Nigeria switches national anthem in what sceptics label a distraction

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu looks on after his swearing-in ceremony in Abuja

By Ope Adetayo

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday signed a bill switching back to a national anthem composed by a British expatriate and adopted at independence, a move some dismissed as a cynical distraction from an escalating economic crisis.

"We Hail Thee" will now be used instead of "Arise O' Compatriots". The bill introduced last Thursday received an accelerated adoption without any legislative debate.

Nigeria's economy has plunged during Tinubu's first year in office, which he marked on Wednesday by addressing parliament, with inflation reaching a 28-year high of 33.20%.

The independence anthem was repealed in 1978 by Olusegun Obasanjo, a military head of state at the time, without giving an official reason, but it was understood it was because it was written by a Briton during British colonial rule.

The move has been met with incredulity by some Nigerians as the country reels from the economic crisis and deteriorating security.

"It is a waste of time," Cheta Nwanze, lead partner at SBM Intelligence, told Reuters. "What is more important are inflation and security problems, that is what the government should squarely be looking at."

(Reporting by Ope Adetayo; Editing by Nick Macfie)