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Food prices rising –Minister

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images 73 1 Food prices rising –Minister

Contrary to claims by the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, that prices of food items are on the decline, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on Monday admitted that food prices are indeed on the increase.

The Presidential spokesman, who last week said that food prices were on the decline, even berated a Channels Television guest for saying otherwise.

Shehu had said, “We sat through the meeting of the National Food Security Council and we heard presentations by experts – people who had surveyed the markets.

“As of yesterday (Thursday the morning of the meeting), go and check the indexes in markets. For instance in Kano, millets that had gone up to N24,000 has now gone down to N12,000 or N13,000. Rice that had been N25,000 is now N20,000. Corn, maize is now N18,000 for the old stock and N14,000, N15,000 for the new stock,” he said.

However, in her own assessment of the cost of living in the country, Ahmed, who spoke on NTA’s ‘Good Morning Nigeria’ programme, noted that unlike in previous administrations where subsidy was done on consumption, it would be better if it is targeted at certain sectors of the productive economy.

She said: “It is true that food prices are going up and, as I said earlier on, sensible subsidy is the one that is done on production, not on consumption because when you use gasoline in your car, you burn it and you have to put it in your car again and burn it. “But if you now change the regime and say any truck that carries food or produce, the diesel price is subsidised, you are subsidising production because it means food items get to the market cheaper. Therefore as long as you are subsidising consumption, whether it is fuel or electricity, there will always be the propensity for gain in the system and then there is always the fact that you are subsiding everybody and it is not everybody that needs it.” According to the minister, it was unlikely that the prices of food would rise further because of the increase in the price of petrol, because most trucks conveying agricultural produce use diesel and not petrol.

The discordant tones by Nigeria’s administration officials came on the heels of last week’s forecast by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that headline inflation might hit the 14.15 per cent mark by end of December 2020.

This was as latest figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had shown that the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation rate rose to 12.82 per cent year-on-year in July 2020. The 12.82 per cent inflation rate is about 0.26 percent points higher than the 12.56 per cent recorded in June this year and the highest inflation rate Nigeria was recording in the last 29 months.

The last time Nigeria’s inflation was as high as that was in March 2018 when the country’s CPI was put at 13.34 per cent.But even while the August inflation rate is being expected, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, had predicted that the nation’s inflation is expected to continue in the short run up to the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, CBN has said that the outlook for the economy remains mildly optimistic. “Headline inflation is expected to hover around 13.97 and 14.15 per cent at end of December 2020, owing to: supply shocks which may likely happen due to decline in economic activities globally as a result of COVID-19 pandemic; demand shocks emanating from domestic and international lockdowns; food supply shocks associated with non-tariff monetary, credit, foreign trade and exchange guidelines for fiscal years 2020/2024 border protection and effect of the implementation of the new budget and minimum wage,” CBN said.

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CBN bans customer-to-customer forex transfer

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images 94 2 CBN bans customer-to-customer forex transfer

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has banned transfer of foreign exchange (forex) from one customer to another.

According to the apex bank, forex cash lodgements into domiciliary accounts can only be done by the account owners henceforth.

An internal memo available in the media space explains that the new guidelines are necessary to review the utilisation of inflows into customers domiciliary accounts.

The circular states: “Forex inflows cannot be credited to customers until the legitimacy of funds is established.

“They can have unfettered access by telegraphic transfers up to a limit of $40,000 monthly for payment of medical bills, school fees, subscription to professional bodies subject to existing CBN guidelines.

“Transfers from one customer to another is prohibited. Transfer within related companies is allowed subject to a limit of $50,000 per month.”

It recommended that proceeds from non-oil exports should be sold to banks, used for repayment of dollar term loans, and self-utilisation for trade transactions for LC, bills and Form A. Also oil export proceeds from E&P companies are to be used to pay contractors and service providers employed by the oil companies in addition to the recommended uses for non-oil FX proceeds.

Offshore forex inflows from other Nigerian banks and internal account to forex transfers sourced from offshore inflows are to be used for trade transactions subject to eligibility for E-Form M.

“Upon confirmation of the legitimacy of the inflows, customers can have unfettered access, subject to a maximum of $50,000,” the document read.

“Utilisation for trade transactions subject to processing of eligible trade transactions using E-Form M. Payment for services must be backed with demand note from offshore beneficiary and other regulatory documents. “Related party transfers are allowed to the maximum of the inflow received. The transfer request should be backed by a signed instruction from the account holder.” Payment of government fees and levies are also allowed to the maritime, oil and gas, aviation. government parastatals and export processing zones.

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Nigeria, other maritime nations lose $9tr to COVID-19 pandemic

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images 93 2 Nigeria, other maritime nations lose $9tr to COVID-19 pandemic

•FG deploys revenue directors to NPA, Customs, others to boost remittances

Nigeria and other maritime nations around the world have lost about $9 trillion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to COVID-19 pandemic that grounded almost all sectors of the global economy.

At the peak of the pandemic between March and May, so many shipping lines, manufacturers, factories and other businesses were shutdown in order to curb the spread of the infestious disease around the world.

