President Muhammadu Buhari has no preferred candidate from the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) to succeed him, his spokesman said on Monday, a day before a convention to pick the party’s flag bearer for elections early next year. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Bola Tinubu, a powerful former Lagos state governor, are seen as frontrunners to represent the APC during the presidential vote next February. Buhari, who is constitutionally barred from contesting, will step down next year after eight years in office, leading to intense speculation on whom Buhari will back as his preferred successor. But the president’s spokesman Garba Shehu said Buhari told APC governors from northern Nigeria during a meeting on Monday that he has “no preferred candidate,” and has “anointed no one”. The governors separately told reporters that they were pushing for a presidential candidate from the mostly Christian south to succeed Buhari, a Muslim from northern Nigeria. That would be in keeping with an unwritten agreement where power alternates between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south. The main opposition party chose a former vice president and veteran politician Atiku Abubakar, as its presidential candidate last week.

A Catholic priest was abducted from his rectory in the town of Obangede in Kogi during the weekend, the Catholic Diocese of Lokoja said on Monday. It said parishioners went to look for Father Christopher Itopa Onotu after waiting in vain for him to conduct Pentecost Sunday Mass. They found the windows and doors of his room at the rectory had been broken and his belongings scattered. The abduction occurred before a massacre at a Catholic church in Owo in neighbouring Ondo on Sunday morning, and there was no suggestion of a link between the two incidents. In Owo, police said they recovered unexploded improvised explosive devices and shells from AK-47 ammunition. “Some of the gunmen disguised as congregants, while other armed men who had positioned themselves around the church premises from different directions, fired into the church,” national police spokesman Olumuyiwa Adejobi said in a statement. He said a vehicle used by the assailants to escape had been recovered. Its owner was helping with investigations.

Worsening structural and fiscal challenges, coupled with the fallout of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war have dampened the enthusiasm of manufacturers in the country’s economy in the first quarter of 2022. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) Manufacturers CEO’s Confidence Index (MCCI) declined by 1.5 points to 53.9 points in Q1 2022 from 55.4 points recorded in Q4 2021. The report is a reversal from Q4 2021 when the index increased to 55.4 points from 54.0 points in Q3 2021. MAN President, Engr. Mansur Ahmed noted that despite the decline in the index, the MCCI figure remained above 50 indicating that the sector’s confidence was waning but not in negative territory. “[The] index Score of Wood & Wood Products sector (48.9 points); Electrical & Electronics (49.9 points); and Motor Vehicle & Miscellaneous Assembly (49.2 points) were all below the 50 base points, affirming low confidence in the economy, poor performance and the struggling status of these manufacturing sectoral groups,” the report stated.

Mali’s interim government on Monday said it will take 24 months from March 2022 for the country to transition to democratic rule after an August 2020 coup. The West African country’s military leaders have been under pressure to hold elections since they toppled the government and failed on a promise to hold elections in February, causing a rift with former coloniser France and prompting sanctions from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). “The duration of the transition is set at 24 months,” interim government spokesman Abdoulaye Maiga said on national television, with a start date of 26 March 2022. Mali’s putsch leaders and regional heads of state have been at odds over a proposed five-year election timeline that was then revised to three – a delay still deemed too long by ECOWAS. West African heads of state met in Ghana’s capital Accra over the weekend to discuss the situation and agreed not to lift sanctions crippling the economy unless interim leaders proposed a shorter transition.