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Fact-checking claims by Nigerian presidential hopefuls at the Arise TV town hall

Three presidential election contenders recently outlined their plans if elected in 2023.

This article is more than 1 year old

  • Nigerians are set to vote for a new president on 25 February 2023 as the final term of current president Muhammadu Buhari comes to a close.
  • Three of the leading presidential hopefuls appeared on the third of a series of presidential town hall meetings, this time hosted by popular channel Arise TV. 
  • Africa Check and our partners in the Nigerian Fact-checkers Coalition fact-checked the candidates’ claims in real time. Here we contextualise that work and look at more claims.

Arise TV, one of Nigeria's most popular national channels, hosted the third of a series of presidential town halls in early December 2022, ahead of February 2023 elections. 

Three of the four perceived frontrunners – Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) – took part. 

Bola Tinubu of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) didn’t attend, claiming the event was designed to embarrass him.

The town hall focused on, among other areas, health, education and poverty.

The Nigerian Fact-checkers Coalition, of which Africa Check is a member, fact-checked the town hall live.

In this report, we provide more context for our findings and look into 10 other claims that were made on the night.

In the interest of brevity, we have left out some of the straightforward and correct claims made by the candidates. (Read our fact-check of a previous town hall here.)

Candidate: Atiku Abubakar,
Peoples Democratic Party 


“When we [the PDP] were in power, the poverty rate was not as high as this.”



Atiku Abubakar made few checkable claims, most being correct. 

He criticised Nigeria’s outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari and the APC for mismanaging the country, leading to high poverty. 

“I think Nigerians should be fair to [the] PDP. Because when we were in power, the poverty rate was not as high as this,” he said.

Abubakar was vice president from 1999 to 2007 under the PDP. He left the party in 2015 to help form the APC, which toppled the PDP that year. He returned to the PDP as its presidential candidate in 2019, and is again its standard bearer for the 2023 election.

But is he accurate with his claim about poverty? We went back in time. 

Changes in how poverty rate measured

In a report, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimated the country’s poverty rate in 2003/04 at 64.2%. In 2009/10, it was 62.6%

Using data from the bureau, a World Bank country economic report gave the rate in 2014 as a lower 33.1%. And in 2019 the statistics agency published a poverty rate of 40.1%. In November 2022, it reported that 63% of people living in Nigeria, or 133 million people, were deprived of many needs, or multidimensionally poor.

But it is important to know that over the years, the bureau has changed how it measures the poverty rate. The 2022 report was the agency’s first published multidimensional poverty rate.

Previous national poverty rates up to the one published for 2019 considered only the living standard, Leo Sanni, a statistical information officer at the agency, told Africa Check. 

“We used to simply measure the living standard, which is the amount of money an individual or household lives on. This multidimensional poverty index is different. We measured four areas: education, health, labour and living standards,” he said.

If you compare the previous poverty rate with the 2022 poverty index, you must also consider the difference in the parameters, Sanni said.

“The 2019 and 2022 surveys didn’t measure poverty using the same parameters. However, if we measure only living standards the poverty rate would have still gone up because of the high inflation, and the impact of Covid-19, which led to many Nigerians losing their jobs. 

“Definitely, poverty has increased. But if we had measured poverty rate using only living standards, the figure could have been different,” he said.

Abubakar’s claim is misleading in that it does not compare apples with apples.  

Candidate: Peter Obi, Labour Party


“Nigeria has more people living in multidimensional poverty than India.”



Obi claimed that Nigeria had more people living in poverty than India, which he said had seven times more people.

The national statistics office published Nigeria’s most recent – and first – multidimensional poverty index in November 2022. 

This showed 63% of Nigeria’s population, or 133 million people, were poor.

The index goes beyond measuring poverty based on how much a person lives on daily, Leo Sanni, a statistics bureau information officer, told Africa Check. Nigeria_arise

“For this 2022 multidimensional poverty index we went beyond measuring living on US$1.90 a day or any poverty line,” he said. 

The index report noted that “the incidence of monetary poverty is lower than the incidence of multidimensional poverty across most states. In Nigeria, 40% of people are poor according to the 2018/19 national monetary poverty line, and 63% are multidimensionally poor”.

