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Economic hardship: FG to expand cash transfers to aid 12m households amid rising costs

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…CBN implements measures to stabilise Naira, combat inflation

In a response to the surging cost of living, the Nigerian government has announced plans to significantly expand its direct cash transfer initiative, aiming to support an additional 12 million households.

This move is set to boost the existing program that currently assists approximately 3 million people.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Wale Edun, disclosed the government’s intentions at a recent retreat in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state, on Wednesday, February 21.

The decision comes as the government seeks to alleviate the financial strain on the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

According to the finance minister, “The presidential panel on the social investment programmes, have prepared to go to Mr. President with an internal recommendation to restart the direct payments to the poorest and the most vulnerable. Everything is being done to ease the pain.

“We know that there’s been about 3 million beneficiaries now, but given the way the rates have gone, there are probably another 12 million people, households that can benefit from that payment.”

The Minister noted that the expansion of the direct cash transfer aims to reach a wider population struggling with the economic situation and to put more money directly in the hands of those who need it most, allowing them to prioritise their needs and alleviate poverty.

The decision to inform the President of the Panel’s decision before the final report is completed is to keep the President abreast of developments.

Wale Edun stated that technology will be used to ensure smooth and transparent payments, avoiding manual processes and delays.

He said, “The only thing delaying that is not waiting for the end of the report. It is something that the intervention is meant to happen immediately.

“We have experts in technology, the commitment was to make sure that we use technology to ensure that we have a seamless payment, a seamless movement between the registered and the direct beneficiaries, without any manual processes in between. So it’s taking time to automate that process immediately so that direct payment will resume.”

The Minister reiterated President Bola Tinubu’s intervention to release 60,000 metric tonnes of food grains.

He said, “The goal is to put food, to put feed into the mill, into the market, in an attempt to drive down the cost of food and make food available. Right now, that is the key priority in terms of the fiscal side, in terms of the government side.”

Defending the plan of the direct cash transfer to the poorest and most vulnerable in society, Wale Edun argued that “history has shown, evidence has shown that when you pay someone directly, you put money in their hand. It reduces poverty because they decide where the shoe is pinching most.

“So it is a direct benefit, it has a direct effect on poverty. It alleviates, and there’s a commitment to immediately start that process. So that is, as far as these interventions are concerned and the landscape which we as a team are facing, we have a commitment to help to bring down inflation.

“Growing the economy, creating jobs and lifting millions and millions of Nigerians out of poverty, that’s the ultimate goal of President Bola Tinubu and his economic policies.”

The Minister acknowledged that the historical reliance on “Ways and Means” financing was a source of inflation. The government, he said, is committed to reducing this debt burden through various financial and revenue-generating initiatives.

He stated, “On the monetary side, Ways and Means have been identified, and we too agree that the historical legacy of Ways and Means that was inherited has to be dealt with, and has to be paid out one way or the other. And those are the financial engineering, those are the revenue initiatives that we are focused on to remove that burden, that inflationary burden on the economy.”

Edun said that close collaboration between the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank is crucial in tackling inflation and stabilising the Naira.

To this end, the Central Bank is using various tools to achieve these goals, including stabilising interest rates and managing foreign exchange rates.

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Naira makes huge recovery, gains 7.2% against dollar

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The Naira on Friday experienced huge appreciation at the official market, trading at N1,142.38 to the dollar.

Data from the official trading platform of the FMDQ Exchange, a platform that oversees the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM), revealed that the Naira gained N88.23.

This represents a 7.16 per cent gain when compared to the previous trading date on Monday, April 8, exchanging at N1,230.61 to a dollar before the Sallah holiday.

The total daily turnover increased to $281.34 million on Friday up from $125.55 million recorded on Monday.

Meanwhile, at the Investor’s and Exporter’s (I&E) window, the Naira traded between N1,265 and N1,100 against the dollar.

Economic experts have continued to praise both fiscal and monetary policies of President Bola Tinubu’s administration responsible for the steady Naira appreciation.

The CBN, during its policy meetings held in February and March, implemented a total of 600 basis points in interest rate increases.

This helped tackle dollar scarcity, reduced volatility, and decreased reliance on parallel markets.

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DMO to raise N450bn in April bond auction

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The Debt Management Office (DMO) is seeking to raise N450 billion in its April bond auction billed to take place on April 15.