At a recent sensitisation workshop for stakeholders on COVID-19 in Lagos, whose theme is Maritime Industry and Emerging Trends In Global Trade, the Director General of African Centre for Supply Chain, Dr. Obiora Madu, said logistics chains are going through unusual and massive losses from the disruption caused by the pandemic.

His words: “The shutdown of factories and scarcity of manpower to de-stuff cargo, as well as drivers to operate trucks for cargo evacuation, has derailed the trade and smooth functioning of the logistics industry. The estimate is a cumulative loss of $9 trillion to the global GDP and the world trade has already witnessed a decline by about 32 per cent”.

Madu who is also the CEO of Multimix Academy, disclosed that the turnaround time at ports has been extended longer that what it was in pre-COVID-19 scenario, adding that many small companies engaged in the maritime and shipping industry have gone bankrupt due to less demand and the inability to handle the finances of the company during the period of less demand of cargoes and shipping.

“This has majorly impacted the small running businesses and resulted in the shutting down of various companies engaged in this industry. With international transport at the forefront of trade and depend on travel and human interaction, the shipping industry has been impacted materially both directly and indirectly from the outbreak of COVID-19,” he said.

Meanwhile, challenged by dwindling revenue and crippling debt amid the pandemic, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) on Tuesday began a training programme for treasury officers who will be deployed to strategic Federal Government Owned Enterprises (FGOEs) as revenue directors to help swell government’s purse.

The move also tackles the perennial challenge of low remittance which the revenue-generating agencies were accused of.

In the pilot phase, 10 federal agencies have been penciled down where revenue directors from OAGF will be posted to.

The agencies are; Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Speaking at the commencement of a three-day training programme, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the government has been compelled to improve revenue generation, especially in the non-oil sector, to fund the nation’s huge expenditure.

Ahmed charged the Directors of Revenue to remain above board as they would be involved in the revenue operations of the FGOEs.

She urged them to learn fast and have an understanding of the business processes and operations of the FGOEs to realise improved transparency and accountability in revenue reporting by the FGOEs.

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CBN prepares for recession, reduces benchmark lending rate to 11.5%

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images 59 2 CBN prepares for recession, reduces benchmark lending rate to 11.5%

The Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday reduced the Monetary Policy Rate by 100 basis points from 12. 5 per cent to 11 . 5 per cent after its two- day Monetary Policy Committee meeting in Abuja.
The 10 members of the committee who were in attendance voted to retain the Cash Reserve Ratio and Liquidity Ratio at 27 .5 per cent and 30 per cent respectively .
The MPC adjusted the asymmetric corridor from +200 /- 500 basis points to +100 /- 700 basis points around the MPR .
The Central Bank Governor , Godwin Emefiele , disclosed these while presenting the communiqué after the meeting.
He said , “ At present , fiscal policy is constrained and so cannot , on its own, lift the economy out of contraction or recession given the paucity of funds arising from weak revenue base , current low crude oil prices , lack of fiscal buffers and high burden of debt services . ”
He said the committee expressed deep concern on the continued uptick in inflation for the twelfth consecutive month as headline inflation ( year – on – year ) rose to 13 . 22 per cent in August from 12 .82 per cent in July 2020.
“ The increase in headline inflation was largely driven by the persistent increase in the food component, which rose to 16 per cent in August 2020 from 15 .48 per cent in July 2020, ” he said .
Emefiele said the committee stressed the urgent need for a combination of broad – based monetary and fiscal policy measures to curb the rise in inflation and contraction in output growth .
Explaining further , he said , “ In the light of this , reducing MPR will signal to the Deposit Money Banks to lend more to stimulate growth , increase aggregate supply , which should dampen prices in the immediate term .”
Emefiele said , “ The MPC was, at this meeting , confronted by policy dilemma .
“ Whereas MPC believes in the primacy of its price and monetary stability mandate, it nevertheless was confronted with what policy direction to focus on, given the contraction in output growth during the second quarter of 2020, which may lead to a recession, if the third quarter of 2020 output growth numbers further show a contraction .
“ It is , therefore , of the view that , if a recession occurs in Q3 , the committee would be confronted with proposing policy options in a period of stagflation . ”
“ The committee also noted the rising public debt profile and urged the fiscal authority to strengthen its debt management strategy , explore other sources of revenue , as well as enhance efficiency in public expenditure ,” he added.
Financial experts, however, differ on the reduction in the MPR .
The Director – General , Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry , Dr Muda Yusuf , said , “ The adjustment of the MPR by 100 basis points from 12 .5 per cent to 11. 5 per cent by the MPC was a surprise .
“ My expectation was that the status quo would be maintained.
“ Rates were already generally low in the money market . In fact , concerns were being expressed about the fact the real savings and deposits rate were negative.
“ But , I do not believe it would have any material impact on lending rates .”
A former President , Association of National Accountants of Nigeria , Dr Sam Nzekwe , praised the CBN for the reduction in the lending rate.
He said , “ That is a good development and it shows they are beginning to listen to what we are saying because some of us have always said the interest rates should come down. ”
Professor of capital market , Nasarawa State University , Prof . Uche Uwaleke , said , “ I expected the MPC to maintain the status quo , to hold the rates because of the spike in inflation that we witnessed last month .”
He added that the inflationary pressure and the pump price of fuel which was recently increased would exert more pressure on inflation .

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