A Week in Nigeria: 6 October
Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days
In this week’s round-up: A bitter fight to be the ruling party’s gubernatorial candidate in Lagos, the opposition gears up to select a presidential candidate and MTN’s woes deepen.
- President Muhammadu Buhari sought to reassure voters that next year’s elections would be free and fair after the opposition and international observers raised concerns over the way the gubernatorial vote in the southwestern state of Osun was conducted a few days earlier. “I have committed myself many times to ensure that elections are fully participatory, free and fair and that the Independent National Electoral Commission will be exactly independent and properly staffed and resourced,” said Buhari in a televised address to mark the anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from British rule.
- The governor of Nigeria’s commercial powerhouse Lagos, a prominent ruling party figure, lost his bid to seek a second term following a primary selection process that exposed internal divisions in a crucial state months ahead of polls next year. Akinwunmi Ambode, who took office in 2015, was defeated by Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the APC’s primaries for gubernatorial elections to be held in March 2019, just weeks after February’s presidential election in which Buhari will seek a second term. The contest was at times rancorous and prompted Ambode to call for unity in the wake of his defeat which followed weeks of reports that he had lost the support of Bola Tinubu, himself a former Lagos state governor and a political godfather in the region.
- Ambode’s speech in which he conceded defeat struck a more conciliatory tone than a speech he gave days earlier criticising Sanwo-Olu in which he suggested he wasn’t fit for office.
The controversial poll spawned a flurry of articles in the local press and online media about a “godfather-godson relationship gone awry”. For some, the tense Lagos primary election was a reminder of the influence wielded by Tinubu, the man often referred to simply as Jagaban, whose support helped to sweep Buhari to power in 2015 by delivering voters in the southwest.
- The ruling party wasn’t alone in holding primary elections. The People’s Democratic Party will select its presidential candidate over the weekend. And the main opposition is aiming to make Buhari’s northwestern power base a key battleground in the contest.“In past elections, Buhari got almost half of his vote from the northwest and the region will be even more important this time,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, West Africa analyst at Teneo Intelligence.
- The World Bank cut its economic growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa this year to 2.7 percent from an earlier forecast of 3.1 percent, mainly because of slower-than-expected growth in the continent’s bigger economies. In April, the World Bank had predicted that the recovery would gather pace this year, with average growth expected at 3.1 percent, up from 2.3 percent last year. Lower oil production in Angola and Nigeria offset higher oil prices, and in South Africa, weak household consumption growth was compounded by a contraction in agriculture, the Bank said.
- Nigeria’s government will prosecute those responsible for the collapse of failed lender Skye Bank, weeks after the central bank withdrew Skye’s operating licence, the country’s finance minister said. “We have to show some examples, we cannot just be bailing out banks and leaving perpetrators of the failure of these banks to just go scot-free,” said Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed.
- And it seems no week would be complete without a story about telecoms giant MTN. The South African company’s dispute with Nigeria’s central bank looks set to drag on, after court documents showed the bank was persisting with its demand that the firm repatriates $8.1 billion. The central bank filed a counter claim to a court request by MTN which sought to stop the bank from forcing it to bring back the money, the company’s lawyer said on Friday.
- In asking a Lagos court to throw out MTN’s case, the central bank also requested the firm pay 15 percent annual interest on the $8.1 billion. MTN shares on Friday hit a two-week low on investor fears that the matter could escalate. It was a departure from the central bank’s statements over the last two weeks which had appeared to hint at a softer tone. On 19 September the financial regulator said it was reviewing information provided by MTN and the four banks accused of helping it to illegally repatriate the $8.1 billion, with a view to reaching an equitable resolution. And the central bank governor went further last week, at a press conference on 25 September, in which he said he was optimistic that the dispute would be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. “MTN will be happy, the banks will be happy. CBN and government would be happy,” he predicted.