This is in line with the agency’s plan to raise up to N1.8 trillion through FGN bonds in the second quarter (Q2) of 2024.

The DMO is offering N150 billion for the new FGN APR 2029 five-year bond. It is offering N150 billion for the reopened FFBN FEB 2031 17-year bond and N150 billion for the FGN FEB 2034 10-year bond.

The auction will take place on April 15 and the settlement date is April 17, 2024.

FGN bonds are auctioned every month through the DMO, with the interest paid semi-annually. They are subject to a minimum subscription of N50,000,001 and in multiples of N1,000 thereafter.

FGN bonds are recognised as investment instruments for trustees under the Trustee Investment Act. They receive tax exemption benefits for pension funds because they’re considered government securities, as per the guidelines in the Company Income Tax Act (CITA) and the Personal Income Tax Act (PITA).

In Q1 2024, the DMO raised about N2.39 trillion through FGN bonds, with the largest issuance occurring in February.

In Q1 2024, the DMO raised about N2.39 trillion through FGN bonds, with the largest issuance occurring in February.

The DMO issued N418.2 billion of FGN bond in January, N1.49 trillion worth of FGN bonds in February 2024, with interest rates hitting 19 percent for the 10-year bonds. Then in March 2024, the DMO issued N475.7 billion at bumper interest rates, with rate hitting 20.45 percent on the 10-year bond.

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ABCON backs CBN’s prohibition of non export domiciliary account collateral for naira loans

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) directive stopping the use of Non Export Domiciliary Account Collateral for naira loans will boost dollar liquidity, support reserves accretion and strengthen the financial services sector, President, Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Alhaji (Dr.) Aminu Gwadabe has said.

According to the CBN directive to banks, the use of foreign currency-denominated collaterals for Naira loans is now prohibited, except in cases where the collateral is in the form of Eurobonds issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria or guarantees provided by foreign banks, including Standby Letters of Credit.

In a statement on the apex bank policy and impact on the forex market, Gwadabe described the move as a welcome development, expected to put the excesses of big businesses and manufacturers putting unnecessary pressure on the forex market  in check.

He said, “ABCON members are bewildered that some companies and manufacturers with billions of dollar balances in their non-oil export domiciliary accounts  use it as collateral for naira loans and still source forex in the official window thereby depleting what is available for other operators.

“The stoppage of this unprofitable practice will not only add to the dollar liquidity in the market but also help in the accretion of foreign reserves buffers,” he added.

Gwadabe advised the apex bank to review foreign currency holding guidelines for non-oil export domiciliary accounts proceeds and entrench maximum of 48 hours with a minimum balance of $5k for individuals and $50 k for companies in holding positions as practiced in South Africa.

ABCON chief further advised the CBN not to approve forex requests by manufacturers and other business applicants with billions of dollars holdings in Non export oil proceeds domiciliary accounts at both the NAFEM and NAFEX window.

ABCON boss explained that unfortunately, the BDCs are most times seen as crude but remain an effective market control mechanism with the potent transmission mechanism tool in achieving the CBN’s mandate of price stability and liquidity in the markets.

“We therefore urge the CBN to continue to drive and expand its operations to ensure that the best results now achieved in the last 15 years is maintained and  also ensure exchange rate convergence, market calmness and confidence of the public and foreign investors,” he said.

ABCON leadership, he added, has also called for and advocated for the separation of ownership and operational structures of FMDQ Exchange. The move, he said would ensure more transparency and effectiveness in market operations and price control mechanisms.

Furthermore, ABCON boss urged the CBN to allow legislative decisions on the planned reforms in the BDCs sub-sector to boost foreign investors’ confidence and guarantees in the sectoral transformation.

“We also want to pledge our continuing support to CBN’s proactive and effective policies and meant to address volatility and headwinds in the forex market. As a self regulatory body, ABCON is currently engaging all stakeholders and players in the retail  end market to deepen, liberalise, democratise and centralise the retail end segments of the market for price discovery, market efficiency, transparency, accretion of buffers and healthy balance of payments,” Gwadabe said.

“We applaud the CBN management for the reconsideration and reinstatement of the BDC sub-sector as third leg of the forex market to put hoarding and speculation under check and we have seen faster results than expected,” he stated.

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