A Week in Nigeria: 13 October
Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days
In this week’s round-up: Atiku emerges as Buhari’s main challenger in next year’s election, Oby Ezekwesili enters the race and a militia group in northeast Nigeria releases more than 800 child soldiers.
- Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice-president and a serial contender for the top job, was chosen by the main opposition People’s Democratic Party to challenge Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election to be held in February 2019. Abubakar, 71, hopes to replicate Buhari’s 2015 feat of winning a presidential election at the fourth attempt after he left the ruling APC party in November and re-joined the PDP a month later.
- Abubakar’s candidacy dominated our coverage this week. In a U-turn that topped the Hell Freezes Over tour by The Eagles, former head of state Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed Abubakar ending a public feud that had threatened to undermine the PDP candidate. And the week ended with the PDP candidate unveiling ex-Anambra governor Peter Obi as his running mate. Obi, a 57-year-old who was governor of southeastern Anambra state from 2006–2014, had a background in business prior to entering politics, including a stint as chairman of Nigeria’s Fidelity Bank.
- In May Abubakar told Reuters he would privatise parts of the state oil company and allow the naira currency to float to attract foreign investment if elected as head of state. He has long enjoyed support from the business elite in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos for his conservative-capitalist ideals and, as vice president in a PDP administration from 1999–2007, implemented a programme of liberalisation in areas including the telecoms sector. It immediately became clear that his campaign will focus on the economy.
- Abubakar wasn’t the only person to be unveiled as a presidential candidate. Former Nigerian minister Obiageli Ezekwesili, the co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign group that raises awareness about more than 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, announced that she will also run for president. She will run as the candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN). Ezekwesili, who was also one of the founders of Transparency International, vowed to disrupt Nigeria’s political duopoly by mobilising first-time voters. Her candidacy prompted a wide range of reactions on social media.
- The central bank may reduce the amount it has ordered MTN to repatriate as part of an ongoing dispute, governor Godwin Emefiele told Reuters during a visit to London. “I don’t think it will be staying at $8.1 billion,” Emefiele said, adding that he expected the issue to be dealt with “amicably and equitably”. “I want to believe that the figures will reduce. Whether they will be dropped completely, I honestly cannot say at this time.” A few days later, Emefiele held talks with representatives of MTN and the four banks involved in the dispute.
- The death toll from floods across central and southern states has reached 199, the national disaster agency said, almost doubling the number of people killed from three weeks earlier.
- Shell expects a landmark corruption trial over a Nigerian oil deal to last many months, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. It warned staff of continued critical media coverage in the $1.3 billion case. Shell and Italian peer Eni are defendants in a Milan bribery trial, now in its early stages, focusing on the 2011 purchase of Nigeria’s OPL 245 offshore oilfield for about $1.3 billion.
- President Buhari asked parliament to approve the issuance of a $2.8 billion Eurobond, in a letter read to lawmakers. Nigeria, which emerged from recession last year, approved a three-year plan in 2016 to borrow more from abroad so that 40 percent of its loans would come from offshore in an attempt to lower borrowing costs. Buhari, in the letter, said he wanted the Eurobond to be issued in the international capital market for the “implementation of new external borrowing” that had already been approved in the 2018 budget. The money was sought to help finance the budget deficit and to fund infrastructure projects.
- And the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) - a militia created in northeast Nigeria to fight Boko Haram - released 833 children from its ranks, according to UN children’s agency UNICEF. Some were as young as 11. The CJTF signed an action plan in September 2017 to end child recruitment. The release of the children, 40 percent of whom were 15 or younger, was its first formal release. UNICEF said the released children were among 1,175 boys and 294 girls who had been identified as being associated with the CJTF in the city of Maiduguri, although the total has yet to be verified and could include another 2,200 or more children.