A Week in Nigeria: 22 December

Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days

Reuters journalists reported on massive changes in land use across the Middle Belt states of Nigeria which have contributed to violence in the region that has claimed thousands of lives this year

In this week’s round-up: President Buhari presents his 2019 budget, unemployment figures are released, the inside story of power sector debts and Reuters analysis of land use in the violent Middle Belt region.

  • President Buhari presented an 8.83 trillion naira ($28.80 billion) budget for 2019 to a raucous parliament that highlighted divisions two months before an election. The spending plan assumes crude production of 2.3 million barrels a day, an oil price of $60 per barrel and an exchange rate of 305 naira to the dollar.
  • The National Bureau of Statistics released employment data. The unemployment rate stood at 23.1 percent of the workforce in the third quarter, up from 18.1 percent a year earlier, the head of the statistics office Yemi Kale said. “As of Q3 2018, the calculated unemployment rate was 23.1 percent, the underemployment rate was 20.1 percent, and the combined unemployment and underemployment rate was 43.3 percent,” the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in its report.
  • We exclusively reported that the Nigerian power sector’s crippling debts had delayed the financial close of the $1.1bn Qua Iboe power plant, to be located in the southern Akwa Ibom state. It isn’t clear when the deal will close, if at all. It’s the inside story of the financial mess holding back mass electricity provision in Nigeria drawing on interviews with senior figures across the sector.
  • Nigeria’s Access Bank agreed to takeover mid-tier rival Diamond Bank, the lenders said, in a deal both said would create Africa’s largest bank by customers. Nigerian banks have been trying to raise fresh capital after huge loan losses worsened by an economy that is recovering from its first recession in 25 years. U.S. private equity firm Carlyle owns a 17.75 percent stake in Diamond Bank which it bought for $147 million in 2014 when the bank was trading at 0.6 times book value as against 0.15 times now. The takeover follows weeks of speculation about Diamond Bank in the wake of the unexpected resignations of its chairman and three other directors in October.

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