Foreign exchange: Parallel market in search of relevance – Businessday

ThBy Fabian Ekeruche, News Agency of NigeriaBy

Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market plays host to various kinds of players, each contributing to the challenge in the multiplicity of rates and the ever-widening gulf between the official and the parallel market rates.

Some of the notable players in the market are the Nigerian Interbank Market, the Bureau De Change (BDC) and Financial Market Dealers Quote (FMDQ) on whose platform the spot rate and the futures rate are quoted.

Also, the Parallel or Black Market and off course, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which is vested with the task of regulating the market.

Since the CBN removed its peg on the official exchange rate in June 2016, leading to a flexible exchange rate policy, the demand for forex by importers has put untold pressures on the exchange rate.

The depreciation of the Naira and the widening gap between the interbank and the parallel market rates triggered a blame game among the major players in the market with the parallel market receiving the largest chunk of the blame.

In a bid to restore sanity to the parallel market, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) raided the market toward the last quarter of 2016.

The markets in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Onitsha were among those raided; consequently the traders went underground to ensure that their businesses survived.

Since the raid, uneasy calm descended on the market with some stakeholders questioning the very existence, relevance and the continued operation of the parallel market.

Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, President, Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) says that the parallel market was damaging to the Nigerian economy.

Gwadabe is of the opinion that some Nigerians use the parallel market as a tool for speculation and round tripping; adding that selling the dollar far above the recommended rate is unacceptable.

Gwadabe challenges anyone with the intention of trading in the forex market to approach the lawful authorities vested with the powers to admit traders into the market.

The ABCON boss decries the inability of the general public from distinguishing between a licensed BDC operator and a currency trader on the street.

“BDCs are registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and licensed by the CBN to transact in foreign currencies.

“They have registered offices nationwide and do not stand on the streets to sell dollars or other foreign currencies.

“Since they are licensed by the CBN, they follow the guidelines of operation as laid down by the regulator and any infraction is met with appropriate punishment,’’ Gwadabe says.

According to him, ABCON is having the challenge between street traders and BDCs.

He advises the public to check the CBN website for the list of registered and licensed BDC operatives closer to them.

Mr Harrison Owoh, a financial expert and BDC Operator, says that street hawking of foreign currency is not good for the image of the country.

Owoh advises that all hawkers of foreign currency should approach the CBN to make their businesses legitimate.

According to him, some street currency hawkers disguise as BDC operators in dealing with unsuspecting members of the public.

He says that currency speculation has attained geometric progression because of activities of some street currency hawkers at the parallel market.

The CBN on its part is unequivocal in affirming that the foreign exchange regulation in the country forbids trafficking in currency.

The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele made the assertion while addressing newsmen at end of the November Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja.

While endorsing the crackdown on parallel market traders by officials of the DSS, Emefiele says that it is the duty of the operatives to enforce the law and ensure that currency hawkers are forced out of the “illegal trade’’.

The governor, who notes that it was demeaning for traders to hawk currency on the streets, urges the traders to legitimise their business by applying for a BDC license.

But Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, a Senior Economist at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun, says it is unfair to stop the parallel market from existing since the official market is deficient in meeting the forex needs of Nigerians.

“You cannot stop the parallel market from existing because the official market is not sufficient to meet the dollar needs of Nigerians,’’ the don says.

Tella notes that the shortfall in receipts from the sale of oil has translated into the incapacity of the CBN to adequately finance its official window.

Tella, however, observes that in spite of the modest contributions of the parallel market in meeting some forex needs of importers, there are a lot of risks in dealing with parallel market traders.

The don says that some of the currency traders were involved in selling counterfeit currencies, adding that it is difficult to go back to them after transacting businesses since they operate on the streets.

The economist appeals to the CBN to ensure that people do not transfer money from the official window to the parallel market.

Mr Yusuf Bello, a civil servant, observes that there is hardly a bank in the country where you do not see a currency trader dealing very closely with officials of the bank.

Bello therefore, urges the CBN to exercise very close supervision of some of these banks to forestall the movement of forex from the official window to the parallel market.

