Familiar faces in presidential race promise new ways to fix Nigeria

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Two political veterans in their 70s are vying to be Nigeria’s next president, promising pro-business policies to revamp Africa’s largest economy by fixing its oil sector and curbing widespread security threats.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) this week chose Bola Tinubu to be its candidate to replace President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s vote. He will face Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and veteran politician who is the main opposition People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) flagbearer.

Abubakar previously ran on a commitment to privatise the state-owned oil firm and establish a fund to stimulate private infrastructure investment. For his part, Tinubu is vowing to boost manufacturing to reduce Nigeria’s dependence on imports, build a deep sea port in the south and increase gas and oil exploration in the continent’s top crude producer.

“No matter what the election outcome, the policy trajectory will change fundamentally,” the Financial Derivatives Company said in a note to investors. “The protectionist policies of the last decade are likely to be discarded.”

Under Buhari, the central bank has come up with a priority list of imports to curb dollar outflows and imposed exchange controls, which Tinubu and Abubakar want to do away with.

They also want to clean up the oil sector by either privatising the state oil firm or removing a costly petrol subsidy.

Crude theft and vandalism of pipelines has seen the government cutting its budgeted oil output to 1.4 million barrels per day from 1.8 million bpd initially, meaning Nigeria is missing out on a boom in oil prices unlike some other oil producers in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine.

Nigeria lost $1 billion to oil theft in the first quarter of this year alone, the oil regulator says.