Financial Mail

WHAT IT MEANS

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here will be 11 candidates on the ballot during Nigeria’s presidenti­al elections next month, but the real contest will be between two of them. The incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan is seeking a second and final term on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He is competing against the All Progressiv­es Congress (APC) candidate Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator who has emerged as the runner-up in the past three presidenti­al elections.

Whoever wins on February 14 will inherit an economy facing its toughest spell since the global economic recession of 2008.

The 50% drop in oil prices since June last year has hit Nigeria badly. It is Africa’s largest producer and it depends on oil exports for 70% of federal revenues.

A recent HSBC report projects that 2015 oil revenues will be Nigeria’s lowest in six years, at US$26bn. This is less than half of 2011 earnings, and one-third lower than last year’s.

Nigeria’s annual budgets are predicated on a perbarrel “benchmark” price of oil; earnings above that price are meant for a special savings fund. The benchmark initially proposed was $78 – higher than the $77,50 for the 2014 budget – before it was revised to $65, in light of the current reality. A year ago things were more upbeat: 2014 opened with oil prices close to $100. The controvers­ial suspension of Central Bank governor Lamido Sanusi by Jonathan in February stunned the markets, but only fleetingly.

In April it emerged that Nigeria had — after a long overdue rebasing which revealed that the economy was almost twice

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