfolio inflows exceeded $1 billion in February, bringing total receipts so far this year to at least $2.3 billion, according to the central bank.

“The CBN will also be aware that new inflows, from Afreximbank, the World Bank, and a possible eurobond, plus the benefit of higher oil prices and a likely return of remittances via official and semi-official channels (rather than bitcoin) will allow reserves to stabilize or rise again,” Robertson said.

 

Bloomberg

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has taken action against three private jet owners for conducting commercial flight operations, as announced on Tuesday.

Chris Najomo, Acting Director of NCAA, revealed this development, stating that the use of private jets for commercial purposes led to directives from Aviation Minister Festus Keyamo to halt such activities.

Earlier warnings had been issued to permit holders for non-commercial flights (PNCF), cautioning against passenger cargo carriage.

Following intensified monitoring at airport terminals, three operators were found violating regulations, leading to the suspension of their PNCF. Najomo emphasized a reevaluation of all PNCF holders by April 19, 2024, to ensure compliance.

Additionally, he mandated submission of relevant documents within 72 hours and warned AOC holders against unauthorized charter operations.

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