A week in Nigeria: 16 September 2018

In case you missed key developments in Nigeria over the last week, here’s a rundown of some of the stories covered by the Reuters bureau.

The week was again dominated by relations between South African telecoms giant MTN and Nigeria’s government. The company, Africa’s biggest telecoms company, continued to respond to a demand from authorities in its biggest market for $10.1 billion in charges.

  • The Reuters team obtained court papers filed with Nigeria’s high court in Lagos in which MTN accused the country’s attorney general of exceeding his powers in demanding $2 billion in taxes and charges from the company. “The attorney-general of the federation (of Nigeria) acted illegally, unconstitutionally, and in excess of his powers” by implementing charges in a “self-assessment exercise” that related to customs, the inland revenue and import duties, the court documents state.
  • The papers, filed on 10 September, marked a bid to protect the company’s assets. Reuters also learned that MTN was seeking 3 billion naira ($10 million) from Nigeria in court and legal expenses.
  • The $10.1 billion demand by Nigerian authorities makes MTN’s planned debut stock market listing in the country “pretty challenging and awkward”, the group’s chief financial officer said. “We are not sitting here saying the listing is off. The listing is to remain on track,” said Ralph Mupita.

Nigeria’s inflation rate rose in August over the previous year for the first time in a year and a half, driven by food prices, the statistics office said. The slight jump, from 11.14 percent in July to 11.23 percent in August, curtails an 18-month run of falling rates from a peak of 18.72 percent in January 2017. The news came just under two weeks before the monetary policy committee of the central bank announces its decision on interest rates on 25 September.

Razia Khan, Standard Charter’s chief economist for Africa, said the main factor to watch is “when and by how much pre-election spending kicks in, pressuring inflation”.

Last but not least, President Buhari on Friday accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun. She said she stepped down over allegations of using a forged certificate to avoid participation in the country’s mandatory one-year national youth service scheme. The presidency made the announcement late on Friday after several hours of speculation about Adeosun’s future.

“I have, today, become privy to the findings of the investigation into the allegation made in an online medium that the Certificate of Exemption from National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) that I had presented was not genuine,” she said in her statement. “This has come as a shock to me and I believe that in line with this administration’s focus on integrity, I must do the honourable thing and resign.” The presidency also tweeted a copy of her resignation letter.

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

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