Former vice president of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar will privatise parts of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and allow the naira currency to float to attract foreign investment if elected president, he told Reuters.
Abubakar also confirmed that he intends to run in next year’s presidential election, becoming the biggest opposition heavyweight to say he will take on Muhammadu Buhari.
The winner of February’s poll will lead Africa’s top oil producer and most populous nation, which is central to regional stability as it battles Islamist militants in the northeast.
Abubakar, a former key ally of President Buhari whose resources helped propel him to power, quit the ruling party in November and re-joined the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) a month later.
He has long enjoyed support from the business elite in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos for his conservative-capitalist ideals and, as vice president in a PDP administration from 1999-2007, he implemented a programme of liberalisation in areas including telecoms sector.
Abubakar said he would go further if elected president.
“I am also going to expand it to include the oil and gas sector which have not been touched at all and other major sectors of the economy like mining, solid minerals,” he said.
“I am a strong believer in very, very small government and also the private sector,” he said.
A drop in crude oil prices from late 2014 pushed Nigeria into its first recession in 25 years in 2016, spawning chronic dollar shortages because oil receipts make up two-thirds of government revenue and most of the country’s foreign exchange.
The economy moved out of recession last year but growth remains weak and multiple exchange rates remain in place, imposed by the central bank to support Buhari’s insistence that the naira should not be allowed to float.
“I will allow the naira to float because I believe that is one of the ways foreign direct investment can be encouraged to come in,” said Abubakar, who hopes to replicate Buhari’s 2015 feat of winning a presidential election at the fourth attempt.