Sovereign Wealth Fund

The decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria to establish a National Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF) has been greeted with divergent commentaries from various quarters especially from State governments as well as financial and social commentators.

Already a bill for the establishment of the Nigerian National Sovereign Wealth Fund has been sent to the Legislative arm of government as an executive sponsored bill while a seed capital of one billion US Dollars ($1 billion) has been proposed and set aside for the commencement of the Fund.

A Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) is an investment fund owned by a sovereign state/nation with the mandate to invest in financial assets such as stocks, bonds, precious metals, property and other financial instruments. However, the objectives might include providing liquidity stabilization funds as well as the funding of vital economic infrastructure projects within the sovereign state. The structure and scope of investments in a sovereign wealth fund generally depend on the circumstances of each nation as well as the enabling law however Sovereign wealth funds usually have long-term investment focus. The need for the SWF is that countries through the SWF diversify their revenue streams by devoting a portion of its reserves to an SWF that invests in the types of assets which act as shields against systemic risk, and in the case of Nigeria, against oil related risk.

In view of the seed capital of one billion US Dollars ($1 billion) from the ‘Excess Crude Account, Governors of the 36 States of the Federation commenced an action against the Federal Government before the Supreme Court (Nigeria’s Apex court) over plans to transfer $1 billion from the “Excess Crude Account” to a new a new account to be known as the “Sovereign Wealth Fund.
A seven-man panel of the court, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, has now assumed jurisdiction of the legal dispute following a breakdown of an out-of-court mediation between the parties. Earlier on, the Federal Government had approached the court (at the commencement of the suit) praying that the parties be allowed to explore amicable resolution of the case through negotiation.

The plaintiffs in their consolidated suit, had sought preservative orders of the court restraining the Federal Government from making any withdrawals howsoever from the account styled the “Excess Crude Account” (or any account replacing same by any name howsoever) pending the hearing and determination of a substantive suit.
They further urged the court to order that all sums standing to the credit of the said “Excess Crude Account”, (or any account replacing same by any name howsoever) be paid into court or be otherwise secured as the court may deem fit pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
It appears that the substance of the disagreement is not with the setting up of the fund, but with the funding from the ‘excess crude account’ which invariably will deplete their monthly allocations from the Federation accounts.

At the last sitting of the court, the case could not progress as the court was indisposed. it remains to be seen what the outcome will ultimately be.