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Nigeria's governors back sovereign wealth fund

26 June 2012, 08:54

 Abuja - Nigeria's powerful state governors said on Monday they had approved federal government's proposal to launch a sovereign wealth fund with an initial $1 billion, ending months of political wrangling.

Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in October last year the fund was being launched but governors initially blocked the proposal, leading to eight months of negotiations.

"The council has agreed with the federal government to go ahead to implement the Nigeria sovereign investment authority with an initial fund of $1 billion," Rivers State Governor Rotimi Ameachi told reporters, referring to Nigeria's economic council that includes all Nigeria's 36 state governors.

The sovereign wealth fund was supposed to replace the Excess Crude Account (ECA), where Africa's biggest crude exporter saves oil revenues over a benchmark price, currently $72 a barrel.

The ECA can be too easily dipped into and there is little transparency over how the money is spent, economist say.

The ECA contained $20 billion in 2007 but now holds around $5 billion despite years of record high oil prices.

State governments collect a share of any money removed from the ECA and Amaechi has said governors want the savings account to remain regardless of the wealth fund launch.

"We also stressed the need for government to boost the excess crude account from $5.3 billion to $10 billion to provide a buffer ... as a means of protecting the country from the mounting uncertainty in the global economy," he said.

Oil prices have slipped in recent months, from $110 a barrel in January to below $80 a barrel on Monday.

Nigeria was one of only three OPEC member states not to have a sovereign wealth fund. The government has said the fund will provide a firmer legal basis to ring fence Nigeria's savings.

It has three main aims: saving money for future generations, providing financing for badly needed infrastructure, and starting a stabilisation fund to defend the economy against commodity price shocks.

- Reuters


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