A Week in Nigeria: 1 December

Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days

It was a bad week for the naira as it weakened on the black market to the lowest level since August 2017

In this week’s round-up: The naira’s sharp fall on the black market prompts central bank plans to boost dollar sales, Atiku’s hunt for voters in the southeast and Buhari breaks his silence on dead soldiers.

  • The naira was hit by its biggest bout of volatility in more than a year, falling sharply to its weakest level on the black market since August 2017. The Nigerian naira weakened by 1 percent on the black market on Thursday to 370 per dollar. Traders said some black market outlets were hoarding dollars, fearing a recent sharp fall in oil prices could lead to a shortage of the U.S. currency. “There’s no new investment coming in and oil prices have been dropping so investors are watching while some are exiting,” said one trader. Global prices of oil, Nigeria’s chief export, have dropped more than 20 percent this month. Traders now fear that the Nigerian central bank may not have enough reserves to defend the currency against a possible further weakening of oil prices as foreign investors have been pulling money out of Nigerian assets.
  • With much of the naira situation hinges on oil prices, it was fitting that Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih held a joint media briefing with Nigerian oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu. Falih revealed that Saudi Arabia will not cut oil output on its own to stabilise the market, as Nigeria and Russia said it was too early to signal whether they would join any production curbs. The Saudi minister said signals from fellow OPEC members Iraq, Nigeria and Libya were positive ahead of the group’s 6 December talks because all ministers want to restore oil market stability. “We are going to … do whatever is necessary, but only if we act together as a group of 25,” Falih told reporters, referring to OPEC and its allies. “As Saudi Arabia we cannot do it alone, we will not do it alone. Everybody is longing (to) reach a decision that brings stability back to the market.”
  • We reported from the cities of Onitsha and Enugu to focus on efforts by opposition presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar to outflank Buhari by picking up votes in large numbers across the southeast where the president is unpopular. Atiku is targeting regional voters — who are mostly members of the Igbo ethnic group — through his choice of a local running mate and policies designed to meet calls for autonomy. The numbers are tempting: there were 7.5 million registered voters in the five states of the southeast out of 67.4 million nationwide at the last election, in 2015. And millions of Igbos can be found nationwide in key areas, such as the Lagos. The opposition will still need to overcome voter apathy in the southeast, where people have long felt there is little point in voting since presidents tend to be northerners from the Hausa ethnic group or Yoruba people from the southwest. While presidential elections in Nigeria are usually cast as a fight between the mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south, this election will be different: both men are Muslim, from the north and from the Fulani ethnic group. Victory could hinge on a candidate attracting votes from outside his ethnic and religious base.

Nigeria bureau chief for Reuters. Ghanaian family, British accent. Ex-BBC, before that newspapers.