Nigeria Vote May Spawn Violence Whoever Wins: Control Risks

Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa, will probably face violence in the aftermath of its elections this month no matter who emerges the winner among the leading candidates, according to Control Risks Group.

A victory for President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the crude-producing south, would pose a “real potential for civil unrest” in the north, Thomas Horn Hansen, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, told reporters on Thursday in Lagos, the commercial capital. There’s also a “potential for backlash” in the oil-rich Niger Delta if former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim northerner, unseats Jonathan. Companies are preparing for either scenario, said Hansen.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, is holding elections on March 28 following a six-week postponement. The ruling People’s Democratic Party, undefeated since the end of military rule in 1999, is facing what may be its toughest contest after opposition parties merged in 2013 to form the All Progressives Congress.

The last vote in 2011, which also pitted Jonathan against Buhari, was followed by violence that left about 800 people dead, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Nigeria’s presidential candidates signed an agreement in January committing to keep the peace. Africa’s most populous nation is already struggling to contain a six-year insurgency by the Islamist group Boko Haram that has killed more than 13,000 people in the northeast. The elections initially scheduled for Feb. 14 were delayed to give the military more time to subdue the rebels and ensure the safety of voters.

Economic Impact

“Both the PDP and the APC share an interest in managing the forerun of the elections and minimize the impact on the economy,” Hansen said.

Tackling corruption is a priority for both candidates, which means in any event businesses may face more scrutiny after the vote, Gbenga Abosede, a practice leader for compliance, intelligence and technology at Control Risks, said at the same meeting.

“Corruption is a major issue in this election,” he said. “I think this is a trend that is coming to stay, so businesses need to watch out.”

Nigeria is ranked 136 of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, on par with Russia and Iran.

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