Given the present economic reality, the parallel market seems to be a necessary evil that the country needs to contend with.

It is a truism that the CBN, within the present economic reality, cannot meet the forex demand by importers and other well meaning Nigerians seeking forex for medicals or school fees abroad.

Available records from ABCON indicate that the monthly forex consumption of Nigerians is in excess of two billion dollars in the face of an external reserve of less than 28 billion dollars.

It is pertinent to also recall that not everyone seeking forex can meet the requirement of BDCs as stipulated by the law governing their operations; as such, the parallel market becomes a safe haven for this category of businessmen.

The CBN, as the regulator of the forex market, has a daunting task of dealing with the multiplicity of rates and the widening gap between its official window and the parallel market.

The survival and relevance of the parallel market depends largely on how the apex bank can effectively manage its exchange rate policy and block the flow of forex from the official window to the parallel market.

Crowdfunding: A viable option for NGOs in Nigeria? – Daily Post


 

dailypost-article-image

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) often get funded through donations from individuals, corporate sponsorships, philanthropists and grants. While these sources of funding are still viable and active, they are increasingly becoming competitive due to the increased number of charitable causes and limited funding available. For smaller NGOs in Nigeria, it is sometimes almost impossible to access international grants and corporate sponsorships, yet they must stay operational, spread awareness, get the job done and make impact.

Today, with the increased use of Internet, NGOs around the world are utilizing to the power of the social media to create awareness as well as raise funds for the causes they support. In the United Kingdom, donations through websites, social media and apps now account for £2.4 billion, a quarter of charity funds raised annually. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, crowdfunding is expected to become a $90-96 billion industry by 2025 and it is currently being adopted by a number of NGOs.

So what is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is simply a term that refers to any effort to raise money with donations from a large number of people i.e. the crowd.

The concept of Crowdfunding in Nigeria is really not strange at all. From time to time, you would have seen students during events such as world polio day, world malaria day or world AIDS day attempt to raise funds for worthy causes by wearing rags and carrying sealed containers for donations. However, with the advent of the internet and smartphones, crowdfunding for social causes and NGOs in Nigeria can now be performed online as these technologies have changed the way we live, work and interact.

We have heard about how little drops of water makes the mighty ocean. We were also taught that every little effort we make amounts to the huge success that everyone sees. An athlete’s success is a combination of every effort he/she has ever put in on the way to the achievement. Every step, every sleepless night spent perfecting a move, every advice taken from the coach, every drink and every food eaten/abstained from, all combines to make up the champion that we all see. In the same vain, the little donations in a crowdfunding campaign can help serve the purpose. One thousand naira (N 1,000) donated by five thousand people can provide portable water in a remote Village in Borno or help educate 100 children in Anambra, or even foot the surgery bills of a sick child in Abeokuta.

So how viable is crowdfunding for NGOs in Nigeria?

Funding a sizeable charitable project is easy if you can just get small pledges from a lot of people. This way, it is possible to spread the burden, create awareness for the project, eliminate the need to prepare and present detailed presentations multiple times, and meet goals for a specific project on a timely basis.

Several crowdfunding sites exist internationally. However, donate-ng (www.donate-ng.com) is one of the renowned ones in Nigeria known to support charities and help bridge the gap between the needy and the donors. The passion, integrity and professionalism put in by the donate-ng team, comes from the conviction that no man or woman should stay silent and suffer while help is just a click away. With over 86 million internet users, it is expected that crowdfunding will soon become the highest contribution to the funding of NGOs in Nigeria over the next few years.

In just its first year of operating, donate-ng has processed over 7 million Naira in donations. Campaigns such as #SaveBornoIDPs created by SDGsNigeria Action Group, raised 600,000 Naira in 3 days, and by day 60 of the campaign, about 1.4 million Naira had been donated for the IDPs in Borno using the donate-ng platform. Also, in December, an individual raised 167,000 Naira in 10days (67% more than its 100, 000 Naira target) to support motherless babies at the Red Cross centre in Yaba, Lagos.

