Nigeria recorded its worst trade deficit in at least 20 years in the fourth quarter of 2020, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown. According to the 2020 fourth quarter Foreign Trade in Goods Statistics report released by the statistics bureau on Tuesday, Nigeria’s annual merchandise trade deficit in 2020 stood at ₦7.37 trillion. An analysis of the data shows that aside from that it represents the second trade deficit recorded since 2014, last year’s balance of trade figure is the worst recorded by the nation since at least 2000. The NBS in its report said in the fourth quarter of 2020, Nigeria’s total merchandise trade stood at ₦9.12 trillion, representing 8.9% over the level recorded in the third quarter of 2020. However, the figure was 9.9% lower when compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. The export component of trade stood at ₦3.19 trillion, an increase of 6.7% over the preceding quarter but a drop of 33% over the previous year. But the share of exports in total trade declined to 35% in Q4 2020 from 47% a year earlier, the report said. “On the other hand, total imports reached a record high at ₦5.92 trillion in Q4 2020, an increase of 10.1% over the preceding quarter, and 10.8% over the preceding year,” it said. Imports also accounted for 65% of total trade in Q4 2020, compared to 53 per cent the previous year. As the value of imports nearly doubled the value of exports, the NBS said trade deficit rose to its highest level and a fifth consecutive quarterly deficit at – ₦2.73 trillion in Q4 2020, an increase of 14.30% compared to the preceding quarter. On an annual basis, total trade was valued at  ₦32.4 trillion in 2020, or 10.3% less than the value recorded in 2019. While the value of total imports in 2020 stood at  ₦19.8 trillion, which is 17.3% higher than in 2019, the NBS said total exports was valued at  ₦12.5 trillion, or 34.8% less than in 2019.

The United Kingdom is set to return £4.2 million (₦2.2 billion) seized from convicted former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, and his associates. The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said this while delivering his speech on Tuesday at the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and the government of the UK regarding the return and management of stolen assets recovered from Ibori and associates. He said, “I wish to remark that today’s ceremony and the recoveries attached thereto has again underscored the fact that international cooperation and mutual trust can yield great benefits for the citizenry in developing countries who are the direct victims of acts of corruption. “Hence, the governments of Nigeria and the United Kingdom have concluded negotiations for the return of £4.2 million to Nigeria pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding earlier executed by the two governments in 2016. “It is to be recalled that the Nigerian government had all along provided the required mutual assistance and back up to the British authorities while the prosecution of James Ibori lasted in London and today, we are rightfully taking benefit of that cooperation.” Malami, who is also the Minister of Justice, said he was confident that both the Nigerian and British governments remain committed to combating corruption and illicit financial flows and ensuring that looters do not find comfort or save haven in their respective territories. He said in consonance with the existing framework in the management of previous recoveries, the Federal Executive Council had directed that the instant repatriated funds should be deployed towards the completion of the following legacy projects: the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja – Kano expressway and the Lagos – Ibadan expressway under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority to ensure the integrity of the process. Ibori, who governed Delta State from 1999 to 2007, was convicted by a UK court in 2012 and was sentenced to 13 years in jail after admitting fraud of nearly £50 million (₦26.3 billion), even though prosecutors say the actual amount stolen was about £250 million (₦131.7 billion). The former governor of Delta state pleaded guilty to 10 offences relating to conspiracy to launder funds from the state, substantive counts of money laundering and one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception and fraud. He was released in 2016 after serving a fraction of his term.

The Nigerian Labour Congress has threatened to embark on a nationwide protest on Wednesday over moves by the National Assembly to remove the national minimum wage from the exclusive to the concurrent legislative list. In a statement on Tuesday, the NLC said the protest will hold in the 36 states’ Houses of Assembly. It added that the protest will start from the Unity Fountain Abuja at 7:30 am to the National Assembly complex. The Congress had after its emergency National Executive Council meeting in Abuja last Tuesday, vowed to resist “any attempt to exterminate Nigeria’s working class”. The House of Representatives two weeks ago debated a bill to remove the powers to negotiate wage matters from the exclusive to the concurrent list, citing the inability of state governors to pay the N30,000 minimum wage for the move. According to a communique jointly signed by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and the acting General Secretary of the NLC, Ismail Bello, the bill is an attempt to undermine Nigeria’s working class. “The NEC decided that there will be a national protest action commencing from March 10, 2021, in the Federal Capital Territory and especially to the National Assembly. “The NEC decided that should the need arise, it has empowered the National Administrative Council of the NLC to declare and enforce a national strike action, especially if the legislators continue on the ruinous path of moving the national minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list,” it read in part.

African payments company Flutterwave announced that it has closed a $170 million investment, valuing the company over $1 billion. New York-based private investment firm Avenir Growth Capital and U.S. hedge fund and investment firm Tiger Global led the Series C round. New and existing investors who participated include DST Global, Early Capital Berrywood, Green Visor Capital, Greycroft Capital, Insight Ventures, PayPal, Salesforce Ventures, Tiger Management, Worldpay FIS 9yards Capital. The Series C round comes a year after Flutterwave closed its $35 million Series B and $20 million Series A in 2018. Flutterwave’s $170 million mammoth raise and its billion-dollar valuation represent a landmark achievement for the African startup scene. In total, Flutterwave has raised $225 million and is one of the few African startups to have secured more than $200 million in funding. It joins Interswitch, which is currently worth $1 billion after Visa acquired a 20% stake in 2019, as the only fintechs in Nigeria to have reached that valuation. This number increases to four in Africa when including publicly traded African e-commerce company Jumia and Egyptian payments company Fawry.