Press zooms in on Nigeria’s rating in 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index, others

The rejection of the recent verdict on Nigeria by Transparency International which said the country dropped five places in the…

The rejection of the recent verdict on Nigeria by Transparency International which said the country dropped five places in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index dominates the headlines of Nigerian newspapers on Thursday.The Guardian reports that Federal Government, yesterday, dismissed the recent verdict on Nigeria by Transparency International (TI), which said the country dropped five places in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The government said it is not bothered by the verdict, as TI is oblivious of the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption successes.

It boasted that some of the government’s legacy projects have been facilitated with funds known as Abacha loot, hitherto stolen and stashed abroad by a former Nigerian leader but returned to the country.

This came against the backdrop of reports that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points while ranking 150 among 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perception Index released by TI, a development which has continued to stoke concern by citizens.

Although the country maintained its previous year’s (2021) score of 24 out of 100 points, however, there was a change in rank from 154 to 150, as some other countries performed more poorly in 2022.

Fielding questions, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, downplayed the rating, saying the Nigerian government’s fight against corruption is not at the whims and caprices of the global agency.

He said: “We are not really worried or bothered about rating of the TI, because we know that everything we do is to ensure that we fight corruption the best way we know how to. If TI is not seeing this, then I think it has to change its template. But, again, we’re not fighting corruption to impress TI.

“We are not fighting corruption because we want to impress Transparency International or any organisation whatsoever. We’re fighting corruption because we believe if we do not fight corruption, there’ll be no growth, either in terms of the economy or even political.”

The newspaper says that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries plus (OPEC+) coalition’s Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) recommended no changes to the group’s output policy at its meeting yesterday.

The JMMC, which is made up of key OPEC+ ministers, is not a decision-making body, but it can make recommendations based on its assessment of the oil market and also has the authority to recommend an extraordinary ministerial meeting be held if market conditions warrant. As it stands, OPEC+ is not due to hold a ministerial conference until June.

The JMMC’s recommendation to stay the course on current crude production targets comes against the background of similar supply and demand uncertainties that underpinned the group’s December decision to roll over output quotas, notably, the outlook for Russian exports and Chinese consumption.

Nigeria’s crude oil production increased in December 2022 to an average of 1.23 million barrels per day (bpd) from 1.18 million bpd in November, according to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) said this in its latest crude oil and condensate production data for December 2022.

A Reuters survey on Tuesday also showed that Iraqi exports declined while Gulf members maintained strong compliance with an OPEC+ deal on production cuts to support the market.

The OPEC pumped 28.87 million barrels per day (bpd), the survey found, down 50,000 bpd from December. In September, OPEC output hit its highest since 2020.

According to the survey, Nigerian output, which rebounded in December, held at similar levels in January, the survey found, leaving more to do if the country is to meet a target to lift output to 1.6 million bpd this quarter.

Output is significantly undershooting targeted amounts because many producers – notably Nigeria and Angola – lack the capacity to pump at the agreed levels.

The punch reports that banking halls across various commercial banks in Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, and other parts of the country witnessed minimal activity as frustrated customers resorted to alternative means of cash withdrawal following the scarcity of naira notes in the banks.

Checks by our correspondents revealed that while most banking halls were empty due to paucity of funds in bank vaults, large crowds had formed outside some of the few banks that were rumoured to be preparing to load their Automated Teller Machines.

At First Bank Plc branch along Ogunnusi road in Lagos, there were a few customers arguing with bank officials who had insisted that the branch had run out of cash.

The story was similar at Ecobank, Zenith Bank, GTCO and Access Bank, all located in close proximity to each other along Ogunnusi road.

  However, at Union Bank Plc, also located within the same axis, there was a sizable crowd of commuters jostling through the queue hoping that the bank would load its ATM.

One of our correspondents then went further down the road inbound to Ojodu Grammar School, visiting UBA and Access Bank.

At the United Bank for Africa, the ATM did not dispense cash nor were any payments made over the counter.

A bank official, who spoke with our correspondent said the bank had been restricted to paying denominations lower than N200 notes due to a CBN directive.

Meanwhile, The PUNCH also observed that many customers of microfinance banks operating in Osun State on Wednesday threatened to storm the streets in protest against the lack of cash for withdrawal.

The newspaper says that an international rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service, has downgraded nine Nigerian banks, following its downward review of Nigeria’s rating last week.

The downgraded banks include Access Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, United Bank for Africa Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Limited, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Limited, and Sterling Bank Plc.

Moody’s, an international rating agency, downgraded to Caa1 from B3 the long-term deposit ratings, issuer ratings, as well as the senior unsecured debt ratings (where applicable), of all the nine lenders, it said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

A report monitored by The PUNCH stated that Moody’s also changed the outlook to stable on the long-term deposit ratings, issuer ratings as well as senior unsecured debt ratings (where applicable) of the nine rated Nigerian banks.

“Today’s rating actions follow Moody’s downgrade on January 27, 2023 of the long-term issuer rating of the Government of Nigeria to Caa1 from B3, and change in the outlook to stable,” it said.

It added that the downgrade of the long-term ratings of the affected banks reflected a combination of two factors – the weakening operating environment, as captured by Moody’s lowering of its Macro Profile for Nigeria to “Very Weak” from “very weak+”; and the inter linkages between the sovereign’s weakened creditworthiness (as indicated by the downgrade of the sovereign rating to Caa1from B3) and the banks’ balance sheets, given the banks’ significant holdings of sovereign debt securities, according to the report.

The statement further said the revised macro Profile for Nigeria, reflected the rating agency’s expectation that depressed and uncertain oil production, capital outflows amid flight to quality and the government’s constrained access to external funding would likely continue to weigh on Nigeria’s external position in 2023.

“Rated Nigerian banks have significant direct and indirect exposure to the Nigerian sovereign, with a significant portion of their assets located in the country, and sovereign debt holdings representing 28 per cent of their aggregate total assets as of June 2022.

“Government exposure links the banks’ credit profiles with the sovereign’s, whose rating was downgraded on 27 January 27, 2023, to reflect Moody’s expectation that the government’s fiscal and debt position will continue to deteriorate,” it stressed.

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