Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala-ynaijaThe external reserves, which have been depleting very fast in the last few weeks, have dropped to $44.5bn, according to the latest data from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The latest figure makes the external reserves just about $400m close to hitting a one-year low of $44.1bn. The least amount in the external reserves in the last one year was $44.17bn, and this was recorded on December 28, 2012.

The foreign reserves, which fell to $44.5bn on November 28, three weeks after dropping to the $44bn mark on November 8, started the year with $44.3bn as of January 2, 2013.

The reserves started rising through the year and peaked at $48.8539bn on April 30.

However, the foreign reserves started decreasing gradually since May. The reserves had fallen to a nine-month low at $45.08bn on October 14.

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had stressed the need for the country to shore up its external reserves.

The Federal Government had targeted $50bn reserves by the end of 2012.

The reserves, however, closed the year at $44.17bn on December 28, 2012, finishing about $6bn below the government’s target.

According to analysts, the performance of the reserves is driven mainly by proceeds from crude oil, gas exports and crude oil-related taxes as well as reduced funding of the Wholesale Dutch Auction System on the account of huge inflow of foreign portfolio investments.

Okonjo-Iweala had predicted a $12bn revenue shortfall for the country this year.

The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, said in May that the outlook for the country’s foreign reserves this year was mixed.

Sanusi told Reuters that the reserves would probably keep expanding, while facing risks from lower-than-projected oil output and falling prices.

He said, “Quantitative easing by central banks in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan all point to a likelihood of strong capital flows to emerging and frontier markets that may benefit Nigeria.”

According to the CBN boss, the country relies on crude exports for about 80 per cent of the government’s revenue and more than 90 per cent of foreign income.

“We always said that the budget, based on projections of about 2.5 million barrels per day, was founded on overly optimistic and unrealistic assumptions,” Sanusi said.

According to financial analysts, the CBN’s stance to keep defending the value of the naira from the reserves might further deplete the amount in the reserves.

Between May 2 and August 5, 2013, the foreign reserves dropped by $1.8bn from the peak of $48.85bn to $46.98bn.

However, the CBN governor recently dismissed claims that the reserves were experiencing a sharp decline.

He also allayed fears about the uncertainties in the Nigerian economy and stressed that the reserves could finance about 11 months of importation.

 

[Punch]

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