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Opinion: Is Nigeria poised for an Economic Rebound?

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Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at FXTM.

It has certainly been a lively year for the Nigerian economy as it continues to diversify away from oil reliance while juggling with a currency crisis and Dollar shortages created by low oil prices.

Although the nation still remains exposed to external risks, there has been some optimism over the economic landscape stabilizing, with the improving macro fundamentals fueling speculations of an economic rebound by the end of 2017.

Early signs of recovery can already be seen across Gross Domestic Growth, falling inflation and foreign exchange rate stability.

Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who previously warned of a potential economic collapse back in March, has turned positive and projected that Nigeria’s economy will grow at a faster pace than South Africa’s in 2018.

The current speed of Nigeria’s recovery can be described as slow and steady, with the macro-fundamentals gradually stabilizing. Inflation has cooled for the fifth consecutive month in June at 16.1% illustrating further signs of price stability while manufacturing and non-manufacturing activities have both moved in a positive trajectory.

The Naira continues to display resilience against the US Dollar this year, with prices currently trading around 363 on the black market exchange. Although the repeated intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria has heavily attributed to the Naira’s recovery and stability, confidence over Nigeria’s economic recovery continues to play a leading role.

While the local currency may experience further stability in the coming months as the Central Bank of Nigeria intervenes, the multiple exchanges have left the foreign exchanges divided and continue to pose a risk to investment.

Rather than using the foreign exchange reserves to support the Naira, the CBN should work towards cleaning up the multiple exchanges, while allowing the natural forces of supply and demand to determine the Naira’s true equilibrium value.

Although I remain optimistic over Nigeria resurging from an economic meltdown and eventually breaking away from its dependence on oil as an engine for growth, there are still external risks which could present headwinds on the road to recovery.

The greatest threat to Nigeria’s current recovery in the medium to longer term, is depressed oil prices. Falling oil has the ability to directly impact the nation’s government revenues, external reserves, and stability of the nation’s foreign exchange market.

Another risk in the pipeline that could pressure Nigeria’s recovery is OPEC’s recent decision to cap the nation’s oil production to 1.8 million barrels per day, especially when the budget proposal is based on 2.2 million barrels per day at $44.50 per barrel. It should be kept in mind that restricting production not only poses a threat to the budget but also is seen as a disincentive for investment.

Investors should pay close attention to higher US interest rates which have the ability to boost the US Dollar ultimately pressuring emerging markets, with Nigeria fitting into the category. While the threat of capital outflows from a strengthening US Dollar may expose the Nigerian economy to downside shocks, it should also be kept in mind that a portion of the government revenues is recouped from oil which is priced in Dollar.

In the longer term, an appreciating Dollar from higher US rates will not only diminish the value of the government’s working revenue, but also enforce pressure on the nation’s black market exchange.

The Central Bank of Nigeria is likely to remain in the spotlight in the third quarter of 2017 as investors wait to see whether interest rates will be hiked or trimmed. Nigeria’s ongoing mission to diversify from oil reliance, as well as a sharp drop in oil which triggered a currency crisis, have encouraged the CBN to maintain its key interest rates at 14% in July. While the central bank is likely to remain on standby in the short term as Nigeria nurses its wounds, a rate cut could be on the cards in the medium to longer term if inflation continues to follow a negative trajectory and other forms of hard economic data improve.

Focusing on the fiscal side, this still remains a gray are with the nation’s long-running infrastructure problems compounding to its woes. With the overall projected fiscal deficit tagged at N2.36 trillion one can only hope that the approved budget offers a helping hand to the nation.

Nigeria is in urgent need for robust infrastructure as major roads are in poor condition; the power sector remains a cause for concern while health and education need to be revamped. Rectifying these issues has the ability to not only create jobs but also support economic growth and boost investor confidence.

As we head deeper into the third quarter of 2017, market players may closely observe hard domestic data at home to gauge the nation’s health and verify if an economic recovery really is on the cards for 2017. Nigeria’s mission to diversify away from oil reliance while recovering from an economic deceleration remains an ongoing quest and it will be interesting to see how far the nation has progressed by year end.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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E-Financial

Court Asks FG to Take over Bank Accounts without BVN

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Bank account owners who are yet to have a Bank Verification Number (BVN) run the risk of forfeiting their money to the federal government within the next two weeks unless they can justify their ownership of such accounts.

