Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Nigeria's Strong, President Says

In ceremonies to mark the coutry's 48th anniversary of independence from Britain, Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua said the African continent's largest producer of oil and gas remains "on a strong footing" and would continue to see double-digit growth with modest inflation, Bloomberg News reported.

Stability is perhaps Nigeria's most precious commodity on a continent wracked by brutal and bloody civil wars, vast famines and the worst of the AIDS epidemic. So far, the new president has managed to rein in the growing MEND guerilla movement that threatened just a month ago to stop all oil shipments from refineries in Bayelsa and Rivers states and had earnestly gone about doing so. Now they say they will honor a unilateral cease-fire.

The remarkable turnaround is rare for Nigeria, where feuding states and a bloody civil war nearly two decades ago left many fragile relationships for the federal government to repair. That proved difficult in the administrations of two presidents that followed, the first the victim of a coup by the second, who surprised many when he completed his permitted terms and voluntarily relinquished power. The previous administration was unable to mend the rift with the MEND guerillas.

Here is the story:

Nigeria's Yar'Adua Says That Economy Is Strong, Growing at 6.9%

By Paul Okolo

Oct. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria's economy is "on a strong footing" and growing at an average 6.9 percent, owing to the government's sound policies, President Umaru Yar'Adua said.

The inflation rate in Africa's most populous country is below 10 percent and the naira currency is strengthening against major world currencies, Yar'Adua said in an e-mailed statement from his office in Abuja today to mark the country's 48th independence anniversary.

"This is a consequence of our policies aimed at maintaining relative stability and predictability" in the economy, the president said in the statement.

The west African country of more than 140 million people is in its ninth year of unbroken civil rule, the longest period since independence from Britain in 1960. Until 1999, the country was controlled for nearly three decades by corrupt military dictatorships.

Yar'Adua, 57, took office in May 2007 after winning a presidential ballot held a month earlier which local and foreign observers said was ``flawed'' by electoral malpractice and violence.

The president, who's been criticized for being too slow in acting to address the nation's problems, said his government would ``rapidly'' rebuild the country's poor infrastructure in a bid to transform it into one of the world's largest economies in 2020. Part of the plan includes allowing investors to build and operate some important roads and the rail system, he said.

Nigeria has Africa's biggest hydrocarbon reserves, with more than 30 billion barrels of crude and 187 trillion cubic feet of gas. The country, which Bloomberg data shows was the continent's top oil exporter in July and August, is the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

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