THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on Thursday revealed that Nigeria had spent $770.58 million on oil imports in the first half of 2020.
The CBN’s data on sectoral utilisation for transactions valid for foreign exchange shows that $148.3 million was spent on oil imports in January, $145.23 million in February, and $139.55 million in March.
Foreign exchange for transactions in the oil sector dropped to $113.80 million in April and $109.11 million in May before climbing to $114.57 million in June, the data further revealed.
Oil imports accounted for about 4.35 per cent of the $17.7 billion used for imports in the country between January and June, 2020 according to the CBN data.
The amount of foreign currency used for imports in the country stood at $3.98 billion in January, $4.98 billion in February and $5.36 billion in March. It plunged to $1.08 billion in April and $1.06 billion in May but rose to $1.24 billion in June.
The CBN data also shows that the nation’s forex reserves had been on a downward slide for months until recently, falling to a record low of $33.42 billion in April 2020 from a high of $45.18 billion in June 2019.
The refineries in Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Warri, have a combined installed capacity of 445,000 barrels per day but have continued to operate far below the installed capacity.
Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, at the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting blamed the dwindling prices of oil on the shortage of forex.
“The depletion in forex reserves was driven by forex sales to the Bureaux de Change and the investors’ and exporters’ forex window, as well as dwindling oil receipts,” Emefiele said.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been the major importer of petroleum products into the country in recent years.
With the recent petrol deregulation, most marketers have yet to resume petrol importation due to a lack of access to forex at the official rate.
“For the purpose of establishing Letters of Credit and Bills for Collection for the importation of petroleum products, authorised dealers shall forward to the Director, Trade and Exchange Department (of the CBN), all relevant supporting documents for consideration prior to commencement of the transaction,” the CBN monetary, credit, foreign trade and exchange policy guidelines read.
“Furthermore, the CBN shall be notified within 48 hours by the authorised dealers before bidding for funds to pay for such transactions,” it added.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, relies largely on importation for petrol and other refined products as its refineries have remained in a state of disrepair for many years.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.