#BounceExclusive: REVEALED - The Real Reason Nigeria’s Economy Still Battles Recession
Augustine is a 39-year-old man who lives in Lagos with his wife and two children.
He had started work almost immediately after he left university more than 11 years ago. His life flowed like a song.
But in September 2016, everything changed. Mr. Augustine lost his job in a courier firm.
With tens of other employees, he was laid off by his employer, who cited a need for restructuring due to a dip in operations.
It’s close to a year since he lost his job and he has not been able to secure another.
But Mr. Augustine is not alone. Between October and December 2016, 2.1 million people, according to National Bureau of Statistics lost their jobs just like that.
*Millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs since the country slipped into recession
This figure does not include people who just left school and are looking to get their first jobs.
The reason for this job losses is that Nigeria’s economy is in recession, a period of negative economic growth when nothing works.
Nigeria’s recession has been blamed on a number of factors, chief among which is the fall in global oil prices, Nigeria’s main source of revenue.
Over the past year, the government has implemented series of measures to bring the economy back on its feet. But it has not budged.
Some experts who exclusively spoke to Bounce News blame Nigeria’s inability to navigate its economy out of recession on high interest rates and government’s level of local debt.
They believe besides government’s dwindling revenue; the high interest rates need to come down in order to stimulate economic growth at the basic level - Small and Medium scale.
Interest rate is the rate at which banks are willing to lend to businesses. At the moment, it hovers around 28 and 30%.
Compared to other economies in Africa, this is outrageously high.
“The current interest rate is higher than what you will find in other African countries. For instance, in South Africa, interest rate is at 7%, Kenya, 10%, Rwanda, 6.25%, Botswana, 5.5%, and Cameroon, 2.5%. It discourages SMEs from accessing funds from Banks.
*Nigerian banks have been blamed for making cost of funds expensive through prohibitive interest rates
“Banks are focused more on profitability so they continue to focus on treasury bills and bonds which are risk-free government securities rather than investing in the real sector,” said Ifeanyi Abraham, an Economist and a Public Relations Executive.
According to Abraham, “Coupled with the prohibitive cost of maintaining infrastructure - power, water, etc, SMEs are having to cut staff, slash salaries or get out of business. And that is exactly why we can’t seem to be getting out of this recession.”
The Senate on Tuesday accused the Central bank of Nigeria, CBN and commercial banks for conniving to jerk up the interest rates and destroy small businesses.
*Nigeria's upper chamber, the senate has promised to intervene to bring down the interest rates
On Sunday, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki was also quoted as saying that time has come for the upper chamber to sit down with CBN and money deposit banks to discuss growing concerns.
“The problem is that the CBN is pro-banks instead of pro-customers. Today the bank charges seem endless. From account maintenance fees, CoTs, to card maintenance fees to online transaction commissions, banks have easy and lazy ways of making money instead of looking for creative ways to make money by lending to businesses,” said Osamede Evbakhavbokun, a former banker and an entrepreneur.
According to Osamede, government’s borrowing is not helping matters. This is because banks would rather prefer to lend to government rather than small business owners, because they know that government could easily print money to repay their loans.
Government, he said, could look for other ingenious ways of making money so that banks would be forced to make credit attractive.
He said: “No sane business would borrow money at 28 or 30% interest rate. Banks are making money through charges so they would rather lend to government.
“If they are forced to prune down the charges, banks would be forced to make credit attractive. There was a time when banks were promoting loans because they were not allowed to charge customers indiscriminately.
“They were competing for loans and the interest rates were coming down on its own. But all that has changed because of the charges banks freely charge customers.”
When the small businesses start growing; then there may be light at the end of the tunnel.