President Bola Tinubu has promised to honour all the foreign exchange obligations that Nigeria has entered into through forward contracts.
Forward contracts are financial agreements where two parties agree to exchange a specified amount of one currency for another currency at a predetermined future date and exchange rate.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiated agreements with Nigerian businesses to sell forward contracts, which essentially promised the businesses a fixed amount of dollars at a predetermined price in the future. These contracts allowed the businesses to open Letters of Credit (LCs), which are a form of payment guarantee issued by banks on behalf of the importers.
With the assurance of receiving the promised dollars from the CBN, the businesses utilized these LCs to import goods from foreign suppliers. The expectation was that when the goods arrived, the CBN would release the dollars to the importers, allowing them to fulfill their payment obligations to the suppliers. This system ensured a smooth flow of imports and facilitated international trade for Nigerian businesses.
However, since February 2023, the CBN has been unable to fulfill its promises and has not provided the businesses with the dollars they were allocated under the forward contracts. As a result, there is now a significant backlog of approximately $3 billion owed to these businesses. This means that the businesses are unable to fulfil their obligations to their foreign suppliers, leading to disruption in the supply chain and potentially damaging their relationships with international partners.
The consequences of the CBN’s failure to meet its commitments are not limited to domestic businesses alone. Foreign investors also have a substantial backlog of approximately $10 billion owed to them by the CBN. This impacts the confidence and trust of foreign investors in the Nigerian economy, potentially deterring future investments and harming economic growth.
Moreover, the shortage of foreign exchange liquidity resulting from this failure has forced the CBN to suspend various transactions. These include payments for school fees and Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) applications, causing inconvenience and financial difficulties for individuals who rely on these services.
Overall, the CBN’s failure to fulfil its promises has had significant financial consequences for the businesses involved, leading to a backlog of owed payments and disruptions in international trade relationships. This has also negatively impacted the broader economy’s stability, with suspended transactions and a potential decrease in foreign investor confidence. Resolving this issue and restoring trust in the CBN’s ability to honour its commitments will be crucial for the recovery and growth of the Nigerian economy.
To address this huge Forex backlog, President Bola Tinubu at the 29th edition of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) announced that “consistent with our commitment to enshrining fairness and the rule of law in our country, this government will uphold the sanctity of every legitimate contract.
He said: “Specifically, as it relates to foreign exchange obligations of the government, all forward contracts that the government has entered will be honoured and a framework has been put in place to ensure that these obligations are met in due course.”
Tinubu also disclosed that a framework has been established to ensure that the government meets its foreign exchange obligations as stipulated in the contracts.
An official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who was at the event said, “This framework will likely include policies, procedures, and financial resources to ensure the obligations are met as agreed upon.”
The president in his address to the NESG, said there must be consumer credit, adding that the scheme would have to come to effect as soon as possible.
He said: “I task my team and my colleagues to build this programme and develop it now. We cannot talk about anti-corruption when you have to look for cash to buy a car when there’s no mortgage for homeownership.
“Where do you expect a civil servant to have N3 million or N5 million for housing without corruption? If you don’t change and plan the welfare of your judiciary and you ask them to be fair, render justice with mercy, with a hungry stomach.
Tinubu noted that Nigeria aims to achieve a $1 trillion economy by 2026 and $3 trillion within this decade through sustainable and competitive growth.
He said the private sector is crucial to achieving this goal, and that the government is seeking collaboration and support from industry leaders to realize this vision.
He said public-private partnerships and successful models from the past will be utilized to ensure a prosperous Nigeria for all.
Tinubu said: “The private sector is encouraged to bring their ideas, leadership, and capital to build a hopeful future. I am confident that by working closely with all of you in the private sector, financing our $3 trillion National Infrastructure Stock can be achieved in 10 years and not in 300 years.
“Building megacities in every geopolitical zone of the size and scale of Lagos must not take us another six decades. We can do it in one decade. A fully networked and connected Nigeria by rail, gas, fibre optics and road network can be constructed in less than 20 years. Establishing thriving Industrial zones in every part of Nigeria is possible before 2030.”
Speaking about the need to stimulate the economy, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu disclosed that “by January 2024, the new student loan programme and consumer credit schemes will have come into effect. New and affordable homes will also be built at a record pace. We have all felt the pain of these reforms; soon, we shall begin to reap the rewards. It is my hope that this Summit will deliberate and proffer yet more solutions to complement the programmes mentioned above.
Order CBN to honour Letters of Credit– SINET to Tinubu, NASS
Amidst several hardships facing the Nigerian populace, the Social Integrity Network, (SINET) has urged President Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the leadership of national assembly to compel the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Olayemi Cardoso, to order and reconsider honouring the forward contracts that are genuinely backed up with proper compliant documents for utilisation against each Letters of Credit (LCs) opened by the commercial banks using the forwards as a hedge.
The group also urged the Federal Government to make further clarification concerning a statement credited to the CBN Governor on issues regarding the alleged and well-publicized revelations of a $2.4 billion forex trading fraud.
