Press zooms in on World Bank’s downgrade of Nigeria’s economic growth projection, others

The report that the World Bank Group has once again lowered its growth projection for Nigeria's economy, citing a weakened…

The report that the World Bank Group has once again lowered its growth projection for Nigeria’s economy, citing a weakened oil sector as its primary reason is one of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Thursday.The Punch reports that the World Bank Group has once again lowered its growth projection for Nigeria’s economy, citing a weakened oil sector as its primary reason.

This was contained in the bank’s Global Economic Prospects report published on Tuesday.

According to the projection, Nigeria’s economy will further decelerate to 2.9 per cent in 2023 and is not expected to record any growth in 2024.

Specifically, the lender said Nigeria’s growth weakened to 3.1 per cent in 2022 and would further decelerate to 2.9 per cent this year.

The Washington-based bank said growth momentum in the non-oil sector was likely to be restrained by continued weakness in the oil sector, which would negatively impact Nigeria’s oil-based economy.

The Bank noted that a number of factors, such as low oil output, insecurity, petrol subsidies, forex scarcity, among others, hamper growth in the country.

The report read, “Growth in Nigeria—the region’s largest economy—weakened to 3.1 per cent in 2022, a 0.3percentage point downgrade from the June projection. Oil output dropped to 1 million barrels per day, down by over 40 per cent compared to its 2019 level, reflecting technical problems, insecurity, rising production costs, theft, lack of payment discipline in joint ventures, and persistent underinvestment, partly because of the diversion of oil revenues to petrol subsidies, estimated at over 2 per cent of GDP in 2022 (NEITI 2022; World Bank 2022t).

“A strong recovery in non-oil sectors moderated in the second half of the year as floods and surging consumer prices (annual inflation surpassed 21 per cent for the first time in 17 years) disrupted activity and depressed consumer demand. Persistent fuel and foreign exchange shortages, with the naira depreciating by over 30 per cent last year in the parallel market, further dampened economic activity.”

The newspaper says that the supply hitches associated with the distribution of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, may persist till June this year, oil marketers stated on Wednesday.

Nigeria’s downstream oil sector has been grappling with cases of incessant petrol scarcity since last year.

The sole importer of the commodity – Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, has repeatedly complained of the enormous burden of shouldering fuel subsidy for the country.

On Monday, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said NNPC was selling petrol at a loss because of its mandate from the Federal Government as regards fuel subsidy.

“If you are a businessman, look at it from this perspective, that you are now in the business where you are mandated to sell at a loss to the public. That is not an easy job, I must tell you,” the minister stated.

Last week, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the Federal Government had budgeted about N3.6tn for fuel subsidy till June 2023.

Reacting to the development, oil marketers stated on Wednesday that the fuel supply crisis in many parts of the country that often leads to fuel scarcity, might persist till June, based on the government’s plan to end petrol subsidy in that month.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, told our correspondent that fuel imports and subsidy were making Nigerians suffer.

He said, “This issue of subsidy and the importation of petroleum products are the major reasons why we are suffering like this and having epileptic supply of PMS. This may drag till the current administration leaves in May or till June this year.

“The exchange rate is affecting fuel imports, which is also why the cost of petroleum products are high. We use too much naira to chase the few dollars that are available. So the solution is for us to refine our crude here and get our depots working.”

The Guardian reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared that only 93, 469,008 Nigerians are eligible to vote in next month’s poll. The Commission also said it is not considering postponement or cancellation of the election due to security threat.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this while presenting data of registered voters to political parties in Abuja, yesterday.

In attendance at the meeting were leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), among others

According to him, the presidential and National Assembly elections slated for Saturday, February 25, 2023 and that of governorship and state assembly elections slated for Saturday, March 11, 2023, will hold as scheduled. He maintained that any assertion as regards postponement or cancellation of the election was not the official position of the Commission.

“Following the display of the voter register nationwide and the conclusion of claims and objections by citizens, a new national register of voters has been compiled. In short, at no time in the recent history of the Commission has so much of forward planning and implementation been accomplished 44 days ahead of a general election.

“Therefore, the Commission is not contemplating any adjustment to the election timetable, let alone the postponement of the general election. For the avoidance of doubt, the presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday February 25, 2023 while governorship and state assembly elections will hold two weeks later on Saturday 11, March 2023.

“The repeated assurance by the security agencies for the adequate protection of our personnel, materials and processes also reinforces our determination to proceed. The 2023 general election will hold as scheduled. Any report to the contrary is not the official position of the Commission.” Yakubu stated.

On the voter register, the INEC boss disclosed that 53,264 names were removed after objections made by Nigerians. Yakubu said: “You would recall that for the 2019 general election, Nigeria had a voter population of 84,004,084. After cleaning up of the data from the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise (June 2021 – July 2022), 9,518,188 new voters were added to the previous register, resulting in the preliminary register of 93,522,272, which was presented to Nigerians for claims and objections as required by law.

The newspaper says that with just over a month to February presidential election, three of the main protagonists will next week mount the podium at the Royal Institute of International Affairs- Chatham House – to talk about their prospects and readiness.

Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, kick starts the Africa Programme event series tagged “Nigeria’s 2023 elections” on Monday afternoon, when he will talk about “a vision for policy change and institutional reforms.”

Tuesday will be the turn of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). His brief is to discuss the electoral umpire’s “Preparations and priorities for electoral integrity and inclusion.”

On Wednesday, the presidential hopeful of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso, will have his turn to talk about his chances. The former Kano State Governor will speak on “Service delivery and policy alternatives.”

Last month, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had his day at the same venue. Although the Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar is said to be in London strategising, he too is expected to have a date to talk about his chances before the February 25 election.

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