The CBN held its benchmark interest rate at 13.5%, governor Godwin Emefiele said on Friday, adding that it sought to curb excess liquidity in the banking system to curb inflation. The bank said 9 members out of 11 voted to increase cash reserve ratio for lenders to 27.5% from 22.5%, at its first interest rate meeting for the year, to help deal with excess liquidity on the markets. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, emerged from its first recession in 25 years in 2017, however, growth remains fragile. The central bank has tried to encourage banks to lend to stimulate the economy, which has swelled liquidity. Last year, the bank banned domestic funds from buying its treasury bills keeping markets awash with naira which has lowered bond yields.
Foreign investors bought fewer Nigerian stocks in 2019 than the previous year, stock exchange data showed, after hopes for reforms that could lift Africa’s biggest economy faded. Nigeria has grappled with low growth since recovery from a recession four years ago. President Muhammadu Buhari, who began a second four-year term in May, has pledged to revive the economy. But investors have been waiting for policy signals that could lift growth. Foreign investors traded a total of ₦942.55 billion worth of stocks last year, with more than half of the transactions to sell shares, according to the stock exchange, compared with ₦1.22 trillion at the end of 2018. Investors increased the pace of outflows last year after Buhari took office for the second term but failed to appoint a cabinet until months later. Funds sold out of the banking, consumer and oil sectors as capital flight worsened, piling pressure on the naira. Similar to stocks, investors also cut their participation in Nigerian government bond auctions last year. Instead, they piled into treasury bills supported by the CBN’s policies. The stock index has risen 10.2% so far this year, to rank as one of the world’s best performing, thanks to higher oil prices and as domestic funds pile into stocks after last year’s ban from central bank’s high-yielding bills market. The index shed 14.6% in 2019.
On Friday, the English Commercial Court ruled in favour of P&ID against the Nigerian Government. In a statement, the company said that, “This decision is another victory in favour of P&ID as it continues efforts to compel the Nigerian Government to comply with its legal obligations to pay damages to P&ID – as has already been ordered by the English Court. The ruling means that Nigeria must now justify its multi-year delay in challenging the Award at a special hearing to take place before this summer, failing which it will be barred from raising its allegations of fraud before the English Court. On its part, the Nigerian government on Friday said it sent a representative to the United Kingdom for a scheduled Case Management Conference (CMC). The government, in a statement by the spokesman for the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Dr Umar Gwandu, said the conference was held for the court to decide procedural issues relating to the government’s application to set aside the arbitral award on the basis that it was procured by fraud and corruption. According to him, the court has fixed a timetable for a hearing to decide if the government’s application can be brought outside the normal time limits. In July 2015, a London tribunal concluded that the Nigerian government was liable for repudiating a Gas Supply & Processing Agreement (GSPA) agreement with P&ID. It ordered Abuja in 2017 to pay P&ID $6.6 billion in damages, plus interest that is accruing daily at a rate of over $1.2 million. In 2019, the English Commercial Court granted permission for the enforcement of P&ID’s arbitration award, against Nigerian assets in the U.K., with the English Court of Appeal comprehensively rejecting Nigeria’s application for permission to appeal part of the enforcement decision in November 2019.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced on Saturday that 195 cases of Lassa fever had been confirmed and 29 deaths reported in 11 states as of 24 January, including two health workers in Kano. The centre said of the confirmed cases, 89% are from Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi. The NCDC said it activated a national emergency operations centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities on the disease. The EOC includes representatives of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), federal ministry of agriculture and rural development, federal ministry of environment, World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), US Centre for Disease Control, and other partners. Meanwhile, the health ministry in Kaduna confirmed that a 36-year-old patient in Chikun LGA tested positive for Lassa fever on Saturday. The state’s health commissioner, Amina Baloni, said the patient is being treated at a designated infectious disease control centre, and appealed o the public to maintain the highest standard of individual hygiene and to report any suspected cases promptly to the nearest health facility. Baloni said that the state’s epidemiology unit was monitoring the situation closely, and all health facilities were on alert for prompt referral of suspected cases.