According to Ayodele Amusa, co-founder donate-ng; “There is so much charitable work to be done in Nigeria and crowdfunding is just taking off. Within just one year, donate-ng has processed N 7 million Naira in donations and we are on a mission to make online fundraising and donating, as easy and transparent as possible. The simpler we make fundraising and donating, the more people will use it and the more we will achieve together.”

Is your NGO planning a crowdfunding campaign soon? Are there any concerns you have about the viability? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Strong Dollar Could Bash the Economy—and It’s Just Getting Started – Bloomberg

The surging greenback could slam U.S. manufacturing and trigger capital flight from emerging markets.

The headlines are full of scary reports about the dollar’s rise to a 14-year high against a basket of six major currencies. Its strength will hurt U.S. manufacturing while triggering capital flight from emerging markets, economists say. The appreciation “is a real serious noose around the neck of the global economy,” David Beckworth, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., said in November.

What’s really alarming, though, is that even though the dollar has jumped 6 percent against the euro and 12 percent against the yen since the U.S. presidential election, it remains well below its historic highs. If its rise to date is causing trouble, imagine how much worse things could get if it went on a serious upward run.

econ_dollarchart03_360

The included chart shows how much headroom remains for the greenback. It’s the Federal Reserve’s index of the value of the dollar against a basket of currencies of 26 trading partners, with each one’s value adjusted for that nation’s inflation rate. This is a better indicator of the dollar’s strength than the frequently cited U.S. Dollar Index, which covers just six currencies and isn’t adjusted for inflation. The Fed’s index remains 10 percent below its 2002 high and fully 19 percent below the lofty high of 1985, which led to an emergency international accord to lower the greenback’s value through official, coordinated sales of dollar reserves.

Fundamental factors are driving the dollar upward. Because U.S. growth is strong and unemployment low, Fed policymakers are projecting three more quarter-point increases in short-term rates in 2017. That will tend to push up the dollar by making U.S. Treasuries and other fixed-income investments more lucrative. Investors are also betting President-elect Donald Trump will touch off a growth spurt through tax cuts and infrastructure investment.

Meanwhile, “The euro zone debt crisis and the travails of the Chinese renminbi have weakened the dollar’s main rivals and cemented its dominance as a key benchmark for other currencies,” Cornell University economist Eswar Prasad wrote in an e-mail. ABN Amro, a Dutch bank with a more extreme forecast than most, projects that the euro, worth $1.15 as recently as May, will be only 95¢ for most of 2017. Trump Gives the Dollar Wings, it headlined a November research report.

A strong dollar is bad for U.S. growth, making American goods and services less competitive in world markets. A rule of thumb says that a 10 percent rise in the dollar increases the trade deficit by 1 percent of gross domestic product, and that translates into the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, says Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Warnings about the damage from dollar strength have come recently from U.S. companies including Boeing, Emerson Electric, 3M, and United Technologies.

The greenback’s strength could cause problems in emerging markets such as Mexico and Turkey, because it increases how much of the local currency borrowers need to spend to make payments on bonds they issued in dollars. And bond issuers in those countries must pay higher interest to attract buyers when the Fed raises rates. Petróleos Mexicanos pointed to the peso’s depreciation as a factor in a 23 percent increase in the peso value of its debt in the first three quarters of 2016. In China, debt-laden builders are suddenly having trouble selling dollar-denominated bonds.

At the end of 2015 there was $9.7 trillion in nonfinancial debt outside the U.S. issued in dollars, and one-third of it was owed by issuers in emerging markets, according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which is run jointly by the central banks of several countries. “If the current trend of dollar strength persists, it is very likely that we will see emerging market currency crises,” Variant Perception, a London-based research firm, wrote to clients in December.

Whatever gains in trade competitiveness that emerging-market economies get when the dollar rises against their currencies can be outweighed by the rise in their borrowing costs, says a December research report by BIS economists Nikola Tarashev, Stefan Avdjiev, and Ben Cohen. That’s true mostly for countries whose finances are already fragile. 

