Nigeria’s November inflation rises to 18-year high on surging food prices

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo

ABUJA (Reuters) -Nigeria’s annual inflation rose in November for the 11th straight month to the highest level in 18 years, adding pressure on the central bank to tackle the rise amid a worsening cost-of-living crisis in Africa’s largest economy.

Consumer inflation rose to 28.20% in November from 27.33% in October, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Friday.

The last time Nigerians experienced this level of inflation was in August 2005, official data shows.

On Dec. 13, the World Bank warned Nigeria to control inflation, and tasked the central bank to tighten monetary policy, build market confidence around free foreign exchange pricing and phase out so-called “ways and means” advances to the government.

Price rises for food and non-alcoholic beverages were the biggest driver of annual inflation in November, the statistics bureau said.

Food inflation, which accounts for the bulk of Nigeria’s inflation basket, rose to 32.84% in November from 31.52% a month earlier.

New Central Bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso has vowed to phase out the bank’s fiscal intervention programs in a bid to tame inflation.

Cardoso said the central bank plans to tighten policy over the next two quarters to manage inflation, after restarting its Open Market Operations (OMO) to help rein in money supply.

Despite President Bola Tinubu embarking on Nigeria’s boldest reforms in decades, the country has struggled with foreign exchange shortages, low oil revenue and theft of crude oil, its main export and forex earner.

Analysts said naira depreciation, higher fuel and food prices, logistics costs and money supply growth, were some of the major drivers of Nigeria’s inflation.

Inflation in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has risen to double-digits since 2016, eroding incomes and savings, despite the central bank hiking interest rates to their highest level in nearly two decades at its last meeting.

The central bank, at its last monetary policy meeting in July, opted for a smaller-than-expected 25 basis point hike, saying it preferred a moderate increase to anchor inflation expectations while continuing to support investment.

(Reporting by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, Editing by William Maclean and Elaine Hardcastle)