By Oyetunji Abioye
The country’s external reserves rose to $26.55bn on January 9, from $26.2bn on January 6, the latest data from the Central Bank of Nigeria showed on Tuesday.
The foreign exchange reserves had hit $26bn on January 3, 2017, up from $25.8bn on December 30, 2017, the CBN statistics revealed.
The reserves ended last year with $25.84bn balance on December 30, 2016.
The foreign exchange reserves have been rising in recent weeks following the gradual increase in oil price and production output.
Within the space of about six and half weeks, the reserves have appreciated by $2bn. It went up from $24.5bn on November 24, 2016 to $26.5bn on January 9, 2017.
The foreign exchange reserves had risen to over four-month high of $25.7bn on December 28, up from $25.4bn on December 23.
In less than one week, the reserves rose by almost $300m from $25.084bn on December 16, 2016 to $25.361 on December 22.
However, currency and economic experts are not sure if the tiny upticks in the external reserves’ level are sustainable amid a falling naira and acute shortage of dollar in the foreign exchange markets and the economy.
Despite the staggering crash in the value of the naira against the United States dollar and other major foreign currencies last year, the CBN spent $4bn from the nation’s external reserves to defend the local currency in 12 months.
On December 22, 2015, the reserves stood $29.341bn. On December 22, 2016, the foreign exchange reserves stood at $25.361bn. This means that the external reserves were depleted by $4bn in 12 months.
The drop is estimated at 14 per cent. On December 31, 2015, the last day of the year, the external reserves stood at $29.069bn, compared to $25.84bn recorded on December 30, 2016.
The controversial defence of the naira by the CBN has come under severe criticism by economists, who believe that the forces of demand and supply should be allowed to determine the exchange rate of the naira, at least to a considerable level.
A currency analyst at Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Kunle Ezun, said a fall in oil prices would add pressure on external reserves and fuel more pressure on the naira.
However, an analyst at EY, Mr. Bisi Sanda, said there were indications that oil price and output would rise further this year.
The country’s reserves had recorded $23.89bn low on October 19. The reserves dropped by 15.9 per cent between 2015 and 2016.