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Nigeria’s Mixed Messages about OMO Bills Creates Confusion

Nigeria’s central bank has denied it’s planning to freeze foreigners out of its lucrative short-term bills market, backtracking on comments made by a director of the institution earlier this week. The central bank’s director of monetary policy, Hassan Mahmud, said Tuesday that offerings to non-residents of Open Market Operation bills would “ultimately” be phased out, without giving a time frame. The bank had outstanding OMOs of $8.3 billion as of March 4 from $31.9 billion as at the end of 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. This was after barring domestic funds from buying the securities and reducing new issuances as the cost of offering the instruments spiked. The central bank used the short-term bills to lure portfolio investors and shore up the naira after the crash in crude prices led to a dollar shortage in the country. Demand for the bills remains high. In an auction Thursday, investors offered to buy 5.2 times the amount of securities sold, with yields of 10.1%. Treasury bills with similar maturities offer about half those returns.