© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
FACT CHECK: Peter Obi’s eleven false claims at VP debate
VICE Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi, evidently gave out the greatest number of facts and figures at the recently organised vice presidential debate, but The ICIR has found that a good number of them were false, grossly exaggerated or only partly true.
The debate, which featured five running mates for the 2019 general elections was put together by the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (
Others who participated include Yemi Osinbajo of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ganiyu Galadima of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Khadijah Abdullahi-Iya of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) and Umma Abdullahi-Getso of the Young Progressives Party (YPP).
In this fact-check, The ICIR shares its findings on thirteen sets of claims given by the PDP candidate.
Claim: Nigeria’s poverty rate grows at 6% per minute
“We now live in a country where we have the highest number of poor people in any nations, 87 million, and growing 6 per cent every minute,” he said.
Not only is this claim outrageous on the face value, but it is also not true. According to the Brookings Institution, “each April and October, the World Poverty Clock data are updated to take into account new household surveys and new projections on country economic growth from the International Monetary Funds’s World Economic Outlook” and these data form the foundation for poverty trajectories computed for 188 countries across the world.
Today, the clock says we have 90.7 million Nigerians who are extremely poor — that is, 46.4 per cent of a population of 195.5 million. Data highlights from the clock, Brookings noted in June, show that “extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute”. It is possible this is how the PDP vice presidential candidate had intended to phrase his statement.
Verdict: The claim is false. If we follow the premise of Nigeria’s poverty rate growing by 6 per cent every minute, it means by the fourteenth minute, the entire population (assuming even that it grows to 205.8 million) will be extremely poor.
Claim: Nigeria dropped on HDI from 152 to 157 …
He said: “Our HDI has dropped from 152 to 157, our global competitive index has dropped from 124 to 127. In terrorism, we have moved from seven to number three behind Iran and Afghanistan.”
Nigeria ranked 152 out of 173 countries according to 2015 Human Development Report developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). And in the latest report of 2018, the country has dropped to 157 out of 189 countries. It should be noted however that the human development index value improved from 0.514 in 2015 to 0.532 in 2018.
According to World Economic Forum’s 2015-16 Global Competitiveness Report, Nigeria ranked 124 out of 140 countries, an improvement from the 127th position of the previous year. In the 2017-2018 report, which is the latest, the country now ranks 125th out of 137 countries. Nigeria’s score also dropped from 3.46 to 3.30. Nigeria had ranked 127 in the 2016-2017 report.
For the Global Terrorism Index, prepared annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace, Nigeria’s position has not shifted since 2015. In the 2015 report, Nigeria was ranked 3rd out of 129 countries and, in the 2018 report, Nigeria again ranks 3rd out of 138 countries, just behind Afghanistan and Iraq (— not Iran as Obi said). The country’s performance has, however, improved from 9.213 in 2015 to 8.660 in the latest report.
Verdict: The claim is partly true. While Obi is right about Nigeria’s worsening performance — in relation to the rest of the world — on the first two indices, he is wrong with respect to terrorism.
Claim: Nigeria uses over 50 per cent of revenue for debt management and owes N22.7 trillion
He said: “Today we are virtually at a level where our debt is not sustainable because we are using over 50 per cent of our revenues to service debt, which means we don’t even have enough to be able to do infrastructural projects that are highly needed in this country.”
The latest figure on Nigeria’s public debt stock as at June 30, 2018, is available on the website of the Debt Management Office (DMO), which centrally coordinates the management of the country’s debt. According to the report, the total domestic and external debts owed by the federal government, state governments and the Federal Capital Territory stand at N22.38 trillion.
When it comes to debt servicing, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the country spends more than 50 per cent of its revenue on servicing. This was according to Amine Mati, the Senior Resident Representative and Mission Chief for Nigeria, when he presented the “Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa – Capital Flows and the Future of Work” in Abuja in November.
The ICIR has, however, gone through the said IMF report and could not find any part which supports this claim by Mati. While he was correct to say Nigeria’s growth rate for 2018 is 1.9 per cent, the report does not specifically mention Nigeria’s rate of debt servicing to revenue. But it has two indices on government debt as a per cent of GDP (24.8) and external, official debt as a per cent of GDP (8.2).
The DMO had said in January that Nigeria’s spending on debt servicing stands at 34.02 per cent of revenue — as likewise noted in its 2017 Report of the Annual National Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA), the latest of such reports.
A look at the approved budget for 2018 confirms this claim by the DMO. The total of expected oil and non-revenue is N7.17 trillion and the total debt service is N2 trillion, thus making the percentage 28.1 per cent. But we will arrive at 30.5 per cent if we use the proposed oil revenue of N2.4 trillion.
Verdict: The claim is partly true. While the figure on Nigeria’s debt stock is true, the statement about the country’s debt servicing as a per cent of revenue is inconsistent with figures from the DMO and budgetary instrument.
