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Mobile subscriptions hit 222 million amidst SIM-NIN restrictions

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The number of mobile subscriptions in Nigeria rose to 222.23 million in 2022 despite the implementation of the Federal Government’s National Identification Number-Subscriber Identity Module policy.

At the start of the policy in April, over 72.77 million active telecommunication subscriptions were barred from making calls. But the industry has since shaken off the effect of this and grew by 13.89 per cent in 2022.

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According to new data from the Nigerian Communications Commission, the total number of subscriptions grew from 195.13 million as of December 2021 to 222.23 million as of December 2022.

This growth signified a complete shake-off of the decline that plagued the telecoms industry in 2021 when the total number of mobile subscriptions declined by 4.42 per cent from 204.15 million as of December 2020 to 195.13 million as of December 2021.

In the period under review, MTN Nigeria grew by 20.96 per cent from 73.59 million to 89.02 million; Airtel grew by 11.38 per cent from 53.93 million to 60.07 million; Globacom grew by 9.98 per cent from 54.82 million to 60.29 million; and 9mobile grew by 0.49 per cent from 12.85 million to 12.79 million.

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In 2022, teledensity, the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants living within an area grew to 116.60 per centthe (highest on record).

Nigeria’s mobile population is the largest in Africa and is expected to continue to grow because of its large youth population. According to GSMA, the global body representing telcos, 18 million new Nigerians will become unique mobile subscribers by 2025.

The Chief Operating Officer, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Ajibola Olude, attributed the growth of mobile subscriptions in 2022 to the increased usage of Internet of Things devices, and combined government effort.

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He said, “Many factors were responsible for the growth of the sector in 2022. IoT and robotics need SIMs to be able to work because they are Internet enabled.

“IoTs are the order of the day now. A lot of things are connected to the Internet, and they need SIMs. Asides from that, at the federal and state level, there is serious awareness on the need to adopt ICT.

Many services have moved online, and don’t forget that the CBN is pursuing a cashless economy which means that there is a need to probably use an Internet-enabled phone.”

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External reserves fell by $64m in January

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External reserves fell by $63.62m in January, figures obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria have revealed.

The CBN revealed in its data on movement of foreign reserves that the external reserves which ended December 30, 2022 at $37.08bn fell to $37.01bn at the end of January 30, 2023.

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Nigeria’s external reserves fell by $3.43bn in 2022 after dropping from $40.52bn as of the end of December 31, 2021.

Cordros Securities stated in its January report on ‘MPC to favour smaller rate hikes in the short term’ noted that local currency weakness remained intact.

It stated that, “Foreign investors remain on the sidelines given the lack of FX reforms, higher global interest rates and weak macroeconomic narrative.

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“In addition, CBN’s FX supply to the different FX market segments remains significantly below pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, the demand for the greenback remains high as market players continue to source for FX to fulfil and clear their outstanding obligations.

Consequently, since the last policy meeting, the local currency depreciated by 3.4 per cent to N461.25/$ at the official market as of 18 January 2023.

“However, given that the FX reserves remain within the CBN’s comfort level, we expect the Committee to highlight the need for the apex bank to maintain its periodic FX interventions and intensify its call to the fiscal authorities to amplify their efforts in ensuring higher crude oil production over the short-to-medium term.

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“Accordingly, the Committee will likely reiterate that the CBN should address the pressures on the local currency by boosting the FX supply for productive activities.”

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Naira under serious pressure, Fitch Ratings warns

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Global credit rating firm, Fitch Ratings has warned that Nigeria’s currency, the Naira is under serious pressure

Fitch in a report said this may further raise the possibility of a material devaluation following the presidential election in February 2023.

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The exchange rate between the naira and the US dollar traded for an average of N745/$1 on Wednesday, 1st February 2023, representing a 0.80 percent appreciation when compared to N751/$1 recorded in the previous trading session.

Similarly, the exchange rate at the cryptocurrency P2P exchange appreciated on Wednesday, 1st February 2023 to a minimum of N745.5/$1, from N752/$1 recorded on Tuesday’s trading session.

Meanwhile, the exchange rate at the investors and exporters (I&E) window closed at N461.5/$1, the same rate as recorded in the previous trading session.

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Fitch Ratings in a report, explained that the inability to reliably source United States (US) dollars on the official FX market has itself contributed to lower foreign portfolio investor (FPI) inflows, which will continue to put further pressure on US dollar availability.

Nigeria’s already-high structural inflation has been aggravated by global commodity price spikes, supply constraints and a weak naira, according to a Fitch Ratings note.

Nigeria’s headline inflation rate printed at 21.34 per cent in December 2022 after a 13 basis points slowdown from the previous month, causing inflation to reach a 17-year high.

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Analysts noted that Nigeria’s falling external reserves levels have contributed to US dollar shortages in the official FX market, as evidenced by the rapid depreciation of the Nigeria naira in the parallel market to NGN738/USD on 31 December.

Since then, the exchange rate at the open market has worsened to N750 per United States dollar in the open market where it is freely traded to users, while it traded at N462 at Investors, Exporters FX Window.

According to Fitch, the parallel market rate is therefore trading at a large discount to the official exchange rate, raising the possibility of a devaluation following the change in administration that will follow the presidential election in February 2023.

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Monetary policymakers, particularly in emerging markets, are challenged with marked pressure on their respective local currencies due to rising global interest rates and risk-off sentiments. Global investors rank the FX convergence of the naira in 2023 as a major policy shift that could incentivize investment flows.

Fitch expects US dollar scarcity to continue weighing on economic activity in 2023, compounding the effect of high inflation and rising interest rates on borrowers’ repayment capacity, while negatively affecting banks’ trade finance business and FC liquidity.

According to market participants, the CBN has accumulated a backlog of foreign currency demand from importers, estimated at about USD3 billion.

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In addition, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, hinted that there is an additional USD1.7 billion outstanding to foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), bringing the total backlog to almost USD5 billion.

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NNPC Takes Over Addax Petroleum Assets

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited has taken over the assets of Addax Petroleum Development (Nigeria) Limited.

This is coming three months after the execution of the Addax Transfer, Settlement, and Exit Agreement (ATSEA) for the PSC Oil blocks, OMLs 123/124 & 126/137, operated by the company.

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NNPC Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Garba Deen Muhammad, in a statement on Tuesday, all closing obligations have been concluded and the Assets have been transferred to the Concessionaire, NNPC Limited.

“Consequently, NNPC has taken necessary steps to take over the assets and oversee a clean, amicable, and speedy exit for Addax Petroleum Ltd., operate the asset on interim basis as a first step and subsequently appoint a competent replacement PSC contractor while NNPC Limited continues to remain the Concessionaire of the assets in line with extant laws and regulations,” the statement partly read.

“Exit negotiations and formalities have been concluded and NNPC Ltd. in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, NUPRC, NMDPRA, FIRS, EFCC, and the FCCPC have agreed on the clean and amicable exit for Addax by resolving all the PSC contractual issues, including litigations that culminated in the execution of a Transfer, Settlement, and Exit Agreement (TSEA) on the 1st of November 2022.”

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NNPC Ltd also announced the appointment of the Transition Team lead, Sagiru Jajere. NNPC Ltd said the much-needed investments will be deployed to the Assets while prudently conducting petroleum activities and creating value.

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