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Africa: Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund steps forward

Management from UBS and Barclays; Minister claims ‘victory for all Nigerians’

Nigeria made progress setting up its new sovereign wealth fund last month, with the appointment of the fund’s board and senior management.

Alhaji Mahey Rasheed, a member of the board at First Bank of Nigeria – the country’s third-largest lender – will be chairman. The chief executive will be Uche Orji, a telecoms and technology banker at UBS. He will assume office next month.

Stella Ojekwe-Onyejeli, a risk executive at Barclays, will be chief risk officer. The position of chief investment officer is being re-advertised, after the previous candidate was dropped. The finance ministry says KPMG, which led the search for the positions, received 730 applications.

President Goodluck Jonathan gave his assent to the new fund’s creation in May. The fund will start with $1 billion in capital, and will be split into three smaller funds, each of which will be apportioned one-fifth of the capital base of the overall fund.

Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Although the allocation of the remaining 40% is yet to be decided, the three smaller funds consist of the future generations fund, the Nigerian infrastructure fund and the stabilization fund. The latter is designed to guard the fiscal balance against oil-price shocks. The creation of the fund has faced opposition from state governors, who argued for less control at federal level over oil revenues. Nevertheless, finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the fund’s creation was a "victory for all Nigerians".

The government hopes the new fund will provide a stronger legal backing for the oil savings than the Excess Crude Account (ECA), the former sovereign wealth fund. The ECA, which contained $20 billion as recently as 2007 – but suffered outflows around the financial crisis and during elections last year – now contains around $7 billion. The new fund will initially function alongside the ECA before absorbing and replacing it.

Former Chilean finance minister Andrés Velasco, who was responsible for setting up the Chilean sovereign wealth fund, has advised the Nigerian government on setting up the fund. JPMorgan and US law firm Latham & Watkins have also served as advisers on the scheme.

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