Claim: Bank loans are about 15 per cent of GDP… China is 250 per cent of GDP
“Your banks today, all the loans they have given are about 15 per cent of your GDP, when other countries are doing 50, 100 percent. China alone is doing 250 per cent on their GDP as credits to businesses, to private sector,” Obi said, while answering a question on driving investments to the economy.
According to data sourced from the IMF and made available on TradingEconomics, which provides more than 20 million economic indicators for 196 countries, in Nigeria, domestic credit provided by the bank sector as a per cent of the GDP for 2017 is 26.56 per cent. For China, the figure stands at 215 per cent.
Verdict: The claim is exaggerated.
Claim: In 2015, we attracted $21 billion in FDI, and only 12 last year …
“In 2015, we were attracting $21 billion in foreign direct investment. We attracted only 12 last year. Our GDP was 520 in 2015 and per capita was 2,500. Today, it is under 1,900,” the PDP candidate said in justifying his point that fighting corruption is not an economic policy.
In 2014, we generated $21bn in FDI, in 2017, Nigeria attracted only $12bn. Unemployment & underemployment was 24% in 2014. In 2017 it is now 40%. Even our stock market has lost over N2Trillion in one year. You can’t shut down your shop and be chasing criminals. #2019Debate
— Peter Obi (@PeterObi) December 15, 2018
On Foreign Direct Investment, according to records of the World Bank, Nigeria’s FDI started going downhill from $8.8 billion in 2011 to $3.1 billion in 2015. In 2016, it rose to $4.4 billion and was $3.5 billion in 2017. We have similar data from the Central Bank of Nigeria, broken down into various quarters.
Information on the IMF website states that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in 2015 was $2,763, in 2016 it dropped to $2,207, and it dropped even further to $1,994 in 2017. The GDP per capita, in 2018, has however risen to $2,050, and the IMF projects that it will continue to rise till it gets to $3,317 in 2023. IMF reports also that Nigeria’s GDP in 2015 was $494 billion, and not $520 billion.
Verdict: The claims are false. The FDI figures were grossly exaggerated. Also, while the GDP per capita in 2015 and 2018 were understated, the GDP of 2015 was exaggerated.
Claim: Nigeria has only 2 million vehicles, 10 per 1000
He said: “It [subsidy] is a waste… what are you actually subsidising? Look at it. Nigeria has one of the low car ownership in the world. It is 10 per thousand. So we have only two million vehicles, and you are paying almost a trillion when we have 87 million people that are poor.”
According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s estimated vehicle population as at the second quarter of 2018 is 11,760,871, and the vehicle per population ration was put at 0.06 (as against Obi’s 0.01).
In 2017, commercial vehicles accounted for 53.8 per cent of the total vehicle population, private vehicles accounted for 44.5 per cent, government vehicles accounted for 1.65 per cent and diplomat vehicles made up to for 0.1 per cent.
Verdict: The claim is false and grossly exaggerated.
Claim: 40 per cent of the GDPs of China, Indonesia and Malaysia from manufacturing
“No country that is doing well… If you look at the GDP of China, 40 per cent is from manufacturing, Indonesia 40 percent, Malaysia 40 percent. Even in the western world… yours is under eight, and your factories are closing down,” he said.
According to 2017 data from the World Bank, while the manufacturing sector contributes 29.3 per cent to China’s GDP, it contributes 20.12 per cent to Indonesia’s GDP and 22.3 per cent to Malaysia’s GDP — none of the figures as high as that cited by the PDP candidate.
Obi also said the contribution of Nigeria’s manufacturing sector to the GDP is “under eight per cent”, but the World Bank records put it at 8.74 per cent.
Verdict: The claims are false.
Claim: Total bank loans today is N19tn and only 0.5% goes to SMEs
He said: “You can look at your loan portfolios. Today, the total loan from the banks is N19 trillion, and only … 0.5 per cent of that goes to your SMEs, where in the countries it is about 20 percent.”
It is the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Statistical Bulletin on Financial Statistics that provides official figures on bank loans and what percentage goes to small-scale enterprises. According to the latest bulletin of 2017, in the year’s fourth quarter, the amount of commercial bank loans that went to the private sector was N16.2 trillion.
Out of this, N10.7 billion went to small-scale enterprises, which amounts to 0.1 per cent. The only periods when the percentage increased between 2014 and 2017 was in the second quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2017 when it was 0.2 and 1.7 per cent respectively.
Verdict: The claim is exaggerated.
Claim: The power generation in Indonesia is 50,000 for 250 million people…
“…If you can support the SMEs properly and be able to work on your manufacturing, which then leads to the issues of power, because what we are generating today is too low. Look at your competitors, the lowest that you can see in the MIND countries is Indonesia that is generating 50,000 for 250 million people and you are generating about 4,000 for 200 million,” Obi said.
To begin with, the current population of Indonesia, based on the latest United Nations estimate, is 268 million.