India’s multidimensionally poor more than Nigeria’s population

The global 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index, published in October by the United Nations Development Programme and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, shows that 415 million people exited multidimensional poverty in India over about 15 years. 

However, it states that “based on 2020 population data for India, it has by far the largest number of poor people worldwide (228.9 million), followed by Nigeria (96.7 million projected in 2020)”. 

The United Nations Population Fund’s estimate of Nigeria’s population was 216.7 million in 2022. This means the number of people living in multidimensional poverty in India is more than Nigeria’s population.

The index notes that globally, there are about 1.2 billion people living in multidimensional poverty and that it is “nearly double the number of people in monetary poverty”.

What of the world poverty clock 

The World Poverty Clock by World Data Lab is widely accepted for comparing poverty rates among countries.

It provides real-time data on the number of people escaping or falling into poverty globally. It measures monetary poverty and defines people living in extreme poverty as those living on less than $1.90 a day. 

As of 14 December 2022, when the town hall took place, it showed that 608.36 million people were living in extreme poverty worldwide. Out of these, 69.98 million were in Nigeria and 51.1 million were in India.

Sanni said India may have a lower number of people living under $1.90 a day because the Indian rupee has a lower exchange rate to the US dollar compared to Nigeria’s naira. 

You need 82.6 rupees to buy 1 dollar, which is officially worth 415 naira. 

Obi’s claim is correct for monetary poverty but incorrect for the multidimensional poverty he specifically spoke to.


“India is seven times the size of Nigeria’s population.”


Mostly Correct

Nigeria’s last census was in 2006, when the population was 140 million people. Ever since, the country has relied on estimates. 

The United Nations Population Fund provides population estimates for all countries, along with data on various health indices.

The UN agency estimated Nigeria’s population at 216.7 million in 2022, and India’s as about 1.4 billion.

Seven times Nigeria’s population estimate of 216.7 million would be about 1.52 billion, more than India’s total population. But India’s population is more than six times the size of Nigeria’s.


“Nigeria’s education budget in six years – 2016 to 2021 – is about equal to South Africa’s education budget for one year.”



Obi gave Nigeria’s education budget for 2016 to 2021 as N3.6 trillion ($8.1 billion). He compared this with South Africa’s 2020 budget, which he said was R380 billion.

According to budget documents, South Africa allocated R396.4 billion to education for its 2020/21 financial year, or R16.4 billion more than Obi claimed. For the 2019/20 year it set aside R385.6 billion

Nigeria’s central bank official exchange rate is 1 rand to 25.5 naira. Taking the lower figure for South Africa’s education budget works out to N9.8 trillion. 

While his point is clear, his maths is way off, as that is more than double Nigeria’s education budget for six years.


“South Africa’s education budget in 2020 was about 14 to 16% of their total budget.”



Obi also claimed South Africa’s education budget was 14 to 16% of its total budget in 2020. 

But the R385.6 billion allocated to education in 2019/20 was about 20.9% of South Africa’s total R1.84 trillion budget that financial year.

The 2020/21 figure of R396.4 billion was 20.3% of the country’s total R1.95 trillion budget


“Nigeria has passed India in infant mortality, a country of over 1.4 billion people.”



Obi said Nigeria had overtaken India in infant mortality. 

The World Health Organization defines the infant mortality rate as “the probability of a child born in a specific year or period dying before reaching the age of one”.

Historical data published by the World Bank shows that Nigeria has consistently had a higher infant mortality than India since 1964. 

The most recent data puts Nigeria’s infant mortality at 72 per 1,000 live births in 2020, while India’s was 27 per 1,000 live births.

Nigeria has consistently had a higher infant mortality rate, contrary to the claim.

India doing better at reducing infant mortality

India is doing better than Nigeria in reducing infant mortality and other types of child mortality, Kolade Ernest, a professor of paediatrics and child health at the University of Ilorin in north-central Nigeria, told Africa Check.

Ernest said the high prevalence of infectious diseases and low immunisation rates were some of the reasons at play. 

“In many rural areas in Nigeria, hygiene and waste disposal are major factors. With open defecation still rampant and access to safe drinking water difficult, infant mortality rate will remain high,” he said. 

He gave poverty as another reason. “Severe acute malnutrition is a major contributor to infant and under-five mortality. Very poor parents are unable to feed their babies adequately and in some cases the babies don’t survive.”

