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Nigeria’s growth forecast for 2024 remains 3.3%— IMF

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has upheld its projection of a 3.3% growth rate for Nigeria’s economy in 2024, an increase from the 2.9% recorded in the previous year. This prognosis is based on the improvement observed in the services and commerce industries.

According to the IMF, the economic prospects in Africa’s most populous country and leading oil producer remain difficult, with a 40% increase in food price inflation in March, which has raised concerns about food security.

“If Nigeria grows at 3.3% that is just above the population dynamics, which is a big challenge,” IMF mission chief for Nigeria, Axel Schimmelpfenning, told journalists.

President Bola Tinubu has implemented extensive reforms since assuming office around one year ago. These measures include reducing expensive petrol and power subsidies and depreciating the naira currency twice within a year to decrease the difference between the official and secondary market exchange rates.

According to the Fund’s projection, fuel subsidies could amount to 3% of GDP this year since the rise in pump prices has not matched their dollar cost. Schimmelpfennig stated that policymakers are determined to gradually eliminate these subsidies within the next one or two years.

“The reforms are focused on how to raise that growth so that Nigerians can see real impacts on their living standards,” Schimmelpfenning said.
Global ratings agencies have reviewed Nigeria’s economic outlook upwards due to the impact of reforms, with Fitch the latest to revise Nigeria’s outlook to positive from stable on May 3.

“We think a lot has happened. We also have to recognise that the problems built up over many years were quite severe. We can’t expect that everything is going to be resolved overnight,” he added.

Schimmelpfenning emphasized the importance of expanding a cash transfer program and increasing government income to enhance the country’s capacity to deliver services to its population.

The IMF commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its recent implementation of interest rate hikes as a means to control rapidly increasing inflation. The IMF also emphasized the importance of using data-driven methods to further tighten interest rates.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to increase its foreign exchange reserves. Additionally, the IMF has suggested that the CBN should establish a clear and fair framework for foreign exchange interventions, with the primary goal of mitigating excessive short-term fluctuations in the market.

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Nigeria: Court insists Binance executive can face trial on behalf of firm

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In an ongoing tax evasion case, a Nigerian court decided on Friday that Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, may go to trial on the cryptocurrency exchange’s behalf.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion. They are also accused of participating in specialized financial transactions without a license and laundering more than $35 million in another case.

All of them have entered not-guilty pleas on the allegations of money laundering. Following the court hearing on Friday, Binance’s attorney chose not to comment. The attorney for Gambaryan was similarly silent.

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement on Friday after the court hearing.

“These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials.”

Gambaryan is still being held while Anjarwalla left the nation in March. The office of Nigeria’s security adviser has declared that it is collaborating with Interpol to pursue Anjarwalla’s detention.

After its executives were imprisoned as part of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies in February after being invited to the African nation for talks with officials, the CEO of Binance has warned Nigeria of establishing a dangerous precedent.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has announced that Gambaryan may face prosecution on behalf of the exchange; Binance has not been accused in the tax evasion case.

According to prior statements from Gambaryan’s attorney, Gambaryan was “neither a director, partner, nor company secretary” and did not have any formal authorization from Binance to take on the accusations on the firm’s behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite decided on Friday that Gambaryan, who is Binance’s chief financial compliance officer and was lawfully designated to represent the company in a meeting in Nigeria, should be served with the charges against Binance.

On Wednesday, Gambaryan is scheduled to appear in court and enter a plea on Binance’s behalf. On Friday, Gambaryan’s request for bail in the money laundering case was turned down. As the nation struggled with ongoing dollar shortages, cryptocurrency websites became the go-to venues for trading the Nigerian naira. Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency problems.

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Nigerian govt denies reports it plans to borrow pension fund for infrastructure

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The Nigerian government has denied reports that it plans to borrow the N20tn pension fund to finance infrastructural projects.

In a statement made in Abuja, Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, stated that the government would abide by the laws and guidelines in place pertaining to the pension fund.

Following a two-day Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, the minister reportedly informed reporters that the government would present a plan to use local funds, including the fund, to finance infrastructure development.

Edunstated that the government does not intend to exceed these legal boundaries, emphasising that the government was committed to protecting workers’ pensions.

“It has come to my notice that stories are making the round that the Federal Government plans to illegally access the hard-earned savings and pension contributions of workers. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“The pension industry, like most the financial industries, is highly regulated. There are rules. There are limitations about what pension money can be invested in and what it cannot be invested in.

“The Federal Government has no intention whatsoever to go beyond those limitations and go outside those bounds which are there to safeguard the pensions of workers.

“What was announced to the Federal Executive Council was that there was an ongoing initiative drawing in all the major stakeholders in the long-term saving industry, those that handle funds that are available over a long period to see how, within the regulations and the laws; these funds could be used maximally to drive investment in key growth areas,” Edun clarified.

The plan to spend the pension fund was reported and was widely criticised. The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the Nigeria Labour Congress had earlier on Thursday urged the government to abstain from making any changes to the pension fund.

They stated, “Nigerian workers have entrusted their hard-earned savings for retirement security, not as a means for government projects. It is imperative to halt any further plans to tap into these funds, especially given the lack of transparency and accountability in past government borrowing practices.”

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