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CBN warns against rising debt, retains rate at 14%

All 11 members of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) yesterday, voted to retain the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 14 percent and other key economic parameters in its first meeting in 2019.

The Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, who made this disclosure in a communique read at the end of the meeting in Abuja, warned against the nation’s rising debt profile, even as he revealed that the nation’s foreign reserves now stand at $43.28 billion.

According to Emefiele, the Committee deliberated on external borrowing, where it noted the increase in debt level and thus called  for caution.

He said the debt level, if not checked, could rapidly hit the pre-2005 Paris Club level. The Governor said that Committee recommended the Federal Government to sustain the pace towards addressing infrastructure deficit in Nigeria.

On monies being paid by the Finance Ministry in collaboration with the Debt Management Office (DMO) to the oil and petroleum marketers, Emefiele said there was an agreement that the banks would halt interest charges from July 2017 to date on loans they gave oil marketers.

“So, its an agreement we have and any bank who refuses to do so, the petroleum marketer through his association should please inform the Central Bank”, he said.

On output, the CBN Governor said the real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.81 per cent during the third quarter of 2018 from 1.5 per cent during the second quarter of 2018.

“The services and agricultural sector continued to drive output growth. However, the persistence of herdsmen attacks on farmers, cattle rustling and flooding in parts of the country affected agricultural and livestock output.

“The output for growth however remains fragile as the late implementation of the 2018 budget and the residual impact of flooding and security challenges constituted headwinds to growth.

“The committee therefore believes that effective implementation of the 2018 capital budget and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and improvements in the security situation and continued stability in the foreign exchange market will enhance aggregate demand and growth”, he added. 

The communique further noted that the committee observed that the near-term risk to inflation remains the impact of flooding on agricultural output, insecurity on food producing belts of the country, exchange rate pass through to inflation due to weakening of oil price and campaign related spending towards the 2019 general election.

On the MTN penalty, he said: “I am glad to tell you in November we held a round of meetings with MTN officials even from South-Africa and by December we concluded those engagements and the matters were resolved. It resulted in notional I repeat it is not a fine, not a penalty,  reversal of $53million amounting to about N19.5billion and this amount has since been paid by the MTN and terms of settlement of the matters have already been lodged at the Nigerian court”.

On the 41 items restricted from foreign exchange, he said the economic department of the CBN together with Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would investigate any company or any individual suspected of bringing these items either through any border or through smuggling of any means for money laundering and economic sabotage.

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