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B’ Haram attacks’ll not reduce economic growth —Okonjo-Iweala

The Federal Government will not lower its economic growth forecast for this year even amid security concerns spurred by the wave of the insurgent attacks that have left hundreds dead, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.

“We are sticking to 6.75 per cent,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where she was attending an African Development Bank meeting, according to Bloomberg.

“We have taken into account already whatever disruptions there might be,” she added.

About 90 people were killed in explosions in Abuja on April 14 and May 1 which were carried out by Boko Haram, the insurgent group that also kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last month. Further attacks in various locations this week, which no group has claimed responsibility for, have killed at least 155 people.

The government’s growth projection is lower than the 7.2 per cent forecast by the International Monetary Fund, while Moody’s Investors Service “just told us they upgraded their projection to eight per cent,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

The Federal Government sees other sources of growth in the economy, such as housing, that “we think are going to make up for any losses,” Okonjo-Iweala said. The Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company may start a programme next month that is scheduled to finance construction of 75,000 homes a year

Investors think the economy is resilient, according to Okonjo-Iweala, adding that during her visit to Kigali she met with 25 investors, mostly from the United States and the United Kingdom, who were inquiring about opportunities in the economy.

“The evidence is that yields on our bonds are holding very steady,” she said.

The Federal Government dollar bonds due July 2023 fell 39 basis points this year to 5.53 per cent on Friday.

The naira is trading in a stable manner against the dollar and there has been no discussion on devaluing the currency, the minister said.

The Central Bank of Nigeria targets a range of three percentage points above or below N155 per dollar at its twice-weekly auctions of dollars to commercial lenders.

The naira increased for a third straight day, trading 0.7 per cent stronger at N161.03 per dollar in Abuja.

Professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo Unversity, Ogun State, Sherifdeen Tella, agrees with the minister but not totally.

He said if the Boko Haram attacks should extend to states like Kano and Kaduna, the economic growth projection for this year would be adversely affected.

He said, “Largely, our GDP growth depends on oil output and revenue. And our oil sector is in the south and not in the north. To this extent, it may not affect us. However, if the crisis extends beyond the North-East to places like Kano and Kaduna, it may affect our growth projection for this year. The most important commodity that dominates our growth is the oil sector.”

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