This becomes exigent as the impact of trade balance deficit recorded in the first quarter of this year begins to hurt the economy.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said foreign trade statistics for the first quarter showed that merchandise trade, the sum of visible import and export goods, plunged by 38 per cent year-on-year from N4.4 trillion last year to N2.7 trillion.
The figure represents the latest in the series of negative economic indicators published by the Bureau in recent time. Total trade declined by N793.5 billion or 22.6 per cent on a quarter on quarter (Q-o-Q) basis compared to N3.5 trillion in December last year as import and export for the period touched the lowest in 13 quarters.
Internal sources within the banks said the lenders are downsizing, following rising difficult operating environment, decline in operational output of most companies, which has led to the decline in their transaction turnover, rising cost of overheads and tough policies from regulators.
The source said a large part of the workforce to be axed will come mid-tier lenders, which have been badly hit by the tough regulatory polices of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and losses incurred by overexposure to oil and gas loans.
Already, Ecobank Nigeria Limited, last week fired 1,040 out of its over 9,000 workers over poor performance. First City Monument Bank Limited (FCMB) Limited and Diamond Bank Plc had earlier sacked combined 400 workers even as more banks are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks, or months. The massive workforce disengagement affected almost all cadres of the three lenders’ workforce.
Regulatory pressures from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) including the ongoing implementation of the zero Commission on Turnover (CoT) fees, increase in contribution to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) levies as well as high Cash Reserve Ratios (CRRs) are key policies depleting banks’ revenue bases.
The 20 commercial banks are expected to lose over N100 billion annually to the zero COT policy; N140 billion to the AMCON levy, which has been increased from 0.3 per cent of banks’ total assets to 0.5 per cent and nearly N50 billion to the NDIC levy.
Report from Afrinvest West Africa said more disturbing is the fact that the economy recorded the first negative trade balance since 2013 as crude oil export with average of 75.6 per cent contribution to total exports in the last three years slowed to 64.7 per cent. Oil export tumbled 50.9 per cent Y-o-Y and 46.6 e Q-o-Q to N821.9 billion in March this year. The weakening external sector performance as indicated in the numbers above is consistent with March 2016 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and unemployment figures published by the NBS recently, indicating that the economy contracted by 0.4 per cent while unemployment rate increased to 12.1 per cent in the same period.
Despite the government’s determination to diversify the revenue base of the economy, crude oil export continued to account for over 70 per cent of total merchandise export in the last 12 months.
Within the first quarter, petroleum and oil related items accounted for 82.8 per cent of total export, followed by raw cocoa and cocoa related items with 3.6 per cent while other item accounted for 13.6 per cent.