Senator Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe North), on Tuesday, emerged as President of the Senate. Lawan beat Ali Ndume with by 79 to 28 votes cast to lead the upper chamber. Lawan, a third term Senator, was Majority Leader till the 8th Senate was dissolved. Among his achievement as a member of NASS, Lawan in August 2009, moved against the proposed Kafin Zaki Dam. He said the Tiga Dam and Challawa Gorge Dam had already reduced water flow drastically, causing intense poverty, increased desert encroachment, migration and conflicts between arable farmers and herdsmen. The Senator’s intervention facilitated the award of contract for the Nguru-Gashu’a-Baymari road, which is the lifeline of the people of North and Eastern parts of Yobe. Senator Ahmad Lawan was instrumental to the dredging of Kumadugu-Yobe, starting from Jaliyo in Guri local government, going through Nguru Bade, Karasuwa and Jakusko local governments. Under the ecological fund, the lawmaker moved for the ongoing flood control project in Nguru and Gashua. He also facilitated the ongoing project that brings major power sub-stations in Gashua and Nguru for stable power supply in Yobe North. In the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Surulere), became the Speaker of the House. 

The servicing of Nigeria’s external debt gulped about 50 percent of the country’s revenue, the African Development Bank said, in its West Africa Economic Outlook 2019. The bank added that the percentage of revenues spent on debt servicing in Nigeria was even higher going by the increasing domestic debt burden. It also said the average revenue spent by West African countries on external debt servicing is 17 percent. Nigeria’s debt to GDP remained low, according to the AfDB amid the country’s debt burden increase by as much as 128 percent in the last eight years. Comparing Nigeria’s case with other countries, AfDB said Cape Verde had the highest external debt-to-GDP ratio in 2018, an estimated 103 percent followed by Senegal, Niger, and Sierra Leone. Liberia had the highest rate of debt accumulation between 2010 and 2018, at 329 percent, followed by Nigeria at 128 percent. Ghana falls into a similar category as Nigeria, with debt service accounting for 40 percent of revenue despite the increase, Nigeria still has one of the lowest external debt-to-GDP ratios, at 15.2 percent, followed by Benin, Guinea-Bissau, and Togo with a ratio below 25 percent. Amid the challenge of the rapid increase in external indebtedness, especially given the shift toward non-concessional external debt, the bank projected that debt service payments will remain high in the medium term. Nigeria’s government, only in the first nine months of last year spent ₦2.21 trillion on domestic debt servicing. This is more than ₦2.01 trillion budgeted for total public debt servicing in the entire year.

The Nigerian Ports Authority has announced the approval of a 10 percent discount on harbour dues in all concessioned terminals at ports in the eastern part of the country. The move, according to the NPA’s spokesman, Jatto Adams, is a part of the efforts to increase patronage of the eastern ports, including the two each in Rivers and Delta states, and Calabar. The discount will only apply to harbour dues payable by Container vessels with at least 250 TEUs; General cargo vessels with at least 16,000 tonnes; combo vessels with at least 16,000 tonnes; and RORO vessels with at least 250 units of vehicles. Vessels coming in empty; vessels calling at private jetties; and vessels calling carrying liquid bulk are not included in the discount initiative which takes immediate effect.

Data from the CBN has hinted that naira exchange rate is now floated, indicating that the country’s currency exchange rate will now be fully driven by market forces of demand and supply. The regulator will no longer publish the fixed naira exchange rate on its website. The regulator used to have an official rate as strong as ₦305/$, which was used to ensure that some traders including, fuel importers, got cheap dollars. According to some analysts, the CBN may have decided to float the naira as its website has reflected the change since May. The move is expected to favour investors who have long accused the government of some level of capital controls and bemoaned the system of multiple exchange rates. Last month, the head of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Yewande Sadiku, said the CBN is in talks with other agencies to move to a single rate for the country’s currency. A currency analyst at Ecobank Transnational in Lagos said: “Putting that on the website means the central bank is gradually moving towards a single exchange-rate window and it is making the exchange rate more liquid to attract more inflows.” In a later development, however, Isaac Okorafor, a spokesman for the regulator, denied that CBN has made any change in its naira policies. Okorafor said nothing has changed in the country’s exchange-rate structure and the naira’s value continues to be determined by trading in the Investors’ & Exporters’ FX Window.