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Fact-checking Reno Omokri’s claim on Nigeria’s debt profile 

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ON 10th September 2020, Reno Omokri, an ex-spokesperson to the former president Goodluck Jonathan, claimed that Jonathan met a debt of N7.9trillion when he became president in 2010. He added that in five years, Mr. Jonathan only borrowed the sum of N4.7 trillion.

The claim which was posted on his Twitter handle @renoomokri gathered 100 retweets and 283 likes in the first forty-two minutes. He also advanced that the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, met the debt of N12 trillion and has borrowed N18.9trillion.

“Let me shock Nigerians: @GEJonathan met a debt of ₦7.9 trillion in 2010. In 5 years, he borrowed ₦4.7 trillion. He built Abuja-Kad rail, 14 universities, etc. General @MBuhari met a debt of ₦12 trillion and borrowed ₦18.9 trillion. What has he done with the debt? #BuhariTormentor” he tweeted.

Former President Jonathan who was the vice president to President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was named the acting president on February 9, 2010, after the invocation of the doctrine of necessity when the late president Yar’Adua left the country for medical treatment in November 2009. 

He was sworn in as the president of Nigeria following the death of his principal on May 5, 2010.  He left office in 2015 after losing his re-election bid to the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari.

In 2019, Mr Buhari got re-elected after defeating his archrival, Abubakar Atiku, of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election.

 THE CLAIMS

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Claim 1:

– That former President Goodluck Jonathan met a total debt of N7.9trillion when he became president in 2010 and borrowed the sum of N4.7 trillion for various developmental projects

Claim 2:

– That president Muhammadu met a debt of N12 trillion naira in 2015 and has borrowed N18.9 trillion

Findings on claim 1

Although Mr. Omokri did not provide the exact date Mr. Jonathan took over in 2010 in his claim, The ICIR visited the website of the Debt Management Office (DMO) to obtain documents of Nigeria’s debt profile between 2010 – 2020.

According to the 2010 annual report of the Debt Management Office (DMO), the total public debt outstanding rose in 2010 and was traced to borrowings from both external and domestic sources. The increase in the external debt component came largely from multilateral sources.

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The total public debt outstanding at the end of 2010 (external and domestic debt of the Federal Government) was N5,234,822,824.917 trillion (US$35,093.10 million) at an official CBN exchange rate of N149.17/US$1 as of December 2010. This represented an increase of N1,383,551,851 trillion(US$9,275.68 million), or 35.93 per cent when compared to N3,851,121,952 trillion (US$25,817.42million) at the end of 2009. 

The increase came from both the external and domestic components of the total debt stock, with the latter accounting for the bulk (93.3 percent) of the total increase. 

The significant rise in the domestic debt can be traced to the N1,244,376,204 trillion (US$8,342.43 million) issuances of new FGN bonds to fund projects in key growth sectors of the economy and to finance the 2010 budget deficit.

As at the end of March 2015, Nigeria’s total internal and external debt stock stood at N12.06 trillion or $63.5 billion, up from N11.2 trillion or $67.726 billion in December 2014 according to figures released by the Debt Management Office (DMO) on March 31, 2015.

Verdict: False 

The claim that former President Goodluck Jonathan met a total debt of N7.9trillion when he became president in 2010 is FALSE. According to the debt management office, as at Dec 31, 2010, Nigeria’s public debt was N5.23 trillion. 

Claim 2

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Barely a month after the emergence of Mr. Buhari as president in 2015, the debt management office published a report which pegged Nigeria’s debt profile at N12.12 trillion as of June 2015. 

Also, as of June 30, 2020, the agency in its report on the country debt profile said the total Public Debt Stock which comprises the Debt Stock of the Federal Government, the 36 State Governments and the Federal Capital Territory stood at ₦31.009 Trillion.

A breakdown of the figures showed that external debt accounts for 36.65 percent of the country’s total debt. According to a recent NBS report on Nigeria’s public debt profile, the total external debt stands at N11,363,243.93 trillion, of which the Federal government accounted for #9,824,282.88, representing 31.68 percent of the external debt while state governments and the FCT accounted for 1,538,961.05, representing 4.96 percent of the debt

Also, the domestic debt of the country’s total debt profile accounted for #19,645,398.21 trillion, representing 63.35 percent. Of the domestic debt, the federal government has a total of 15,455,699.13 trillion, representing 49.84 percent while the state governments and the FCT accounted for 4,189,699.08 trillion, representing 13.51 percent of the debt.

According to the DMO, the increase was necessitated by the USD3.36 Billion Budget Support Loan from the International Monetary Fund, New Domestic Borrowing to finance the Revised 2020 Appropriation Act including the issuance of the ₦162.557 Billion Sukuk, and Promissory Notes issued to settle claims of Exporters.

Verdict:

It is TRUE that president Muhammadu met a debt of N12 trillion naira in 2015 and has borrowed #18.9 trillion to finance critical infrastructure projects.  

The report was produced during the 2020 Dubawa Fellowship attended by the reporter. 

Author profile

Samad Uthman is a multimedia journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting. He tweets @sarmerdk2 and can be shot through suthman@icirnigeria.org

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