A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted a temporary forfeiture order on such accounts.

It also restrained commercial banks from operating such accounts for the meantime and directed them to disclose the owners of the accounts and the status of the funds in them.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba handed down the order on October 17 while ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by the Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

The ex-parte motion – FHC/ABJ/CS/911/2017- was filed on September 28 this year and argued by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, A. D. Tyoden.

It was brought pursuant to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Know Your Customers Guidelines and Section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2011 as amended.

The enrolled orders from the ruling reads: “That the 1st – 19th defendant banks shall disclose: (a) the names of the accounts as operated; (b) account number(s); (c) outstanding balances (d) domiciliary accounts and (e) the branch/location where the accounts are domiciled of all accounts without BVN.

“That the 1st – 19th defendant banks to disclose any investments made with funds from these accounts without BVN in any products including fixed/term deposits and their liquidation and interest incurred, bank acceptances, commercial Papers and any other relevant information related to the transaction made on the accounts.

“That an order is hereby made freezing the said accounts by stopping all outward payments, operations or transactions (including any bill of exchange) in respect of the accounts pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application.

“That an order is hereby made directing the 1st to 19th defendant banks to disclose any investments made with funds from these accounts without BVN in any products including fixed/term deposits and their liquidation and interest incurred, bank acceptances, commercial papers and any other relevant information related to the transaction made on the accounts.

“That an interim order is hereby made directing the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems to validate the information contained in the affidavit of compliance/disclosure filed by the respective 19 banks within seven days from the date of service on the Central Bank and NIBSS.

“That an interim order is hereby made appointing a Bank Examiner from the Central Bank of Nigeria to examine the books of any bank that fails to comply with the order of the honourable court to file affidavit of disclosure.

“That an interim order is hereby made granting leave to the applicants or any officer authorised by them to advertise the accounts without BVN disclosed by the bank in a widely circulated national newspaper as notice to any person or body corporate or financial institution who may have any interest in any of the said accounts to claim ownership of same within 14 days of the publication of the order and show cause why the proceeds in the account should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Further hearing in the case was fixed for November 16.

At the last count, the Central Bank (CBN) had issued 30,511,506 BVNs.

The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) says a total of 45.85 million bank accounts remain unlinked although when compared with the active accounts the number stood at 15.72 million unlinked to BVN as at February 2017.

Even before the court order the CBN had issued a memo warning the banks and NIBSS, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and Other Financial Institutions (OFIs) to ensure proper capturing of the BVN data and validate same before linkage with customers’ accounts; ensure all operated accounts are linked with the signatories’ BVN; and ensure customer’s names on the BVN database are the same in all of his/her accounts, across the banking industry.

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UBA Introduces Video Live Chat with Co-Browsing Technology

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In recent times, customer behaviour and expectations are ever-evolving and with this challenge, comes the need to meet their needs as well as ensure, new offerings are at the forefront of technological evolution.

 

On the back of this development, UBA a leading innovative player in Financial Services is finding new ways to communicate and engage with their customers.

 

With the growing mobile consciousness, customer demand for online services is on the rise and it is imperative to meet this demand with digital self-service platforms.

 

However, to meet this demand, the role of human interaction in the process cannot be underestimated.

 

It fits into our creed to continue to foster our unlimited dedication and access to the customers.

 

In this regard, the United Bank of Africa, in its unrelenting effort to raise the bar, likewise the levels of ease and convenience in customer experience through innovation, has introduced Video live chat with Co-browsing technology.

 

Firstly it enables Customer Experience Experts to help customers in real-time, enabling a support experience centred on visual engagement.

 

Why is this important? 65% of the world are visual learners. Not only can enquiries and issues be resolved more efficiently and swiftly, but co-browsing can complement other channels, improving the overall customer experience

 

UBA is differentiating with Customer Experience and use of Video Live Chat and Co-browsing to improve customer acquisition, service and to improve x-sell & retention by enabling more meaningful contact with customers.

 

Video Co-browsing enables customers to virtually have a one-on-one interface with the bank through co-browsing application via video live chat, text chat, and through real time document exchange. This makes it easier for bank staff to assist customers through a number of difficulties; from filling intricate bank forms and even helping them resolve much more complex transactions. Sometimes, the platform simply facilitates directing the customers to the exact information they need.

