6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The NIPC Act of 1995 liberalized Nigeria’s foreign investment regime, which has facilitated access to credit from domestic financial institutions. Foreign investors who have incorporated their companies in Nigeria have equal access to all financial instruments. Some investors consider the capital market, specifically the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), a financing option, given commercial banks’ high interest rates and the short maturities of local debt instruments.
After a strong performance in 2017, the NSE experienced significant contractions and decline in 2018, losing nearly 20 percent on its all-share index year-on-year. The stark reverse in performance was mostly attributed to government regulatory uncertainty and the 2019 presidential elections. As of December 2018, the NSE had 169 listed companies and a total market capitalization of USD 32.5 billion, a 13.9 percent decrease from 2017. The Nigerian government has considered requiring companies in certain sectors such as telecoms, oil and gas or over a certain size to list on the NSE, as a means to encourage greater corporate participation and sectoral balance in the NSE, but those proposals have not been enacted to date.
The government employs debt instruments, issuing bonds of various maturities ranging from two to 20 years. Nigeria has issued bonds to restructure the government’s domestic debt portfolio from short-term to medium- and long-term instruments. Some state governments have issued bonds to finance development projects, while some domestic banks have used the bond market to raise additional capital. The Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (NSEC) has issued stringent guidelines for states wishing to raise funds on capital markets, such as requiring credit assessments conducted by recognized credit rating agencies.
Money and Banking System
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) currently licenses 21 deposit-taking commercial banks in Nigeria. Following a 2009 banking crisis, CBN officials intervened in eight of 24 commercial banks (roughly one-third of the system by assets) due to insolvency or serious undercapitalization and established the government-owned Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) to address bank balance sheet disequilibria via discounted purchases of non-performing loans. The Nigerian banking sector emerged stronger from the crisis thanks to AMCON and a number of other reforms undertaken by the CBN, including the adoption of uniform year-end IFRS financial reporting to increase transparency, a stronger emphasis on risk management and corporate governance, and the nationalization of three distressed banks. In 2013 the CBN introduced a stricter supervision framework for the country’s top eight banks, identified as “Systemically Important Banks” (SIBs) as they account for more than 70 percent of the industry’s total assets, loans and deposits, and their failure or collapse could disrupt the entire financial system and the country’s real economy. These eight banks are: First Bank of Nigeria, United Bank for Africa, Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, Skye Bank, and Diamond Bank. Under the new supervision framework, the operations of SIBs are closely monitored with regulatory authorities conducting stress tests on the SIBs’ capital and liquidity adequacy. Moreover, SIBs are required to maintain a higher minimum capital adequacy ratio of 15 percent. In September 2018, the CBN revoked the operating license of Skye Bank Plc, due to the deterioration of its share capital and its board’s failure to recapitalize the bank. The CBN reported that total non-performing loans (NPLs) grew by 14.8 per cent in 2017 while they dropped to 14.2 percent of outstanding loans at the end of 2018. Nigerian government and private sector analysts assess that the volume of non-performing loans may be higher than these figures, owing in part to banks not reporting non-performing insider loans made to banks’ owners and directors.
The CBN supports non-interest banking. Several banks have established Islamic banking operations in Nigeria including Jaiz Bank International Plc, Nigeria’s first full-fledged Non-Interest Bank which commenced operations in 2012. There are five licensed merchant banks – Altitude Microfinance Bank Limited, Coronation Merchant Bank Limited, FBN Merchant Bank, FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd and Rand Merchant Bank Nigeria Limited.
The CBN has issued regulations for foreign banks regarding mergers with or acquisitions of existing local banks in the country. Foreign institutions’ aggregate investment must not be more than 10 percent of the latter’s total capital.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Foreign Exchange Policies
Foreign currency for most transactions is procured through local banks in the inter-bank market. Low value foreign exchange may also be procured at a premium from foreign exchange bureaus, called Bureaus De Change. Nigerian, American, and other foreign businesses have frequently expressed strong concern about the CBN’s foreign exchange restrictions, which they report prevent them from importing needed equipment and goods and from repatriating naira earnings. Foreign exchange demand remains high because of the dependence on foreign inputs for manufacturing and refined petroleum products.
In 2015 the CBN published a list of 41 product categories which could no longer be imported using official foreign exchange channels; the number of categories has since been increased to 43. Affected businesses (American and Nigerian) have complained publicly and privately that the policy in effect bans the import of some 700 individual items and severely hampers their ability to source inputs and raw materials. While the CBN has often referred to the list as temporary, the restriction remains in place, with an additional item added in 2018, bringing the number to 43. In February 2019, the Governor of the Central Bank commented that the Bank is currently considering adding more items to the list and bringing the number as high as 50 items.
In 2017, the CBN began providing more foreign exchange to the interbank market via wholesale and retail forward contract auctions, in order to meet some of the demand that had been forced to the parallel market. These actions satisfied some of the pent-up demand for dollars in the economy and resulted in a strengthening of the naira at the parallel market from a low of 520 naira to the dollar in January 2017 to around 390 naira to the dollar in April 2017. The CBN also established an “investors and exporters” window in 2017 which allows trades through that window to occur at around 360 naira to the dollar. This, combined with increased oil revenue, has boosted CBN reserves and helped stabilize the foreign exchange market. Most trade happens at the investors and exporters window, which provides the value of the naira quoted by financial markets globally, while the CBN continues to peg the official interbank rate at 305 naira to the dollar for government transactions. The CBN also maintains separate window for “invisibles” such as education and medical expenses abroad, and a retail window which subsidizes imports of petroleum products, raw materials, agricultural equipment and the aviation sector.
The NIPC guarantees investors unrestricted transfer of dividends abroad (net a 10 percent withholding tax). Companies must provide evidence of income earned and taxes paid before repatriating dividends from Nigeria. Money transfers usually take no more than 48 hours. In 2015, the CBN implemented restrictions on foreign exchange remittances. All such transfers must occur through banks. Such remittances may take several weeks depending on the size of the transfer and the availability of foreign exchange at the remitting bank. Transfers of currency are protected by Article VII of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Articles of Agreement ( ).
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) is the manager of Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund. It was created by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority Act in 2011 and began operation the following year with seed capital of USD 1 billion. Its most recent annual report (calendar year 2017) reported total assets of nearly USD 533.88 million, an almost 27 percent increase over 2016. It was created to receive, manage, and grow a diversified portfolio that will eventually replace government revenue currently drawn from non-renewable resources, primarily hydrocarbons.
The NSIA is a public agency that subscribes to the Santiago Principles which are a set of 24 guidelines that assign “best practices” for the operations of Sovereign Wealth Funds globally. The NSIA invests through three funds: the Future Generations Fund for diversified portfolio of long term growth, the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund for domestic infrastructure development, and the Stabilization Fund to act as a buffer against short-term economic instability. NSIA does not take an active role in management of companies. The Embassy has not received any report or indication that the activities of the NSIA limit private competition.