* Nigeria election: tmsnrt.rs/2E6qkDO
LAGOS, Feb 13 (Reuters) – The value of capital imported into Nigeria rose 37.5 percent to $16.8 billion in 2018, data showed on Wednesday, with much of that being spent on equities in Africa’s largest oil producer.
Nigeria holds a presidential election on Saturday, and the performance of the economy has been a major campaign issue. In 2018, it grew at its fastest pace since a recession two years earlier.
The National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday said $10.43 billion of the headline amount went into equities and equity-related investment, with Britain topping the list of countries from which the funds came.
Analysts say foreign funds have tentatively started to pick up shares on the Lagos bourse to position for a rally once the election is over.
The vote is expected to be tight between President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president. More than 60 other candidates are running, but they are seen as having little chance of winning.
Buhari has made rejuvenating the economy a key issue, hoping his record can secure him a second four-year term. Abubakar has touted pro-business policies, including floating Nigeria’s currency, the naira.
Capital imports into Nigeria fell from a peak of $21.32 billion six years ago to $5.12 billion in 2016 as investment dried up in the wake of a currency restriction and recession in the West African country.
The statistics bureau said fourth-quarter capital imports stood at $2.14 billion, down 60.2 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.
Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Hugh Lawson