Nigeria: What Next for the Economy Under Re-elected Buhari?

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and member of the ruling party All Progressive Congress (APC) waves at the crowd of APC supporters upon his arrival for a political campaign rally at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos on February 9, 2019. – Nigeria’s president and ruling party were accused of dirty tricks to stifle opposition support, on February 9, 2019, with one week to go before the election in Africa’s most populous nation. (Photo by STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP)

March 4, 2019//-President Muhammadu Buhari has secured a second term as President of Nigeria, setting Africa’s largest economy up for another four years of his statist economic policies.

Analysts believe that Buhari’s victory will most likely lead to a continuation of his statist and protectionist economic policies, which have included import and currency controls but yielded disappointing growth.

John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said that ‘Buharinomics’ is likely to continue into the future:

“Two early signs of whether or not President Buhari intends to move in a new direction will be his appointment of a new cabinet and his decision on whether or not to re-appoint the controversial central bank governor, whose term ends in June.

We expect that the cabinet will remain mostly unchanged, and that Governor Godwin Emefiele will get another term. This would mean the continuation of a multiple exchange rate system and restrictions on access to FX.

Indeed, hopes of economic reform will focus on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is seen as more investor-friendly. The elderly president’s faltering health may allow Mr Osinbajo to play a bigger role over the coming years. But Nigeria’s broad policy framework is likely to remain unchanged, which will keep growth low.”

Aurelien Mali, vice president at Moody’s, commented: “As President Buhari seems likely to remain in power, Nigeria’s credit challenges remain and include a low growth environment, very high exposure to fluctuations in oil prices of government revenues and export earnings, weak institutions, and high levels of corruption.”

While Buhari and his supporters celebrated, losing opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar rejected the result as a “sham” victory which he will challenge in court.

In the final total announced by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 15,191,847 votes were recorded for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) against 11,262 978 votes cast for Atiku Abubakar’s PDP. The overall total number of registered voters in the election was 82,344,107, but only 28,614,190 votes were cast, out of which 1,289,607 were invalidated. Out of the 36 states, 19 voted APC, giving the ruling party almost 56% of the vote.

Buhari took to Twitter to acknowledge his win and urged his supporters to be humble in victory while denouncing violence.

“I am profoundly grateful to you for judging me worthy of continuing to serve…I would like to make a special appeal to my supporters not to gloat or humiliate the opposition. Victory is enough reward for your efforts…[but] I am very sad at the grievous loss of lives during these elections. Security agencies will step up their efforts to protect voters in the forthcoming State elections,” he wrote.

But Atiku called Buhari’s victory a “sham” and said that he will “not allow democracy to be emasculated”. He would therefore be challenging the result in court.

“With regards to the Presidential elections that took place on February 23, 2019, it is clear that there were manifest and premeditated malpractices in many states which negate the results announced…One obvious red flag is the statistical impossibility of states ravaged by the war on terror generating much higher voter turnouts than peaceful states. The suppressed votes in my strongholds are so apparent and amateurish, that I am ashamed as a Nigerian that such could be allowed to happen. How can total votes in Akwa-Ibom, for instance, be 50% less than what they were in 2015?,” he said in a Statement on his Facebook page.

Observers say Atiku’s protestations are unlikely to lead to the result being overturned.

“In the immediate term, attention will focus on whether or not the opposition will accept the official result. Their candidate has called the process a “sham” and promised to contest the result in court.

The vote was relatively peaceful (though at least 50 people died) but was marked by a very low turnout, particularly in opposition-supporting areas. We’re not able to comment on the fairness of the poll, though EU observers declared that it was an improvement on the 2015 vote.

A legal challenge is very unlikely to overturn the official result, particularly given President Buhari’s recent decision to replace the head of the supreme court. There is, as yet, no sign of the sort of wide-spread violence that followed a disputed election in 2011, ” says Ashbourne.

This article was originally published on africanbusinessmagazine.com.

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