• Friday, December 01, 2023
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Tinubu’s government targets N750/$ exchange rate by year end

Nigeria is introducing a rash of policies, including a crackdown on illegal currency trading, as it seeks to close the more-than-45% gap with the unofficial exchange rate of the naira with the hope of a “fair price” of seven hundred and fifty Naira to the dollar by year-end, a top official told Bloomberg.

The Naira closed higher at N1,165 to the dollar Monday, gaining 2.5%.

The government plans to clear a backlog of dollar demand estimated at $6.7 billion, bolster the naira forward market, and set transparent rules for the operations of the official market, Taiwo Oyedele, chair of the presidential committee on fiscal policy and tax reforms, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

The plan also includes the expansion to the official market to include all legitimate transactions while snuffing out the illicit “black market” for foreign currency, he said.

“We think all of that will happen before December, and maybe in a matter of a couple of weeks, we will begin to see the results, such that before the end of the calendar year, the naira should find its true value, not the one that is being done currently in the parallel market,” Oyedele said.

Read also Explainer: What is pushing the Nigerian naira to record lows?

The government sees a “fair price” for the dollar at 650 to 750 naira, he said. That compares with the official exchange rate fixed at 802.59 as of 1.08 p.m. Monday. In the parallel market, where the exchange rate is freely determined between buyers and sellers, it traded at 1,165 on Monday, according to Abubakar Mohammed, chief executive officer of Forward Marketing Bureau de Change Ltd., which compiles the data.

West Africa’s biggest economy allowed its currency to trade more more freely against the dollar in mid-June, resulting in a devaluation of about 40%. It was hoping to attract more dollar inflows and improve liquidity that had dried after years of pegging the naira against the dollar. Meanwhile, the parallel market thrived on the back of an inflexible official exchange.

The divergence between the official and parallel-market rates “means you are sucking liquidity and supply from the official market to the parallel market, because everyone wants the premium,” Oyedele said.

Nigeria expects to receive $10 billion of inflows in the coming weeks to help ease liquidity and clear the backlog of overdue forward contracts weighing on the naira, the country’s finance minister, Wale Edun said at a summit in Abuja last week.

President Tinubu signed two executive orders last week to reverse the flow of dollars from the official FX window into the parallel market, Edun said at the summit. One will enable the issuance of dollar-denominated instruments aimed at locals in Nigeria who have dollars, while the second is to issue dollar-denominated bonds directed at Nigerians outside the country, as well as foreign investors.

Both executive orders are in the process of being gazetted, according to Edun.

While the central bank had informed lenders in June that the naira’s exchange rate against the dollar would be determined through supply and demand, it later appeared to have reintroduced controls to steady the currency after its 40% plunge.

“There is a need for clarity on how the market operates, and that is a particular assignment that is in progress,” Yemi Cardoso, Nigeria’s central bank governor, who was appointed in September, said at the Abuja summit. “Once that comes out and people are very clear on what the rules are, and what the guidelines are, and they can predict, I think it will go a long way in managing this speculative activity.”