A Week in Nigeria: 11 May
Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days
In this week’s round-up: Central bank governor nominated for second term, government-affiliated militia releases nearly 900 children, the government accuses ex-president of accepting bribes over OPL 245.
- Central bank governor Godwin Emefiele has been nominated for a second five-year term. President Muhammadu Buhari, who has backed Emefiele’s monetary policy, nominated him for another term, according to a letter read on the floor of the Senate. The upper house of parliament is expected to confirm the nomination. It would the first time a Nigerian central bank governor has secured a second term since the return to civilian rule in 1999. Emefiele has overseen an interventionist currency policy at the behest of the presidency, propping up the local naira by pumping billions of dollars into the foreign exchange market. He also introduced a multiple exchange rate regime to try to mask pressure on the naira and avoid a series of devaluations, a step that has kept liquidity tight in Africa’s biggest economy. “Governor Emefiele’s nomination means that we will likely not see a major change in the conduct of monetary policy or a much-needed shift in Nigeria’s diversification strategy,” said Cobus de Hart, senior economist at South Africa’s NKC African Economics. A central bank spokesman said Emefiele’s nomination was in recognition of his “patriotism and irrepressible commitment to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy”. Outside of the central bank, views varied.
- Nigeria’s bonds rallied and the naira currency firmed after Emefiele was nominated for a second term, traders said. Local asset managers and insurance firms accounted for much of the bond buying, with some foreign investors in the mix. Some of the local funds were switching from treasuries into bonds, the traders said. Stocks, on the other hand, fell near a two-year low on Friday as investors viewed Buhari’s move as a possible sign that he, having won re-election in February, he would maintain policies that have contributed to a low growth rate, analysts said.
- In a very different story to that of the central bank, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a regional militia allied with government forces in the fight against militant Islamists in the northeast, freed almost 900 children it had used in the conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said. The move brought the total number of children freed to more than 1,700, a UNICEF statement said. Non-state armed groups embroiled in the decade-long conflict against Boko Haram recruited more than 3,500 children between 2013 and 2017 in Nigeria’s northeast, according to UNICEF.
- The government has accused former President Goodluck Jonathan and his then oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, of accepting bribes and breaking Nigeria’s laws to broker a $1.3 billion oil deal eight years ago, a London court filing shows. The deal, in which Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell and Italian peer Eni jointly acquired the rights to the OPL 245 offshore oilfield, has spawned legal cases spanning several countries. In papers advancing a London commercial court suit against Shell and Eni, lawyers for the Nigerian government said Jonathan and Alison-Madueke conspired to “receive bribes and make a secret profit”, keeping the government from getting what it was owed from the deal. “Bribes were paid,” the filing, reviewed by Reuters, states. It says “the receipt of those bribes and the participation in the scheme of said officials was in breach of their fiduciary duties and Nigerian criminal law.” A spokesman for Jonathan declined to comment and said the former president was in South Africa as part of an election monitoring team. A London-based lawyer for Madueke did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The 2011 deal is also the subject of a corruption trial in Milan in which two middlemen have been convicted and former and current Shell and Eni officials are also on trial.
- Nigeria’s securities regulator approved South African telecoms firm MTN’s listing application for its $5 billion Nigerian unit. MTN Nigeria registered more than 20 billion shares before the planned listing in the West African country, MTN’s biggest market with 58 million users in 2018 and accounting for a third of the group’s annual core profit. “MTN sought to come to the market by way of an introduction and they wrote to the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) last week requesting for approval to register its existing shares,” the regulator said in a statement.
- Nigerian police are investigating allegations that officers sexually assaulted women arrested in nightclub raids during a crackdown on prostitution. There has been widespread public outrage over last month’s raids in the capital Abuja. Various women among the dozens arrested said they were not prostitutes but were detained randomly. “They did all manner of things to us,” said one 27-year-old student, speaking on condition of anonymity among around 200 people during a protest march. The woman told Reuters she was groped, beaten and pepper-sprayed after being picked up in a club and held for three nights at the end of April. Other women said they were raped. Long accused of widespread human rights abuses which in the past it has denied, the Nigeria Police Force said it was looking into the accusations. “Investigations have commenced,” Usman Umar, deputy commissioner for Abuja police, said on Saturday, promising anyone found guilty would be “fished out” and punished. Similar to the global #MeToo movement, Nigerians have been using social media to highlight the mistreatment of women using the hashtags #SayHerNameNigeria and #AbujaPoliceRaidonWomen.
- And, finally, a judge at the federal high court in Lagos dismissed government claims that local units of Italy’s Eni and Brazil’s state-run Petrobras illegally exported crude oil to the United States. In a lawsuit filed in 2016, Nigeria alleged that a number of companies exported a total of 57 million barrels of crude oil to the United States between 2011 and 2014. It said they failed to declare all of this to Nigeria’s government as required by law. Lawyers representing the government filed at the court of appeal within hours.