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Banking

Has Nigeria turned the corner?

Nigeria’s economic reforms have been impressive. But after the resignation of a key figure in the country’s turnaround, can they be made to stick? Rupert Wright reports from Abuja and Lagos.

Esther Nenadi Usman has taken full control of Nigeria’s finance ministry. Can she maintain relations with Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank?
Esther Nenadi Usman has taken full control of Nigeria’s finance ministry. Can she maintain relations with Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank?

DISRUPTION AND WARFARE in the Middle East continue to push up oil prices, but oil producers’ association Opec has protested that it wants lower oil prices. Nigeria is an Opec member but it draws 75% of its GNP and 95% of its exports earnings from oil, so it would be a cavalier finance minister that did not want to get the maximum revenue from its prime asset. Not that oil and gas prices are all that are troubling officials at Nigeria’s finance ministry at the moment. They are probably more concerned with internal politicking. The first event to rock the ministry came in June, when former World Bank vice-president Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was moved from her role as finance minister to become foreign minister. It was she who secured a Paris Club debt deal in October 2005 that included the cancellation of $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, Africa’s biggest-ever debt forgiveness.

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