As part of the economic strategies put in place to engineer Nigeria’s economic growth,  the country’s Finance Minister announced on Tuesday a management team for its $1 billion Sovereign Wealth Fund,  which will be led by Alhaji Mahey Rasheed, a board member in one of the country’s biggest banks, First Bank Plc and Uche Orji of UBS Securities, who will serve as the fund’s managing director and CEO.

According to the minister, the management team would lay out plans for the almost $1 billion fund. However, she did not mention when investments would start.

The SWF has three main aims: saving money for future generations, funding infrastructure and defending the economy against commodity price shocks.

“I think the sovereign wealth fund will make Nigeria more attractive for investors,” Okonjo-Iweala told reporters.

Global auditing and consultancy firm KPMG assisted with the hire of the SWF board to be led by Alhaji Mahey Rasheed, a seasoned banker and one-time deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Uche Orji, MD & Senior Investment Analyst at  UBS Securities LLC  and former JP Morgan head.

According to Business Day, the minister said she hoped more money would be paid in later, adding that 20 percent of the fund would go to each of its three aims while the board would decide how to invest the other 40 percent.

Analysts see the move as a positive development that will guarantee savings for the billions of dollars accruing from oil revenues, ensure long term investment that would aid economic development and tackle the perennial scourge of opaque budgeting and corruption which sees much of Nigeria’s oil wealth unaccounted for.

Nigeria is one of only three OPEC member states that do not have an SWF, and the new fund is being keenly watched by global markets and investors in Africa’s second-biggest economy.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill into law in May last year authorising the SWF, but it has faced opposition from state governors, who initially protested the bill as unconstitutional.

The governors later consented to it albeit with an initial limit of $1 billion, a fraction of the $7 billion savings in Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA), indicating initial fears that the SWF will tighten the current structure ensuring more cash for savings.

Speaking on the development, Okonjo-Iweala said: “…the country stands to gain and I think it was worth it”

The SWF is meant to replace the ECA eventually but the minister told Reuters last week the two will run side-by-side until “people” get comfortable with the SWF.

According to critics, the ECA, which contained $20 billion in 2007 fell to $3 billion after the presidential elections last year, despite five years of high oil prices (it has since risen to $7 billion), is opaque and easily accessible making it prone to mismanagement.

The SWF is part of the  economic strategies of the current government designed to boost economic development via long term investment plans and adequate savings from oil revenues in Africa’s most populous nation.

The oil-rich West African nation is Africa’s second-biggest economy and was recently declared the world’s next economic success story by US President Barack Obama.


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