AFRICA/NIGERIA - Uncertainty and the economic crisis characterize the election campaign

Tuesday, 21 February 2023 economy   bishops   poverty  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - In addition to the insecurity (only yesterday, February 20th, at least eight police officers were killed in the south-east of the country), Nigeria is also facing serious economic difficulties ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections of February 25th.
Difficulties have been compounded by cash shortages after the central bank decided last October to replace the old banknotes with new 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes and give Nigerians three months to return their old notes, without recirculating the equivalent in the new notes, which are therefore difficult to find. The Nigerian bishops write in the final communiqué at the end of the Plenary Assembly (see Fides, 20/2/2023).
"The imperfect implementation of the exchange of old banknotes for new ones, which has caused a liquidity crisis, has added to the hunger, anger and frustration of the people".
To lack of cash is exacerbated by the lack of fuel which, according to the bishops, "forces Nigerians to spend long hours in long lines in difficult conditions to buy fuel at extremely high prices" (330 naira per liter against 165 a few months ago).
"We urge those involved in the hoarding of the new currency and oil products to refrain from such actions," the bishops warn of these recent developments.
Nigeria is the main oil producer on the continent and has immense natural resources, especially hydrocarbons. But the Covid-19 pandemic and the fallout from the war in Ukraine have brought the country's economy to its knees, already hit by widespread violence that is crippling agriculture and commerce across much of the country.
Inflation is approaching 22% and the naira continues to depreciate against the dollar, which is currently 750 naira per dollar on the black market.
With a population of 215 million, 63% of whom live in poverty, Nigeria is the demographic giant of sub-Saharan Africa. Its instability threatens to spread to neighboring countries, which are already experiencing economic and social difficulties. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 21/2/2023)