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Fitch Compares Nigeria Sovereign Debt With Emerging Markets

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In a presentation on Nigeria’s Debt Capital Markets, Richard Fox, Fitch Ratings’ Head of Africa/Middle East sovereigns, compares Nigeria’s current sovereign debt metrics to those of Emerging Markets (EMs) that have recently made the transition to investment grade (IG).

Since 2004, seven EMs have moved up the rating scale from Nigeria’s current ‘BB-’ level to the lowest investment grade.

The most recent was Indonesia in 2011; the others are Azerbaijan (2010), Brazil (2008) and Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Romania and Russia (2004). Of the seven, four are oil producers to varying degrees.

The three notch upward movement has typically taken between six and eight years, which makes it a plausible ambition for Nigeria in the context of its Vision 2020.

Among the key indicators that Fitch uses to assess sovereign credit worthiness, three stand out as being well outside the range of experience of recent newly IG EMs: per capita GDP, reserve cover and governance.

The latter is measured by the World Bank’s governance indicators.

These areas represent Nigeria’s biggest challenge to improving its rating, as highlighted in Fitch’s previous research.

Of the three, reserve cover is the most susceptible to rapid improvement, particularly at current high oil prices.

But although Nigeria’s reserves have risen by around USD2bn this year, they are not rising as fast as in the majority of big oil exporters.

Other external data such as the current account and net external assets are comparable to those of newly IG sovereigns.

The exception is commodity dependence, reflecting the dominance of oil revenues.

Although some newly IG oil exporters have had even higher oil dependence, this has been compensated by a stronger international reserves cushion against oil shocks.

Part of the explanation for the improved trend of reserves this year is the authorities’ actions to reduce FX demand for refined petroleum imports, including the partial reduction in the petroleum subsidy earlier this year.

The reduction in the benchmark oil price in the 2012 budget, albeit partially reversed by the National Assembly, was also a step in the right direction.

Nevertheless, the Federal government’s budget deficit and consolidated government budget surplus are within the range experienced by newly IG countries.

They are not as strong as some of the major oil producers when they made the transition to IG – notably Azerbaijan and Russia.

Increased fiscal savings in Nigeria’s new sovereign wealth fund will be a key driver of Nigeria’s rating.

Nigeria’s stable and robust GDP growth of more than 7% since 2009 compares well with the record of newly IG sovereigns and is even more creditable given its reliance on the non-oil sector.

But structural reforms planned in the electricity, oil and agriculture sectors, will be crucial if growth is to be diversified and sustained closer to double digits, in order to close the large gap in per capita income.

With a likely substantial increase in nominal GDP this year due to the rebasing of the national accounts, Nigeria’s per capita GDP will still be outside the range enjoyed by the newly IG

countries when they became IG.

Nigeria’s inflation rate is also still on the high side – in low double digits compared to an average of 7.5 per cent for newly IG sovereigns and a range of 5 per cent to 12 per cent.

By contrast, Nigeria scores much better on the government debt ratio which, despite creeping up, at a little under 20 per cent of

GDP is lower than the 26per cent average for newly IG sovereigns.

Nigeria’s ability to finance itself domestically, in its relatively

well developed domestic capital market, is also a major strength compared to many newly IG sovereigns

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CBN Assures On Depositors’ Fund Safety 

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reassured the banking public of the safety of their deposits and the banking system’s resilience.
CBN’s Acting Director of  Corporate Communications Department, Mrs Hakama Sidi-Ali, gave the assurance in a statement on  Monday in Abuja.
The statement, a response to concerns raised about the stability of some Nigerian banks in the wake of Heritage Bank Plc’s license revocation, faulted claims that the CBN was considering revoking the operating licences of Fidelity, Polaris, Wema, and Unity Banks.
It also clarified that a circular issued by the Bank on January 10, 2024, notifying the public about the dissolution of the Boards of Union, Keystone, and Polaris Banks, was currently being circulated as though it was freshly issued.
According to the Director, Heritage Bank’s case was isolated.
“Allegations of further revocation of licences prior to the completion of CBN’s recapitalisation exercise are mere fabrications aimed at creating panic within the system”, Sidi-Ali said.
She stated that bank customers, particularly those of Heritage Bank, need not worry about the safety of their deposits, adding that the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) had commenced payment to the bank’s insured depositors.
The spokesperson urged members of the public to continue their regular banking activities without fear, dismissing any false reports regarding the health of specific Deposit Money Banks.
“The CBN, with its robust regulatory framework, is proactively ensuring the stability of Nigeria’s financial system, thereby guaranteeing the safety of depositors’ funds in all Nigerian financial institutions”, she said.
Sidi-Ali reiterated the assurances of the CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, that the recapitalisation of banks in Nigeria was intended to bolster the banking system and safeguard the sector against risks.

