Election spending in Nigeria boosted demand for new vehicles in January and February, with car imports rising for the first time in 18 months as political parties splashed out on vehicles for their campaign tours.
Port figures showed new vehicle imports rose to 7,956 units in January and February combined, up 58 percent on the same period of last year, according to Mohan Sethi, general manager at Dana Motors, which imports Kia vehicles to Nigeria.
Consumers shied away from big-ticket purchases after credit dried up in sub-Saharan Africa's second biggest economy in the wake of a $4 billion central bank bailout of nine banks in 2009.
But with political parties spending heavily in the run-up to presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections which begin on Saturday, dealers have seen orders recover.
"In the past few months, we've received a lot of orders from political parties," said one dealer, asking not to be named.
The main parties have spent the past few months touring Africa's most populous nation ahead of the elections, sparing no expense on everything from branded biscuits to jeeps.
Government spending has also gone into overdrive, rising 50 percent last year to its highest level ever.
Parliament this month passed a 2011 budget which keeps spending at around 5 trillion naira again, undermining the finance ministry's efforts to restore fiscal discipline.
More than half of the planned spending is recurrent expenditure, which includes new vehicles for ministries and government agencies.
Vehicle sales in Africa's most populous nation are a proxy measure for private purchasing power, a leading economic indicator which is not formally available in Nigeria.