May 21, 2018 / 8:28 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Nigeria's economic growth slows for first time since end of recession

(Adds details, oil production, background)

By Chijioke Ohuocha and Paul Carsten

ABUJA, May 21 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s economic growth slowed in the first quarter of 2018 for the first time since the country pulled out of recession last year as the non-oil sector struggled, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday.

The economy grew by 1.95 percent in the first quarter lifted by the oil sector. That was a slight dip from 2.11 percent year-on-year in the final quarter of 2017. The economy shrank 0.91 percent in the first quarter of 2017, the bureau said.

Growth rates had been bouncing back since the third quarter of 2016, when the recession, its first in 25 years, bottomed out. Nigeria exited that contraction last year largely due to higher oil prices, with the country relying on crude sales for around two-thirds of government revenue.

Last week parliament passed a record 9.12 trillion naira ($29.8 billion) budget for 2018 aimed at boosting growth in west Africa’s biggest economy nine months before the country’s next presidential election.

President Muhammadu Buhari has been trying to diversify the economy away from oil by boosting the non-oil sector but those efforts are struggling.

The oil sector grew 14.77 percent in the period, higher than the non-oil sector which rose 0.76 percent between January to March, the NBS said. Oil production stood at 2 million barrels per day in the quarter, up from 1.95 million in the previous quarter.

The GDP data comes a day before the central bank announces its decision on interest rates, with recent economic data showing that there’s scope for a rate cut as inflation dropped to a more than two year low in April of 12.48 percent.

The bank has kept its rate at 14 percent since July 2016 to support the naira and curb inflation. (Reporting by Paul Carsten and Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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