SINET recalled that “On February 5, 2024, the governor of CBN made this declaration in both his interactions with Senate committees and his interview on a national television, following the engagement of Deloitte Management Consultant to conduct a forensic investigation where he claimed that the said amount was uncovered.
A statement issued on Monday by SINET national coordinator, Ibrahim Issah, disclosed that “On the contrary, we wish to unequivocally state that these claims lack merit and do not take into account the consequences they will have on businesses, public perception, or the economy of our cherished nation and its implication on forex both at home and abroad.”
According to him, “Without sentiment, the claim is completely falsehood and unacceptable as he, the CBN governor, failed to consider its economic implications. It is pertinent to state that genuine businessmen and women across the country, borrowed Funds from commercial banks, some with interest rates as high as 30% to secure forex from the CBN through their respective commercial banks since CBN does not sell the dollars to individuals directly.
“The same funds have been deposited with CBN for the past one and half years for forwards allocated for which the Apex Bank is now claiming were fraudulent transactions. May we remind Mr. Governor that while the CBN allocated the forwards after collecting the naira for each forward allocated, the commercial banks used these same forward contracts as a hedge and issued Letters of Credit (LCs) to their various customers against their offshore credit lines and also as a sovereign guarantee to their offshore banks which stand unpaid till today as a result of the failure of CBN to honour the various forward contracts.
“May we also remind our CBN Governor that as a result of their failure to honour these contracts, the outstanding foreign loans continue to accrue interest (post-negotiation charges), which the commercial Banks are passing to their customers: the same customers you say do not have a genuine claim.”
The statement further stressed that, “The public would like to ask Mr. Governor the following questions: What will happen to the foreign bank that is expecting their payment to be paid back? What will happen to the businessmen and women who had borrowed Naira from commercial Banks and paid the same into the CBN account for the purchase of forex for over eighteen months? Who will bear the interest charged on borrowed funds locally? Who will bear the charges running against the offshore lines used in establishing Letters of Credit? What will happen to the businesses? What will happen to the employees that are dependent on the survival of the businesses that CBN is trying to kill?
“We call upon the senate president and, in fact, the president and Commander In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to call the CBN governor to order and reconsider honouring the forward contracts that are genuinely backed up with proper compliant documents for utilisation against each Letters of Credit (LCs) opened by the commercial banks using the forwards as a hedge.
“Let us state categorically that the CBN is killing businesses by cancelling the forward contracts that were sold to them about 18 months ago at the rate of N450/dollar and now selling the same funds to the commercial banks and directing the bank to sell the money at the rate of 1,500/dollar to the same businesses who initially had a forward contract at the rate of N450/dollar.
“May we also remind Mr. Governor, that failure to honour these forward contracts is taking commercial banks longer time to clean the offshore lines already used for establishing Letters of Credit against which shipments have been done and payment made to LC beneficiaries by the offshore banks. The delays of the commercial banks to settle their Forex obligations to their offshore banks is making our country risk to be very high.
“Lastly, the public will like to call on the coordinating minister for the economy, Mr. Wale Edun to engage the CBN regarding this issue of undelivered forward contracts because at present in Nigeria, almost 60% of companies in the manufacturing sector have been closed due to the volatility of Forex in Nigeria in order to avoid the other 40% from also closing down.
“This will go a long way to help the few remaining manufacturing companies still in operation in Nigeria and also encourage the new investors that the president and commander in-chief of the federal republic is trying woo to bring their investments to Nigeria.”
Senate Passes Sen Ashiru’s Bill To Establish National Road Transport Council
The Senate on Tuesday granted first reading to a bill seeking to establish a National Road Transport Council which is to be saddled with the responsibility of regulating the road transport industry and the transport profession in Nigeria.
The bill titled National Road Transportation Council (Establishment) Bill 2024 is sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader Senator Oyelola Ashiru and was introduced to the Senate plenary after the Senators resumed from their 30 day recess.
Further details of the bill fronted by the Kwara South Senator reveals that if signed into law a council board will be established which shall consist of a Board chairman and six members drafted from each geo-political zone of the country.
More insights of the bill sighted by the Sun also states that the board shall be presided by a representative from Ministries of transport, commerce and industry and aviation and they shall not be below the rank of a Director.
As highlighted in the explanatory memorandum of the bill , [b]the functions of the proposed council include; creating an effective regulatory framework on road transport service operators; determining the standard of knowledge and skills required for road transport service operators; encouraging the advancement of education in road transportation; ensuring accessibility of road transport facilities, [/b]channels, and routes; monitoring the performance of the regulated road transport industry; conducting background check on road transport service operators; registering all road transport service providers and determine the fees for such registration; setting guidelines and general policies for road transport service operators; updating the Federal Government on its activities and progress through annual and audited reports; reviewing progress and suggest improvement within the provisions of this Bill and do such other things as are necessary or incidental to the objects of the Council under this Bill or as may be assigned by the Federal Government.
The bill received the nod of the Senators via voice votes presided by the Senate President Godswill Akpabio shortly after it was introduced to the floor of the Red Chambers by the Leader of the Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.