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Nigeria’s banks outpace political change

Banks are booming in Nigeria on the back of oil revenue inflows. But solutions to some of the country’s problems – particularly the need for infrastructure development and a reversal of falls in oil production – remain stymied by an inflexible political system. Rupert Wright reports.

Moved to London

DISTURBANCES IN THE oil-producing areas of the Delta, concerns about electricity supply and the country’s failed infrastructure, combined with sweeping new measures planned by the country’s central bank: it is tempting to think that despite another year of democratic rule in Nigeria, and economic growth fuelled by buoyant oil prices, nothing has changed at all. It is as if the country is starring in its own version of the film Groundhog Day, in which events keep repeating themselves and the same things keep happening to all the main participants.

This view, while seductive, would be misguided. Nothing stands still in Nigeria, even if chaos seems to be a part of daily life. However, a more disturbing development appears to be taking place: the decoupling of political and business life. The financial markets continue to expand but political change seems to have ground to a halt. For example, central bank governor Charles Soludo, who can be credited with transforming the country’s financial environment by forcing the innumerable banks to merge or close unless they could meet the central bank’s minimum capital requirements, has become accustomed to introducing swingeing measures and sitting back to watch his wishes carried out.

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