By MacDonald Dzirutwe
LAGOS (Reuters) – The anti-establishment candidate for Nigeria’s presidency will reform its system of costly subsidies and unify the local naira currency’s multiple exchange rates if elected in February, his manifesto released on Sunday showed.
Nigeria operates multiple exchange rates that allow some companies to get dollars cheaply while the majority of forex buyers pay higher rates on the black market, and the government spends billions of dollars a year on petrol subsidies.
Labour Party candidate Peter Obi said he would “demand the transparent liberalization of the foreign exchange market” if elected on Feb 25.
He would dismantle a multiple-rate naira regime that “effectively subsidises a few privileged persons, whilst depriving the government of badly needed revenues,” his manifesto said, adding that “unaffordable subsidies” would also be recalibrated for the benefit of poorer citizens.
The manifesto, which made no specific mention of fuel subsidies, said Obi would aim to gradually wean the economy off its reliance on oil by ramping up agriculture output and exports and transitioning to clean energy, while the electricity grid’s capacity would be doubled to 25,000 MW within two years.
Many of Obi’s backers were prominent in protests against police brutality in 2020 that ended with security forces opening fire on unarmed civilians. He is also popular among younger voters.
While political analysts do not expect the 61-year-old to win the election, they say he may garner enough support from voters disenchanted by the mainstream ruling All Progressives Congress party (APC) and opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to find a role as kingmaker.
APC candidate Bola Tinubu and his PDP rival Atiku Abubakar are both septuagenarian political veterans with significant power bases.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by John Stonestreet)