Former Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar has said that he will privatise parts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and allow the naira currency to float to attract foreign investment, if he is elected president in the 2019 elections.
According to this Day The reform-minded Atiku, in an interview with Reuters, also confirmed that he intends to run in next year’s presidential election, possibly becoming the biggest opposition heavyweight to say he will take on President Muhammadu Buhari.
The winner of next February’s poll will lead Africa’s top oil producer and most populous nation, which is central to regional stability as it battles Islamist militants in the North-east. Abubakar, a former key ally of Buhari, whose resources helped propel him to power, quit the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in November and re- joined the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a month later.
He has long enjoyed the support of the business elite in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos for his conservative- capitalist ideals and, as vice-president in a PDP administration from 1999-2007, he implemented a programme of liberalisation in areas including the telecoms sector.
As vice-president, Atiku was also the chairman of the National Council of Privatisation (NCP), which oversaw the sale of several state-run enterprises to the private sector and initiated reforms in the telecommunications, pensions, ports and power sectors between 1999 and 2007.
Atiku said he would go further if elected president.“I am also going to expand it to include the oil and gas sector which has not been touched at all and other major sectors of the economy like mining, solid minerals,” he said. Atiku said he would privatise parts of NNPC, which has been beset by decades of mismanagement and is crucial to Nigeria’s economic fortunes. He did not specify the parts that would be privatised.
“I am a strong believer in very, very small government and also the private sector,” he said. A drop in crude oil prices from late 2014 pushed Nigeria into its first recession in 25 years in 2016, spawning chronic dollar shortages because oil receipts make up two-thirds of government revenue and most of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
The economy moved out of recession last year but growth remains weak and multiple exchange rates remain in place, imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to support Buhari’s insistence that the naira should not be allowed to float.
“I will allow the naira to float because I believe that is one of the ways foreign direct investment can be encouraged to come in,” said Atiku, who hopes to replicate Buhari’s 2015 feat of winning a presidential election at the fourth attempt.
Buhari took office in 2015, and whoever becomes president next year will face challenges ranging from weak economic growth to communal violence between semi-nomadic herdsmen and farmers, as well as the Boko Haram insurgency.
Abubakar – who, like Buhari, is a Muslim from the North – said voters would welcome someone who could revive their fortunes, adding that of his four previous presidential campaigns he was only once rejected by the electorate. He was not selected as a party candidate on three other occasions.
Parties must select their candidate by October 7. The next president should be a Northerner, based on an unofficial power-sharing agreement under which the presidency alternates between the North and South after every two four- year terms.
However, Bismarck Rewane, chief executive of Lagos-based consultancy Financial Derivatives, said the former vice-president’s familiarity and age could be a disadvantage.