By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Wednesday announced what it termed the “automatic adjustment mechanism of the exchange rate” in a flexible foreign exchange regime aimed at reducing the pressure on the Naira.
CBN has been under immense pressure to devalue the Naira for a while, which has been resisted by both the monetary and fiscal authorities, claiming that past devaluations did not benefit the economy- which is import dependent.
Mr. Emefiele said, “The Central Bank of Nigeria has always maintained that it would continue to monitor situations on the ground and ensure that the Bank’s policies reflect these facts and developments rather than the sentiments of any groups or sectors.
“It is in light of this principle that we now believe that the time is right to restore the automatic adjustment mechanism of the exchange rate with the re-introduction of a flexible inter-bank exchange rate market.
“The workings of this market will be consistent with the Bank’s objectives of enhancing efficiency and facilitating a liquid and transparent Foreign Exchange Market.
Highlights of the flexible regime
Under the new regime, Governor Enefiele said that the market would operate as a single market structure through the inter-bank/autonomous window
Below are the highlights of the new regime:
*The Exchange Rate would be purely market-driven using the Thomson-Reuters Order Matching System as well as the Conversational Dealing Book.
*The CBN would participate in the Market through periodic interventions to either buy or sell FX as the need arises.
*To improve the dynamics of the market, we will introduce FX Primary Dealers (FXPD) who would be registered by the CBN to deal directly with the Bank for large trade sizes on a two-way quotes basis.
*These Primary Dealers shall operate with other dealers in the Inter-bank market, amongst other obligations that will be stipulated in the Foreign Exchange Primary Dealers (FXPD) Guidelines, which would also be released immediately after this Press Briefing.
*There shall be no predetermined spread on FX spot transactions executed through the CBN intervention with Primary Dealers, while all FX Spot purchased by Authorized Dealers are transferable in the inter-bank FX Market.
*The Forty-One (41) items classified as “Not Valid for Foreign Exchange” as detailed in a previous CBN Circular shall remain inadmissible in the Nigerian FX market.
*To enhance liquidity in the market, the CBN may also offer long-tenored FX Forwards of 6 to 12 months or any tenor to Authorized Dealers
*Sale of FX Forwards by Authorized Dealers to end-users must be trade-backed, with no predetermined spreads;
*The CBN shall introduce non-deliverable over-the-counter (OTC) Naira-settled Futures, with daily rates on the CBN-approved FMDQ Trading and Reporting System. This is an entirely new product in the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market, which would help moderate volatility in the exchange rate by moving non-urgent FX demand from the Spot to the Futures market;
*The OTC FX Futures shall be in non-standardized amounts and different fixed tenors, which may be sold on any dates thereby ensuring bespoke maturity dates;
*Proceeds of Foreign Investment Inflows and International Money Transfers shall be purchased by Authorized Dealers at the Daily Inter-Bank Rate; and
*Non-oil exporters are now allowed unfettered access to their FX proceeds, which shall be sold in the Inter-bank market.
*Selected FX Primary Dealers would be notified by Friday 17th June 2016. All other non-Primary Dealers would remain valid and eligible to participate in the market
*Inter-bank trading under the new guidelines will begin on Monday 20th June 2016; and
*The tenors and rates for the OTC Naira-settled FX Futures will be announced on Monday, June 27, 2016.
Depleted foreign reserves
The CBN, the governor said, had to take the measures sine the nation “witnessed a significant decline in our Foreign Exchange Reserves from about US$42.8 billion in January 2014 to about US$26.7 billion as of 10th June 2016.
“In terms of inflows, the Bank’s foreign exchange earnings have fallen from about US$3.2 billion monthly to current levels of below a billion dollars per month.”
He blamed the poor foreign exchange receipts on the over 70 percent drop in the price of crude oil, which contributes the largest share of our Foreign Exchange Reserves; Global growth slowdown and geopolitical tensions along critical trading routes in the world; and Normalization of Monetary Policy by the United States’ Federal Reserve.
The CBN boss explained, “the interplay between reduced FX Supply and rising FX demand accounted for a substantial reduction in our foreign exchange reserves.”
Mr. Emefiele, assured, however, that “Our Reserves, despite having fallen, is still robust and is able to cover about 5 months of Nigeria’s imports as against the international benchmark of 3 months.”
He said that his team at the CBN would ensure transparency in the new regime and that there would be no place for speculators.
His words, “Let me note that the Central Bank is strongly determined to make this market as transparent, liquid, and efficient as possible. Therefore, we would neither tolerate unscrupulous behaviour nor hesitate to bring serious sanctions on offenders.
“The CBN expects all authorized dealers particularly to display the highest level of professionalism. We expect them to understand the spirit and letter of this transition to a market based system. The CBN will not allow the system to be undermined by speculators and rent-seekers.
*Permit me to emphasize that any attempt to breach any aspect of this new framework will be heavily sanctioned by the CBN and this may indeed result in the suspension or withdrawal of the FX dealing license of an offending Authorized dealer.”
The governor explained that the Primary Dealers would be about eight or ten and banks with the capacity to go to the market with as much as $10 million.