 

It provides a secure file-sharing, compliant, real-time communication solutions that enables the bank hold co-browsing sessions to expedite troubleshooting as well as ordinary enquiries.

 

This without a doubt moves light years ahead of the old customer service where interaction is purely through phone calls; this method which has proven to be frustrating especially when it involves fixing a problem urgently.

 

It also comes resourcefully as a quick and easy fix for those who do not have enough time for a physical visit to the bank to take care of their transactions.

 

Other benefits include:

o       All session actions are accountable

o       Secure collaboration

o       Navigate the web together

o       Control access

o       Collaborate online, effectively

 

With this latest innovation, UBA can engage visually and digitally with customers while maintaining human interaction at any given time, in a bid to continue to virtualize customer experience.

 

It offers faster solutions in response to customer enquiries on a more personalised basis anywhere, anytime and from any device.

 

UBA as always, is committed to ensuring greater efficiency and better customer satisfaction. To experience the Video Love chat and Co-browsing technology, visit ubagroup.com .

 

 

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E-Financial

BVN: CBN Orders Banks to Keep Database of Fraudulent Customers

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Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday directed banks to establish a database of their customers identified through their Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) to be involved in a confirmed fraudulent activity in the banking industry.

The directive was contained in the Regulatory Framework for Bank Verification Number (BVN) Operation and Watch-list for Nigerian Financial System released by the CBN. The implementation of the framework is with immediate effect.

’Dipo Fatokun, CBN Director, Banking & Payments System, who signed the framework, said bank customers are to by this framework, abide by  the regulatory framework for BVN operations and the watch-list for the Nigerian Banking Industry and also report all suspicious or unauthorized activities on their accounts.

Data from the CBN showed that Nigeria experienced a total of 3,500 cyber-attacks with 70 percent success rate and loss of $450 million within the last one year mainly through cross-channel fraud, data theft, email spooling, phishing, shoulder surfing and underground websites.

Although e-fraud rate in terms of value dropped by 63 percent, after the BVN introduction and improved collaboration among banks via the fraud desks, the total fraud volume rose significantly by 683 percent.

The new regulation is expected to assist the CBN to a great deal, in curbing the menace of fraudsters

According to Fatokun, the new framework is in the exercise of the powers conferred on the CBN, by Sections 2 (d) and 47 (2), of the CBN Act, 2007, to promote the development of efficient and effective payments systems for the settlement of transactions.

He said the framework provides standards for the BVN operations and watch-list for the Nigerian Banking Industry. The watch-list comprises a database of bank customers’ identified by their BVNs, who have been involved in a confirmed fraudulent activity in the banking industry in Nigeria.

Fatokun said the regulatory framework shall guide activities of the participants in the provision of the BVN operations in Nigeria and that the CBN, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Other Financial Institutions (OFIs) and Bank Customers are participants in its implementation.

He said the CBN, in collaboration with the Bankers Committee, proactively embarked upon the deployment of a centralized BVN System and launched the BVN in February 2014. This, he said, was part of the overall strategy of ensuring the effectiveness of the Know Your Customer (KYC) principles, and the promotion of a safe, reliable and efficient payments system.

The BVN gives a unique identity across the banking industry to each customer of Nigerian banks.

“This framework also defines the establishment and operations of a Watch-list for the Nigerian Banking Industry, to address the increasing incidences, of frauds, with a view to engendering public confidence in the banking industry.

“This framework, without prejudice to existing laws, is a guide for the operations of the watch-List in the Financial System.”

The Watch-list is a database of bank customers identified by their BVNs, who have been involved in confirmed fraudulent activities.

The framework is expected to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders; clearly, define the operations of the BVN in Nigeria; define access, usage and management of the BVN information, requirements and conditions and provide a database of watch-listed individuals.

It is also expected to outline the process and operations of the watch-List and deter fraud incidences in the Nigerian Banking Industry.

In implementing this framework, the CBN is expected to approve the Regulatory Framework and Standard Operating Guidelines as well as approve eligible users for access to the BVN information.

The Nigeria Interbank-Settlement System (NIBSS) is to collaborate with other stakeholders to develop and review the Standard Operating Guidelines of the BVN while the banks are to ensure proper capturing of the BVN data and validate same before the linkage with customers’ accounts.

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