Malnutrition was also an outcome of insecurity, with many farmers in Nigeria unable to grow food, unlike in India “where there is a lot of mechanised farming”.  

Ernest said India was also doing better at implementing child survival strategies.


“In 2010, Bangladesh’s per capita income was one-third of Nigeria’s.”


Mostly Correct

Obi argued per capita income is the true measure of poverty on a national scale, and said Nigeria had done badly in the past decade compared to Bangladesh, a South Asian country.

Obi said according to World Bank data, Nigeria’s per capita income was $2,280 in 2010, and Bangladesh’s $781. 

He was mostly accurate with the figures. The World Bank figures were $2,280.40 for Nigeria and $781.20 for Bangladesh

However, Bangladesh’s per capita income in 2010 was slightly higher than one-third of Nigeria’s per capita income that year. Exactly one-third would have been if Bangladesh’s figure was $760.13.


“Bangladesh tripled its per capita income between 2010 and 2021 ...”



Obi traced the growth of Bangladesh’s per capita income, giving it as $1,247 in 2015 and $2,500 in 2021. (The actual World Bank figures were $1,248.50 in 2015 and $2,503 in 2021.

But did Bangladesh triple its 2010 per capita income by 2021?

According to the World Bank, Bangladesh had a per capita income of $781.20 in 2010. Three times this is $2,343.60. 

This shows that the South Asia country’s 2021 per capita income of $2,503 was more than three times its 2010 per capita income.


“…while Nigeria’s per capita income dropped by 20% between 2010 and 2021.”



In contrast to Bangladesh’s success, Obi said Nigeria did so badly that its per capita income dropped by 20% between 2010 and 2021. 

Starting with a per capita income of $2,280.40 in 2010, Nigeria ended up with $2,085 in 2021

In the period under review, Nigeria’s per capita income dropped from $2,280.40 to $2,085, a difference of $195.40. This is a drop of 8.6%, far from Obi’s 20%.

Candidate: Rabiu Kwankwaso,
New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP)


“In my second term in 2011, capital expenditure was 30% and recurrent 70%.”



Rabiu Kwankwaso was governor of the northwestern Nigerian state of Kano from 1999 to 2003. He returned in 2011 for another term, which ended in 2015

Kwankwaso said prior to his second term in 2011, the state was setting aside 30% of its annual budget to capital expenditure and 70% to recurrent expenditure.

For 2011, his predecessor Ibrahim Shekarau presented a budget of N109 billion to the Kano state house of assembly. 

Of that, Shekarau reportedly proposed over N50 billion, or about 46%, for recurrent expenditure, and more than N58 million for capital expenditure, though N122.6 billion was eventually approved. 

However, it is unlikely the recurrent-to-capital expenditure ratio would have changed significantly. Even if all the extra N13 billion that was approved was added to either the capital or recurrent expenditure the resulting ratio would still not come close to the claim.


“I reversed it by the time we were leaving office: 30% on recurrent expenditure and 70% on capital expenditure.”



Kwankwaso claimed that by the time he was leaving office, he had switched the ratio around, to 30% capital and 70% recurrent expenditure. 

The last Kano state budget prepared by Kwankwaso’s administration was for 2015. 

Budget documents show that the state budgeted N210.76 billion in 2015. Capital expenditure was N135.61 billion (or 64.34%) while N75.15 billion (or 35.66%) went to recurrent expenditure.


“Now our oil production has reduced from 2.2 million barrels a day, which is the allocation given to us by Opec, to about 1 million barrels.”


Mostly Correct

The Organization of the Petroleum Producing Countries (Opec) is made up of 13 countries.

The most recent records of oil production from the Central Bank of Nigeria are from October 2022. That month Nigeria produced an average of 1.01 million barrels a day. 

However, Nigeria’s Opec allocation for October was 1.83 million barrels per day, not 2.2 million barrels per day as claimed.

Previously checked claims:

Kwankwaso also repeated two incorrect claims he made weeks earlier during his session at The Candidates town hall. 

He claimed that:

  • He ran Kano state without borrowing.
  • He had paid off the state’s debt by the time he left office in 2003 and 2015. 

We checked both claims and rated them incorrect. 


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