A Week in Nigeria: 23 November

Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days

The rising price of food and the impact of Nigeria’s land border closures were in the spotlight this week

In this week’s round-up: Nigeria releases GDP and inflation data, U.S. indicts Air Peace CEO on money laundering charges, ex-attorney general arrested in Dubai over $1.3bn oil block, and sabotage on key crude oil line has caused significant production losses.

  • Nigeria’s statistics office released GDP and inflation data that, respectively, pointed to the impact of oil prices and the closure of the country’s land borders. Economic growth rose to an annual rate of 2.28% in the three months to the end of September after the production of its main export commodity, crude oil, rose to a more than three year high. It was the highest quarterly growth since the last quarter of 2018 as the oil sector rose 6.49%. The non-oil sector rose 1.85% during the period. Africa’s largest economy expanded by 0.17% in the previous quarter and 0.47% in the same period a year earlier. Growth rates in Nigeria have been bouncing back this year, though from a low base, after the oil sector, which accounts for around two-thirds of government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange, shrugged off its negative performance in the first quarter. Crude production in the third quarter stood at 2.04 million barrels per day, its highest since the first quarter of 2016.
  • The GDP data, released on Friday, came ahead of the central bank’s announcement of its main interest rate on Tuesday and days after the statistics office said annual inflation hit a 17-month high in October. Higher food prices pushed up inflation after borders with neighbouring countries were closed in a crackdown on smuggling. Annual inflation was 11.61% in October, up from 11.24% in September, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday — the highest rate since May 2018. Consumer inflation had dropped to its lowest in almost four years in August. The central bank, which is due to set its benchmark interest rate on Tuesday and has targeted single-digit inflation, held its main interest rate at 13.5% at its last meeting. “Given the increase in inflation, we now expect that policymakers will leave their key rate on hold,” John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at London-based Capital Economics, said in a note. A separate food price index showed inflation at 14.09% in October, compared with 13.51% a month earlier. “This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of meat, oils and fats, bread and cereals, potatoes, ham and other tubers, fish and vegetables,” the statistics office said in its report. Shoppers and traders in Abuja and Lagos told us the price of rice, in particular, had risen rapidly in recent weeks.

The issue of land border closures continued to elicit a strong response on social media.

These two tweets were part of a Twitter thread by Amaka Anku, of Eurasia Group, in which she tried to look at the border policy in more depth.

  • The founder and CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest airlines, Air Peace, has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of bank fraud and money laundering for the alleged illegal movement of more than $20 million, the department said. Allen Onyema was accused of transferring the money from Nigeria through U.S. bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes, the justice department said in a statement dated Nov. 22. The airline’s chief of administration and finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, has also been charged with bank fraud and identity theft in connection with the alleged scheme, the statement said. Both Onyema and Eghagha denied any wrongdoing in statements issued by their lawyers, adding that they would defend themselves against the allegations. “Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak was quoted as saying by the Department of Justice. Legal firm A.O. Alegeh & Co. said “the allegations are unfounded and strange,” in statements on behalf of each of the accused. It added they both looked forward to “an opportunity to rebut these allegations in court”. Air Peace, founded by Onyema in 2010, flies to destinations across Nigeria as well as international routes to other West African countries including Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

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