Plenty of analysts see little reason for concern about the dollar’s rise. “We think the dollar has pretty much run its course,” says Gorky Urquieta, co-head of emerging-markets debt for Neuberger Berman, an asset management firm. Most emerging-market issuers of dollar debt are protected against a big dollar rise, either because they have offsetting financial hedges or because they receive a steady income of dollars from trade, says Joe Kogan, co-head of Latin America strategy at Scotia Capital Markets in New York. Emerging-market economies are in better shape than they were in 1997, when rising rates caused a financial crisis in Asia, says Mark Follett, managing director for emerging Asia debt capital markets at JPMorgan Chase in Hong Kong.Then again, Follett doesn’t know where the dollar is headed from here. “No one,” he says, “has any idea at the end of the day.”
 
—With Isabella Cota, Craig Torres, and Carrie Hong

The bottom line: Several factors, from higher interest rates to a hoped-for Trump tax cut, are making the dollar stronger.

Goldman’s Bet on Emerging Currencies Is BRICS Without the ‘C’ – Bloomberg

  • Favors countries less vulnerable to U.S. protectionism
  • Bet against yuan when China worries are ‘off radar screens’

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., home to the team that conceived the BRIC framework for investing in the largest emerging markets, is urging investors to “stay the course” with bets on the currencies of Brazil, Russia and India, along with South Africa.

When it comes to China, Goldman anticipates a “grinding” move lower for the yuan this year, “analogous to 2016.” Goldman emerging-market strategists led by Kamakshya Trivedi in London predicted in a note dated Thursday the yuan will retreat to 7.3 per dollar by year-end, more bearish than the 7.16 median forecast in a Bloomberg survey. It was at 6.883 on Thursday in Beijing.

China, South Korea and other Asian economies are vulnerable to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s protectionist election manifesto translating into policy and regulatory action. By contrast, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa are less at risk, Goldman analysts reckon.

“Mapping U.S. ‘swing state’ job losses with emerging-market-U.S. trade flows suggests that these ‘good carry’ candidates appear less likely to face U.S. import restrictions because their exports compete less directly with U.S. labor,” the Goldman analysts wrote.

The analysts cited improving balance of payments, falling paths for inflation, attractive real yields and prospects for stronger growth this year in the four big emerging markets they favor.

“Preferred emerging-market longs can be funded out of non-Japan Asia low-yielders (South Korean won, Singapore dollar, Malaysian ringgit) or in non-dollar developed markets (euro, yen, pound),” they wrote.

China’s yuan could potentially fall further than 7.3 per dollar by year-end, Goldman said. Accelerated capital outflows, or depreciation carried out as a policy response to Trump protectionism, are among the risk scenarios.

“The best times to gain exposure to dollar-yuan weakness have tended to be when China concerns were off radar screens, or after periodic interventions that flushed out bearish speculative positions and provided attractive entry points,” the Goldman analysts wrote. “That remains our view today.”

Bitcoin Plunges as Much as 23% From Wednesday’s Record High by Olga Kharif – Bloomberg

  • The digital currency fell as low as $889 in Thursday trading
  • Retreat follows advance to record intraday high of $1,162
  

All-Time High: Bitcoin Delivers Many Happy Returns

Bitcoin prices plunged as much as 23 percent from Wednesday’s all-time high, according to Bloomberg data, as some traders took gains and investors celebrated a rally in the yuan.

Bitcoin fell to as low as $888.99 Thursday before inching back to $957.54. The digital currency hit a record $1,161.89 Wednesday, according to Bloomberg data, thanks to continued adoption in China and other parts of the world where traditional currencies are tightly controlled.

“Bitcoin appears to be coming off the highs as traders are taking their gains after the sharp appreciation over the last few days and weeks,” Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in an e-mail.

Bitcoin is also reacting to a rally in the Chinese yuan, which just posted a record two-day run-up offshore. In the past, as the value of yuan — and other fiat currencies, such as Indian rupee — went down, some Chinese put their money into bitcoin to preserve their savings.

“Its run-up has been broadly correlated with the weakness in” the Chinese and Indian currencies, Steven Englander, an analyst at Citigroup Inc., said in an e-mail. “There is speculation that the Chinese authorities may try and hamper the use of bitcoin as a way of getting around Chinese capital outflow restrictions. At the best of times it is pretty illiquid, so even a small imbalance can have a big impact on price.”

