Nigeria president sick, ETF hits new low

Zenith

Nigeria's president is in ill health. While the country is in the hands of the vice president, markets don't like the uncertainty.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed Sunday that he returned to the United Kingdom for more treatment of an undisclosed illness.

On Sunday, 82 Nigerian schoolgirls who were among those kidnapped by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria in 2014, arrived in Abuja to meet President Buhari after the government and the Islamic terrorist group negotiated a swap for prisoners, ABC and other media reported.

On Monday, the Global X MSCI Nigeria exchange-traded fund (NGE) closed down 1.3%, which is within a penny of its 52-week low. The ETF is down 14% this year and down 43% over 12 months as the nation, dependent on oil revenue, introduced currency reforms that depreciated the naira. Nigeria is a member of OPEC. The VanEckVectors Africa Index ETF (AFK) rose 1% Monday, and is up nearly 6% this year and up more than 3% over the past year.

Teneo Intelligence Analyst Manji Cheto says the confirmation of Buhari's continued ill health was not a surprise because he left his vested powers in the hands of Vice Persident Yemi Osinbajo even after returning from a seven-week medical trip. Cheto writes:

" ... the key thing to watch this time around, especially over the coming days and weeks (and possibly months) is growing talk over the possible premature termination of the president’s tenure. There are already rumors to this effect especially as fears over Buhari’s deteriorating medical condition – in part driven by the notable decline in his public engagements, and reports confirming that he has repeatedly missed cabinet meetings in the past month – intensify ..."

Even if forced out, Buhari's successor is the vice president according to the constitution. The process, however, is likely to be weighed down by the politics of naming Osinbajo's vice president, Cheto writes.

In March, Nigeria kept its 14% interest rate on hold, and the ETF moved lower. Also see our post Ex-CIA Analyst On Nigeria Oil: Perennial Underperformer.