File picture: Tyrone Siu/REUTERS

INTERNATIONAL – Nigeria’s central bank cut its benchmark interest rate to 13.5 percent from 14 percent as part of an attempt to stimulate growth in Africa’s biggest economy, its governor said on Tuesday in a surprise move.

The move is the first rate cut since November 2015. The rate has been held at 14 percent since July 2016 to support the naira and curb inflation.

Nigeria, which has Africa’s biggest economy, emerged from its first recession in 25 years in 2017. Since then higher oil prices have helped the country to halt the contraction and stimulate growth.

“This rate cut is meant to signal that there is a need for us to move course a little further. To do so we need to begin to look at money supply, liquidity to push growth,” said Godwin Emefiele, who added that six of the 11 members of the monetary policy committee members who met agreed on the 50 basis point rate cut.

He said Nigeria should be able to push growth to between 2.7 and 3 percent, up from 1.9 percent last year.