FG sets aside N177bn to retire maturing bonds – Punch

By Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja

The Federal Government has set aside a total of N177.46bn in the 2017 budget as a sinking fund to retire maturing bond obligations.

A sinking fund is a part of a bond agreement that requires the issuer to regularly set money aside in a separate custodian account for the exclusive purpose of redeeming the bonds.

The N177.46bn allocated in the 2017 budget is N6.02bn higher than N113.44bn allocated for the same purpose in the 2016 fiscal period.

The proposed spending is contained in the 2017 budget, which was submitted to a joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 14, 2016.

The N7.3tn budget has a total capital vote of N2.24tn, representing 30.7 per cent, while the recurrent component stood at N2.98tn, with the rest allocated for debt servicing.

Findings revealed that the sinking fund of N177.4bn would be used by the government to settle maturing obligations arising from its domestic indebtedness.

The government usually approaches the domestic bond market to raise funds to meet its short-term obligations such as payment of salaries.

The domestic debt of the government as of the end of June last year stood at about N10.6tn, made up of N7.47tn Federal Government of Nigeria bond; Nigerian Treasury Bills, N2.9tn; and Treasury Bonds, N230.9bn.

The Debt Management Office had in a document entitled: ‘Nigeria’s Debt Management Strategy 2016-2019’, stated that at least 30 per cent of the nation’s domestic debt would fall due within the next one year.

Given the country’s diminishing revenue profile as a result of dwindling oil and gas revenue, refinancing the debt has become a challenge to the government.

According to the DMO, refinancing the 30 per cent component of the domestic debt poses high risk to the economy because of high interest rates.

It stated, “The interest rate risk is high, since maturing debt will have to be refinanced at market rates, which could be higher than interest rates on existing debt.

“The foreign exchange risk is relatively low given the predominance of domestic debt in the portfolio.”

The Registrar, Chartered Institute of Finance and Control of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Eohoi, said that with the drop in revenue, it would be difficult to refinance the domestic debt, adding that this might lead the country into another debt trap.

He said, “We have about N1.6tn as debt repayment out of the N7.3tn budget and this is very high. Why should we be using about 25 per cent of the budget to repay debt that we have spent? The interest rate is too high.

“There is nothing bad in borrowing but we should borrow heavily for infrastructure purpose and with the level of revenue challenges we are having in the country, it will not be easy servicing some of these debts.”

Expect more flight cancellations, NIMET warns – Punch

By Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja

A fresh dust from Chad will reduce horizontal visibility across the country in the coming days and may lead to another round of flight cancellations, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency has said.

According to NIMET, there will be further reduction in visibility in most northern cities, higher than what was experienced some weeks ago that led to flight delays and cancellations, including a trip by President Muhammadu Buhari from Abuja to Bauchi.

In its weather alert issued in Abuja on Thursday, the agency said, “A fresh dust has been observed over western Chad and south eastern Niger Republic as of today; these will further deteriorate horizontal visibilities across the country, especially over the north-eastern parts.

“Moderate visibility is already being reported over Maiduguri, Kano, Nguru, Obudu, Asaba, Jos, Minna, Abuja, Makurdi, Gombe, Yelwa, Lagos, Akure and Awka.

“Forecast is that most parts of northern cities such as Katsina, Maiduguri, Kano, Gusau, Damaturu, Nguru, Bauchi and Zaria are expected to experience a further reduction in horizontal visibilities to less than 1,000m in about 10 hours from the time of issuance or less.”

It added that a further reduction in visibility was expected over parts of the central cities such as Abuja, Minna, Bida, Lafia, Jos, Makurdi and Lokoja in thick dust haze condition with visibilities of 1,000 metres or less in the next 18 hours or less from the time of issuance.

NIMET, in its forecast, said, “Southern cities, including Enugu, Asaba, Ibadan, Lagos, Akure, Owerri and Port Harcourt, are also expected to still be under the influence of thick to moderate dust haze (visibility two to five kilometres) and localised visibility less than 1,000m in the next 24 hours.