She urged all stakeholders to cooperate in ensuring the success of the process, which she said would be for the overall growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Without prejudice to the ongoing recapitalisation process, I want to restate that the Nigerian banking industry remains resilient. Key financial soundness indicators remain within current regulatory thresholds.

“Customers are, therefore, encouraged to proceed with their transactions as usual, as the CBN is committed to ensuring the safety of the banking system”, she said

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NERC Approves New Tariff Hike For Port Harcourt DisCo

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In spire of calls that the recently hiked “Band A” tariff be reversed, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has approved a new tariff hike for the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (DisCo).
NERC permitted the PHED to raise tariffs for Band A customers categorised as Maximum Demand 2 Special (A – MD2 Special).
MD customers are customers that have a load of 45kVA and above. They also operate and maintain their dedicated transformers.
From N206 per kilowatt-hour, this category of customers within the Port Harcourt franchise will now pay N225/KWh.
In a regulatory instrument tagged June 2024 Supplementary Order to the Multi-Year Tariff Order – 2024 (“June 2024 Supplementary Order”) for Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc, the NERC said the tariff approval was under the Tariff Review Application by PHED.
“Further to Section 23 of the MYTO-2024, this Supplementary Order seeks to reflect the changes in the pass-through indices outside the control of licensees including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rate, available generation capacity and gas price for the determination of Cost-Reflective Tariffs”, NERC stated.
The electricity regilator emphasised the basis for the review, saying the Naira to the US Dollar exchange rate of N1,469.06 per dollar has been adopted for June to December 2024. It said this has been determined by adding a 1 per cent transaction cost to the average foreign exchange rate of N1,454.52 during the period May 1 to 24, 2024 as obtained from the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
It also added that the Nigerian inflation rate of 33.69 per cent for April 2024 as published by the National Bureau of Statistics was applied to revise the Nigerian inflation rate projection for 2024.
“Under Section 116 of the Electricity Act and extant regulations, the commission has considered and approved for PHED, the tariffs (in Table 2) effective 1st June 2024. The approved tariffs shall remain in force subject to monthly adjustments of pass-through indices including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rates and gas-to-power prices.
“In line with the policy direction of the Federal Government of Nigeria on electricity subsidy, the allowed tariffs for Bands B – E customer categories shall remain frozen at the rates payable since December 2022 subject to further policy direction by the government.
“With this policy, the estimated subsidy benefit for customers under the PHED franchise in 2024 is approximately N11.49bn monthly”, the NERC stated.
In April, the NERC announced a new tariff for customers in Band A, from N68/KWh to N225/KWh.
It later reduced the tariff to N206.80/KWh based on the rebound of the naira.
Meanwhile, organised labour and manufacturers have kicked against the Band A tariff.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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AMJON Partners School To Train Journalists On Maritime Operations 

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The Association of Maritime journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) has gone into a mutually beneficial collaboration with School of Eloquence to strengthen the capacity and reporting skills of Maritime journalists.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Chairman, AMJON Organising Committee, Mr. Segun Oladipupo and made available to our correspondent in Lagos on Monday.
According to the statement, “This year’s edition, tagged “Special Edition”, is a collaborative effort between the foremost Public Speaking training School,  School of Eloquence and AMJON”.
Oladipupo said the training is slated to hold on Friday at the School of Eloquence premises at Osborne Road, Ikoyi.
“Experts from the Nigeria Customs Service, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and School of Eloquence have been lined up to train journalists on the rudiments of their own operations”, according to the statement.
Speaking, the President of AMJON, Paul Ogbuokiri, said journalism required constant training to be in tune with evolving trends in the industry.
According to him, journalism has taken a leap from what it used to be and journalists need to equip themselves with modern journalism tools that will help them to catch up with the trends.
“We need constant training and restraining to be relevant in this age of journalism. If we fail to update ourselves, we will soon fizzle out,
“This partnership with the School of Eloquence is a right step in the right direction. It will no doubt, energise our knowledge of reportage”, he stated.
On his part, the Chairman, Organising Committee, Segun Oladipupo, said the event would afford members the opportunity to take their reporting to enviable height
He, therefore, enjoined participants to seize the opportunity to learn new trends in journalism and also learn the business side of the job.
He thanked the School of Eloquence for providing a platform for Nigerian journalists to take a flight in their daily assignment.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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