Then according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, by the end of 2016, Indonesia’s “installed generation capacity was 58,541 MW, with 40,461 MW (75%) generated by state-owned National Electric Company (PLN) and the remainders, 13,254 MW and 2,434 MW are produced by independent power producers (IPPs) and private power utility (PPUs) respectively”.
It is not clear what Obi meant by “MIND countries” or what exactly he said — perhaps it was an acronym for emerging economies such as “BRICs” is used to refer to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Verdict: The claims are inaccurate and outdated.
Claim: African trade today is less than 9% … Oil gives 80% of our forex
“African trade today is less than nice percent, and ff we get it right it can go as high as 30 per cent or 40 percent. The foreign exchange you are saying today you’re now earning from oil, oil now gives you 80 per cent of your foreign exchange, when in effect if you do the right things, you can have twice than coming from manufacturing,” he said, while commenting on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The 2018 African Trade Report developed by the African Export-Import Bank notes that intra-Afican trade is at 15 per cent (nearly double Obi’s claim), compared to Europe’s 67 per cent, Asia’s 58 per cent, North America’s 48 per cent, and Latin America’s 20 per cent. According to Brookings, in 2016, intra-African exports made up 18 per cent of total exports.
On the other hand, the contribution of oil products to Nigeria’s foreign exchange is closer to 90 per cent than 80. According to the NBS, crude oil and other petroleum products constituted up to 87.7 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings in the first quarter of 2018.
Verdict: The claims are false and understated, respectively.
Claim: I have invested aggressively in education as governor, taking my state from being 28th to number one…
“The more you invest in education, the better your economy. So we will aggressively invest in education. I have done this even as a governor of a state, where I took a state from being number 28 to number one, because we know the value of education. I was the first to equip all our schools with ICT… Go to HP, I bought the highest [number of] computer[s] ever bought by a government in Africa: 30,000. So I know the value,” he said.
Truly, Anambra State was declared first among states in Nigeria in the 2013 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) followed by Abia, Rivers and Lagos states; and the Anambra State Commissioner for Education, Uju Okeke, attributed the feat to Obi’s policies in the education sector. The same feat was achieved the following year when his tenure came to an end.
It is also true that the former governor’s acquisition of computers for secondary schools has been acknowledged. In 2014, at the 25th Annual Conference of the Nigeria Computer Society, Obi was awarded for his contributions along the line.
“On the assumption of office, the former Governor embarked on the computerization of schools and offices in Anambra State. Today, all public offices in the State have computers unlike before him, when manual typewriters were still in use,” David O. Adewunmi, the society’s president said.
“He purchased more than 30,000 desktop and laptop computers for secondary schools in the State. The last purchase was 22,500 units of laptop computers from HP at the ratio of one computer to 10 students, the largest for computer purchase for school in the entire African continent.”
It is not clear if this last claim applied generally or was restricted to sub-national governments only. Records, however, show that countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, and South Africa have implemented much more ambitious educational computer projects before 2015.
The ICIR could not confirm whether Anambra State’s secondary schools were ranked 28th by WAEC before Obi’s administration.
Verdict: The claims are true, to the extent which they can be verified.
Claim: NPA has an office and guesthouse in London…
Obi said: “Nigerian Ports Authority, for years, looked at the expansion that is coming and everything and decided not to invest. Instead, we are using money wrongly. Nigerian Ports Authority is the only ports in the world that has an office, even a guesthouse, outside its country of operation. They have a guesthouse in London; and that is the problem.”
Checks on the website of the Nigerian Ports Authorities show that the agency has an “overseas liaison office” with the physical address stated as: 2nd Floor, Allenby House, 1a Temple Rd Cricklewood, London. The ICIR could however not confirm if the agency has a guesthouse in the same city, or if it is the only ports authority in the world to have an office outside national borders.
Verdict: The claim about the overseas office is true, while others could not be ascertained.
Claim: Buhari on March 26, 2015… said he should be removed if he doesn’t deliver
“We are in a situation where, four years ago, on March 26 2015, our president said to us, ‘if I fail to deliver, choose your leader.’ The question is: Have they delivered?” Obi said in his closing statement, as the audience cheered.
There is no record of Buhari delivering a reported speech on this day. What he did though was sign a second peace accord alongside then President Goodluck Jonathan, which was initiated by the National Peace Committee. Bola Tinubu delivered a speech the previous day at the 7th Annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium, and he said nothing close.
The ICIR has also studied the president’s acceptance speech of April 1, 2015, inaugural speech of May 29, 2015, independence day speech of October 1, 2015, and speech at the swearing-in of ministers on November 11, 2015, and could not find the statement credited to him by the PDP vice presidential candidate.
It should be noted also that March 26 was nearly one week before Buhari was declared president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission, which would have made the utterance of the attributed statement premature.
Verdict: The claim is false and could not be substantiated.