“The expected reduction in visibility due to harmattan dust haze may cause cancellation and delay of flights. This is for the safety of air travellers. Road users should be careful and avoid excessive speeding, especially during the early morning period when horizontal visibility is mostly impaired.

“The harmattan dust haze has its attendant health implications; those that are allergic to dust are advised to take necessary precautions and take their medications to alleviate its effect on their health.”

Troubled Nigerian Loans Seen Spiking Before Economic Rebound – Bloomberg

  • Access Bank CEO predicts non-performing loans to keep climbing
  • Lender plans to tap local bond market to boost liquidity

Access Bank Plc is predicting that the level of troubled loans in Nigeria will continue to climb before an economic recovery in the second half of the year brings relief to the country’s lenders.

“Across the entire industry you’ll see an uptick in non-performing loan ratios,” Chief Executive Officer Herbert Wigwe said in an interview on Thursday in Lagos, the commercial hub. “We are better than most.”

Nigeria’s fourth-largest bank by assets expects that its NPLs will climb to “slightly below” 3 percent of total loans by the end of this year, Wigwe said, compared with 2.1 percent for the nine months through September. The picture is not as rosy for the rest of the industry as lower crude prices and foreign-currency shortages cause Africa’s largest economy to contract. Loans in the sector in danger of not being repaid surged to an average 13.4 percent by the end of September, above the 5 percent threshold set by regulators.

Access Bank is targeting companies that source their raw materials locally for loans to reduce the risk of unpaid debt, the CEO said. First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., the nation’s biggest lender by assets, stands out among the largest banks with an NPL ratio of 22.8 percent at the end of September. Zenith Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc have NPL ratios ranging from 2.2 percent to 4.1 percent.

Capital levels have also decreased. The sector’s capital adequacy ratio fell to 14.7 percent in June from 16.1 percent in December 2015. For big banks, which the regulator classifies as having more than 1 trillion naira ($3.2 billion) of assets, that ratio fell to 15.65 percent, still above the requirement of 15 percent.

Economic Rebound

Conditions in Nigeria’s economy should start improving in the second half if monetary and fiscal measures take hold, Wigwe said. The Central Bank of Nigeria left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record 14 percent in November as it seeks to contain inflation that rose to the highest level in more than a decade, while President Muhammadu Buhari plans to boost spending this year by 20 percent to revive growth.Access Bank has managed to get into an “extremely liquid” position by raising 35 billion naira in the last quarter of 2016 by tapping a 100 billion-naira commercial bond program, he said.

“We will continue to raise until we can get to that program limit; some of it may mature, which we will repay, then raise again,” Wigwe said. “The whole idea is that we must always have that liquidity buffer.”

Recession shrinks Yuletide gifts, hampers as prices skyrocket – The Guardian

By Tayo Oredola and Dayo Akinboro

While the Yuletide season is celebrated globally as a period not just to share goodwill and good tidings, but to express appreciation through showers of gifts for friendship and support received throughout the year among individuals, corporate entities and government, the irony seems to be the case in Nigeria last year.

Indeed, such goodwill showers have been drastically affected by current economic recession in Nigeria, to the extent that most individuals and corporate organisations simply preferred to opt out this time around.

The situation was worse among government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), who tried to hide under managing costs to save for more pressing economic needs.

The few individuals and organisations, which indulged in the yearly ritual of sending hampers, did so prudently, compared with the lavish gifts in the past.

Already, some Lagosians while speaking with The Guardian lamented that they did not receive any hamper this year and are not sure of giving out either, therefore affirming the state of the economy.

Indeed, The Guardian market survey revealed significant and dramatic changes in the packaging of these gifts by consultants and various outlets.

Specifically, the sizes and types of gifts and hampers this season were a perfect reflection of how deep recession had eaten into Nigeria’s economy after three consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product, GDP growth.

Beside the contents shrinking dramatically, the prices of the hampers more than doubled compared to previous years, which the consultants and dealers attributed to the high exchange and inflation rates.

Dealers from popular markets across Lagos, told The Guardian that the high cost of items made prices of hampers to rise, even as they also complained of low patronage.

