UPDATE 1-Nigeria's central bank holds benchmark lending rate at 11.5%

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ABUJA, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s central bank held its benchmark lending rate at 11.5% on Tuesday at its first interest rate meeting of 2021, as it battles to combat rising inflation and a recession.

Governor Godwin Emefiele said all 10 members of the monetary policy committee voted to stick with the current rate.

The bank cut rates twice last year to try to stimulate an economy that has been hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic and an oil price crash.

The bank is facing the challenge of stimulating growth at the same time as trying to curb double-digit inflation while also propping up the ailing naira currency, hit by lower oil receipts, Emefiele said.

Africa’s biggest economy fell into its second recession in four years in the third quarter.

Nigeria, the continent’s top oil exporter which relies on crude sales for 90% of foreign-exchange earnings, was last in recession in 2016. It emerged the following year, but growth has remained fragile since. (Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha. Editing by Alison Williams and Mark Potter)