Nigerian stocks fell the most in more than five months and bond yields rose after Africa’s biggest oil producer delayed last weekend’s presidential and parliamentary election at the last minute.
The one-week postponement, just a few hours before voting was scheduled to start on Saturday morning, rattled investors and led to accusations from both President Muhammadu Buhari’s party and the opposition, led by Atiku Abubakar, of skulduggery against one another.
Nigeria’s stock benchmark dropped 2.5 percent by 1.30 p.m. in Lagos, the commercial capital, the most among major indexes globally and its biggest fall since Sept. 12. Dangote Cement Plc, owned by billionaire Aliko Dangote and the largest company on the bourse, lost 3.6 percent. Yields on the government’s $1.5 billion Eurobond maturing in November 2027 rose 7 basis points to 7.19 percent. Nigerian assets had rallied since the end of January on the expectation of a smooth election.
“It’s sent a very negative signal,” Ayodeji Ebo, managing director at Afrinvest West Africa Ltd. in Lagos, said by phone. “Some investors are trying to reduce their positions.”
The Independent National Electoral Commission’s delay marked the third consecutive time that Nigeria has postponed a nationwide vote. A week before the 2015 ballot, it was moved back by more than a month. Buhari went on to win and become the first opposition candidate to take power in Africa’s biggest oil producer.
As well as pushing back the presidential and parliamentary vote to Feb. 23, INEC delayed governorship elections for a week until March 9.
The chairman of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, said INEC had colluded with the Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party over the delay.
The election body “is working with anti-democratic forces,” he told reporters in Abuja, the capital, at a press conference. “INEC’s leadership knew they were going to postpone and shared this information with the People’s Democratic Party not to waste their money, while telling us everything was well.”
An INEC spokesman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, denied any party had been informed in advance.
Former general Buhari, 76, said at the same press conference that he didn’t know about the delay in advance and that INEC had to explain its “incompetence.”
Abubakar, a 72-year-old businessman and ex-vice president, said there was a plot by the government to rig the election by stifling voter turnout in areas where he needs big majorities to win.
An INEC spokesman didn’t immediately respond to the comments by Buhari and Oshiomhole. But its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said Sunday the delay was because of logistical problems and had nothing to do with political interference or security concerns.
Election officials and members of the national youth corps were left stranded across the country. Many Nigerians had traveled to their hometowns to vote and won’t be able to afford a trip for a second weekend running.
“I can’t stay here till next Saturday just to vote and I can’t return here again next week just to vote,” Onyeka Ikoro, a 45-year-old electronics dealer who traveled from Lagos to his hometown of Ohafia in Abia State. “Atiku and Obi will lose my vote. It doesn’t make me happy but what can I do?”
Nigerian assets may recover later in the week if investors think the delay won’t be repeated or lead to violence, according to Aderonke Akinsola, an analyst at Chapel Hill Denham, an investment bank in Lagos.
“The personal costs will be high,” Andrew Alli, former chief executive officer of Lagos-based African Finance Corp., said in an emailed response to questions. “But as long as it doesn’t portend some major election dispute after the voting, I don’t think the ultimate effect will be that major.”
By Solape Renner, Emele Onu, and Paul Wallace
With assistance by Tope Alake