A popular dealer in Mushin (Ojuwoye) market, Olawunmi Olabanji, said dealers experienced low patronage compared to previous years because of the untold hardship in the economy.

According to her, hampers that sold for N5,000 with the same content last year now sells for N15,000, adding that although the N5,000 worth packages are still available, “but they are not rich in content and quality of products.”

Olabanji lamented that unlike in 2015, when she sold a daily average of between 15 and 20 hampers, and a total of about 300 during the season; she barely sold up to 50 this time around.

“Even the corporate organisations that come to order as much as 50 at once sparingly showed up and when they did, they only took four or six hampers,” she added.

Mrs Angela Onwogu told The Guardian that “sales have dropped so much as the stores are full of goods, and customers are not forth coming, I have not seen most of my customers, only few came. The few that came even bought less than what they usually buy,” she said.

However, a senior civil servant who doesn’t want her name mentioned in the print said that the dwindling economy has affected the numbers of hampers that she often receive during the yuletide period.

“By now, enough hampers would have been dropped in my office but none is here. People are struggling to cope with the economic condition of this country. Prices of almost everything has increased 100% and gifting, at this period will not be their priority.

In an interaction with Tina Philips, an official of a corporate firm in Lagos, who came to order for her company, she said: “My company bought 20 hampers last year at a cost of N5,000 each with high quality content, but all I am buying now is six at triple the cost with less content and quality.

“The quality of hampers this year cannot be compared to that of last year, it has dropped for the same value of money as last year,” she noted.

Tina affirmed that the recession has really affected prices of items so bad that a hamper she got for N3,500 in 2015, now sold for N10,000.

I have to go back to the office twice to collect additional money because I budgeted N8,000 for each, Tina stressed.

Meanwhile, The Guardian gathered that prices of hampers in some supermarket around the Oshodi, Ikeja, Isolo and Yaba axis ranged from N31,000, N20,000 to N15,000, and N12,500 as seen displayed.

In one of the supermarkets, an attendant said, few hampers were on display because, most people prefer to choose items lesser than already packed ones to meet their budget.

The story wasn’t different at the Cane market in Maryland, Lagos where hundreds of hamper baskets were sighted with no customers around.

The Vice Chairman of the Progressive Association of Cane Sellers, Courage Daniel told our correspondent that because of the recession, more customers are opting for plastic hamper baskets to cane to minimise cost.

This phenomenon, he attributed to the high cost of baskets owing to increased cost of materials.

Customs generates N1.3b in December – The Guardian

By Sulaimon Salau

Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col. Hameed Ali.

• Arraigns two smugglers for exporting prohibited items

The Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ Ikeja, Lagos, has earned about N1.3 billion through its anti-smuggling operations in December 2016.

The Public Relations Officer, Customs FoU, Jerry Attah, in a statement on Wednesday said the command intercepted various contrabands with a duty paid value (DPV) of N893.8 million during the period.

He also noted that the unit through its interventions recovered N494.4 million from duty payments and demand notices on vehicles and other general goods that tried to beat the system from seaports, airport and border stations in the guise of false declaration, transfer of value, and shortchange in duty payment that are meant for the Federal Government.

These huge recoveries, which made a cumulative of N1.388 billion was attributed to the leadership by example and motivation the Comptroller gave to the officers and men of the Unit when he assumed duty and some appreciable compliance levels of some patriotic Nigerians who voluntarily paid appropriate duties on their goods and vehicles before the deadline on the ban of vehicles through the land borders.

While commending the officers and men of the Unit for living up to their statutory responsibilities in suppression of smuggling and enhancing trade facilitation towards sustaining best international standards, the Controller, Federal Operations Unit ‘A’, Comptroller Haruna Mamudu, thanked the Comptroller General of Customs Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), for his effort in appreciating hardwork and diligence to duty, and for always being there in giving a helping hand when the need arises.

In another development, the Unit also arraigned two Chinese smugglers Shu Xiang Quan and Wu Sheng and a Nigerian- Ugochukwu Frank, before Hon. Justice Mohammed Hassan of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos State, on December 29th, 2016, on four counts charge of storing and exporting prohibited items.